First of all, what does it mean to be financially fit and why is that important? Being financially fit is
understanding your current financial situation, setting goals for the future and having confidence in your
ability to make financial decisions (even if that’s with the help of a trusted financial professional). Being
financially fit will increase your health as it reduces stress and anxiety, and empowers you to make smarter
decisions that have a positive impact in all areas of your life. Follow these five steps to get started:

  1. Pay attention to Cash Flow: Spend less than you earn. Easier said than done sometimes, but critically
    important. Awareness is the secret to success in this area. Can you answer these questions? What is
    your total monthly net income (net meaning what actually shows up in your bank account each
    month)? That is the easy question, the harder one to answer is: what are your monthly expenses? It is
    important to include everything here, but that can be overwhelming as there are many one-time
    expenses that go un-noticed. To keep it simple, I suggest completing a cash flow worksheet
    (available at www.thewealthylife.com ). This will help you list all the regular expenses you incur each
    month. There are a few annual expenses that also need to be accounted for (ie. property taxes),
    so divide that number by 12 and ensure you put that money aside each month so you are prepared
    when it's time to pay the annual bill. The process of looking at incoming versus outgoing cash
    each month is an eye-opener for many. Be intentional with your spending! If you have a
    shortfall, you need to look hard at your spending patterns and see what you can cut back on.
    There are only 3 ways to fix a cash flow shortage: 1) earn more money 2) spend less or 3) a
    combination of 1 & 2.
  2. Calculate your Net Worth: Put together a list of all your assets (ie. investment accounts, savings, house,
    etc). Next put together a list of your liabilities (credit card balances, mortgage balance, line of credit
    balance, etc). When listing your liabilities, you want to put down the total amount owing, not your
    monthly payments as that should be listed above under cash flow. Subtract your total liabilities from
    your total assets and you have your net worth. This number is meaningless without knowing what you
    need it for, which takes us to step 3.
  3. Set Goals: What do you want to accomplish? Think big! If you don't set a goal, you are unlikely to
    achieve it. Most people want to pay off debt and save for the future, which is great, but I suggest
    being more specific. If retirement savings is your goal, you need to decide at what age and how much
    income per year do you want. Work with a financial planner or advisor to help brainstorm goals and
    build a plan to achieve the specific goals you desire. Need a little inspiration? Start by asking yourself
    what you would do it you won the lottery. You’d be surprised at how many of those goals can be
    achieved, at least a modified version of, without needing to win the lottery.
    5 Steps to Becoming
    Financially Fit
  4. Invest Wisely: Do you know what your investment options are? There is a big difference between
    GICs and stocks, mutual funds and ETFs. There are pros and cons to each type of investment, not to
    mention varying levels of risk and opportunity. Take the time to learn the basics so you can make
    better investment decisions and understand how those decisions impact your life goals. For example,
    a GIC is safe since your capital is guaranteed, but the interest rate is extremely low and doesn't keep
    up with taxes and inflation, so will do little to help you achieve your long term goals. Stocks come in
    many different risk categories, don't offer guarantees, but do have higher return potential than
    GICs and provide a better chance of achieving long term goals. Educate yourself on the various
    options so you can make informed decisions that will support your goals.
  5. Protect your family: Have you planned for the unexpected? What would the impact be if you were
    unable to work? What about if you were no longer here at all? Would there be a burden left behind
    or have you put a plan in place to take care of loved ones? Will Revenue Canada be the beneficiary of
    your estate? It’s important to look at the impact from potential scenarios to ensure you’ve got the
    coverage in place to protect your family and preserve your wealth.
    People tend to stress over money and finances, therefore put off looking at it. It's not as complicated as
    people think. Work with a professional to help simplify your finances and help you feel in control of them.
    Being in control is nothing more than having an awareness of your financial situation and taking action to
    achieve your goals. Follow the above and you'll be financially fit in no time. The rewards are great, what
    are you waiting for?

Buying a house, leasing a car, renting an apartment, applying for a job, getting a cell phone; what do all of these things have in common? Adulthood, yes. But they also all require a five letter word that can cause some to run screaming in the other direction; credit.

