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A financial plan is like a roadmap.  When you move to a new city, or travel to an area that you’re unfamiliar with, you need to chart the way to your next destination.  It’s the same with financial planning.  Here to help you navigate, with some pointers on how to set your course, is financial planner and guest blogger Christine Conway.

Why might you need a financial planner?  Well, they’ll start by taking a look at where you are now, where you want to go and will identify obstacles that may be in your way.  If you’re heading off course, your financial planner will know where the road you’re currently on will lead.

When selecting your financial planner, the first thing that you’ll what to look for is a professional designation.  In Canada, anyone can call themselves a financial planner, without necessarily having gone through adequate training. The Certified Financial Planner designation (CFP) is internationally recognized and viewed as the standard for financial planning.  To be awarded this designation, the planner must pass standardized tests, have work experience in the field and abide by a code of conduct that puts the client’s best interest ahead of their own.  The planner must also stay up to date on changes in the industry through continuing education in order to maintain use of the designation.

It’s also helpful to look for a financial planner who works with an independently owned firm.  They are able to provide an objective opinion and offer a wide range of products.  If the planner seems more interested in making a sale than getting to know you and your financial situation, you may want to seek assistance elsewhere!

In marriage or common-law relationships, it’s important to be aware of the different attitudes that you and your partner have towards money.   Does your partner always need to have the latest new toy or are they continually updating their wardrobe?   If so, they may be someone who enjoys the immediate benefits of spending money now, over long-term benefits.  Have a discussion and set short-, medium- and long-term goals together, making sure that you both value what you will be working towards.  As an example, short-term goals may involve paying off debt, which might seem like more of a pain than pleasure, but would free up cash flow to save to buy a new car or home.

In addition to savings, good financial planning is about protecting your income and assets.  For example, making sure that you would still have money coming in if you were unable to work due to illness or injury, your planner could help you identify and implement an appropriate disability or critical illness plan.

You may want to contact a designated financial planner if you:

  • Want assistance prioritizing your short-, medium- and long-term goals;
  • Don’t have a pension plan at work and need to save for retirement on your own;
  • Do have a pension, but aren’t sure if it will be enough;
  • Don’t have disability or critical illness insurance through your employer.

Christine Conway, CFP, CHS, is a designated Certified Financial Planner and Certified Health Insurance Specialist.  She works for Braun Financial Services, an independent financial planning firm in New Westminster, B.C.  Christine also serves as the President of the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce.

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