Simply put, your credit is your reputation as a borrower based on your borrowing history. Lenders use this information to determine whether or not to loan you money and how much based on how likely you are to repay the loan. If your credit rating is not great, a lender may still be willing to loan you some finances but expect the borrowing rate to be very high.

Credit doesn’t need to be the big bad monster hiding under the bed and looming over you while you’re sleeping. When you’re disciplined, have a good financial foundation and make smart, informed money decisions that keep you living within your means, credit is the big friendly giant that helps get the keys to a brand new home in your hands. This is why it’s important to start out your relationship with credit on a good foot.

If you have no credit history and need an introduction to the big friendly giant there are a few simple ways to get started:

1) Apply for a credit card. 

Many big banks offer credit cards with low limits that can be great for building your credit. Use it to buy gas, groceries, or other regular planned purchases while you’re first getting comfortable. Remember, simply getting a credit card won’t build you credit; you have to use it and make payments on the balance. Get in the habit right from the start of paying off your balance in full each month to avoid interest charges and protect your hard-earned money.

2) Get a cell phone. 

Some mobile carriers will report your payment history if you have a post-paid plan. Pre-paid plans will not help build your credit score. As with a credit card, paying the full bill amount on time is important.

3) Put utility bills in your name. 

Similar to credit cards and cell phones, having a utility bill under your name and paying it off in full and on-time will build your credit score. This generally includes things like water, electricity and heating.

When first starting out it can seem scary to owe lenders money but accumulating loaned amounts and paying them off on time is the only way to actually build credit. To ensure you don’t get into debt while building credit, save up some money in advance of accumulating credit card, phone or utility bills so you are able to pay off the balance right away. Start small while getting used to this idea and make yourself feel at ease by setting up automatic payments, scheduling reminders a few days before payments are due and checking your balance regularly.

Tip: do not borrow more than you can afford to pay back. Try to always spend less than you earn.

Go into your relationship with credit with confidence and a solid plan and you’re sure to be friends in no time.

What does being in control of your finances mean? It’s a combination of understanding where you stand financially, spending less than you earn and having confidence in your ability to make financial decisions (with or without the help of a trusted financial professional). If you want to reduce stress and anxiety over your finances, following these five steps can help:

Pay Attention to Cash Flow

Spend less than you earn. This means knowing exactly what you have coming in (income) and what is going out (expenses). Not knowing these two numbers can lead to undue stress and anxiety and a lack of control over your money. A common mistake is not accounting for the quarterly or annual expenses (i.e. taxes and insurance). Plan ahead to ensure you have the cash to cover these expenses when they arise. A cash flow snapshot will help you with that process.

There are only three ways to fix a cash flow shortage: 1) earn more money, 2) spend less, or 3) a combination of 1 & 2.

Calculate your net worth

Put together a list of all your assets (i.e., investment accounts, savings, real estate, etc.). Next put together a list of your liabilities (credit card balances, mortgage balance, line of credit balance, etc.). Don’t forget to make two lists: one for business and one for personal, if applicable. When listing your liabilities, you want to put down the total amount owing, not your monthly payments as that should be listed under cash flow. Subtract your total liabilities from your total assets to arrive at your net worth. This number is meaningless without knowing what you need it for, which takes us to step 3.

Set goals

What do you want to accomplish? Think big! If you don't set a goal, you are unlikely to achieve it. Commonly, people want to pay off debt, save for the future, set aside funds for a child's education, retire at a certain age or take the family on a vacation. This is great but goals need to be more specific; if retirement savings is your goal, you need to decide at what age you want to retire and how much income per year you want. Work with a financial planner or advisor to help brainstorm goals and build a plan to achieve your specific goals.

Invest wisely

Do you know what your investment options are? There is a big difference between GICs and stocks, mutual funds and ETFs. There are pros and cons to each type of investment, not to mention varying levels of risk and opportunity. Take the time to learn the basics so you can make better investment decisions and understand how those decisions impact your life goals. If you are a business owner, it is important to fully understand your options so you can evaluate whether it makes more sense to invest in a portfolio or invest in your business. Usually a combination of the two is best.

Protect your family

Have you planned for the unexpected? What would be the impact if you were unable to work? What if you were no longer here at all? Would there be a burden left behind or have you put a plan in place to take care of loved ones? Will CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) be the beneficiary of your estate? It’s important to look at the impact from potential scenarios to ensure you’ve got the coverage in place to protect your family. For more expert advice on preparing your will and estate, watch this episode segment:

There is no shortage of things to save for; retirement, a dream house, a family vacation or  starting a new business. With the average post-secondary educated Canadian earning an average of 53% more than Canadians without, one of the most common items on this wish list is saving for a child’s education (Stats Canada). 

Education is only getting more expensive. MacLean’s estimates the average annual cost of post-secondary education in Canada is $19,498 (Brown, 2018). While saving up $80,000 for your child’s schooling seems daunting, planning ahead with a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) can make all the difference.

Get started with Sybil’s answers to four common questions parents have about RESPs to learn how this powerful financial tool can help send your kids to post-secondary:

1. What is an RESP?

An RESP is a special savings account to help parents save for their children’s education after high school. Similar to a TFSA and RRSP, an RESP is a tax-sheltered account that allows money to grow without taxes on capital gains, interest or dividend payments. Once setup, parents can contribute up to the maximum amount each year and receive a 20% match on contributions from the government. 

2. What are the benefits to using an RESP?

Check out this calculator from Raymond James to see the tax benefits of investing in an RESP. 

3. Are there any drawbacks to an RESP?

If the beneficiary does not attend post-secondary school, there are tax implications at that time. Essentially, the free money must be returned to the government and the growth is also taxed.  Thusly, you walk away with approximately only what you contributed and therefore missed out on the growth potential had you invested in another type of account over that time period.  There are some provisions to transfer to another RESP (a sibling) or to your RRSP (if you have contribution room), but restrictions apply.

4. What can I do if I don’t have the extra cash flow to fund an RESP?

Consider opening an RESP and encouraging family and friends to contribute in lieu of birthday and Christmas gifts. With the power of compounding, these contributions can significantly help pay for post-secondary expenses.

With minimal drawbacks, Sybil’s recommendation is to start saving in an RESP early to maximize compounding growth and ensure you earn the maximum grant money. If you wait until your child is a teenager, you’ve missed out on several years of free money and the compound growth benefit.

Armed with the RESP basics, now’s the time to get saving! A great first step is to consult a financial advisor that can review savings and investment options that best fit you and your family.

To learn more about the pros and cons of RESPs, watch Sybil give her insights and advice on The Wealthy Life.

It’s a great feeling to clean up your home and reduce your clutter, but it can sometimes feel overwhelming. Where do you start? Here are a few tips to get you motivated.

 1. Ask yourself “Why?”

If you’re reading this article, you must already have a reason for wanting to initiate some spring cleaning, maybe you are prepping a home for sale, undertaking an annual cleaning ritual or simply getting tired & frustrated with feeling disorganized. Whatever your reason, keep focused on your “why” and how you’ll feel when you’re done. This will help motivate you to complete the task.

Where to start?

Pick one area at a time, like under your kitchen sink or your bedroom closet. Starting small won’t feel overwhelming and will actually get you in the mood to do more.  It feels so good to eliminate excess clutter to free up space!

3. Re-use, Gift vs Trash

Can you use, donate, sell, or fix up those items you’re considering throwing away? Try creating as little waste this season as possible. Instead of sending your unused items to the landfill, ask yourself if there are other purposes it may be utilized for or someone you could gift it to. Consider refinishing a dresser to make it feel brand new again, or paint your coffee table a different color to refresh the look and feel. Thrift stores are always looking for donations, and one person’s trash might be another person’s treasure. You’d be surprised at what gets claimed by another when you leave an unwanted piece of furniture on your front lawn with a free sign. The less we waste the smaller our footprint and the less impact we have on the planet.

4. Selling 

Are there items of clothing collecting dust bunnies in your closet? Or a storage unit that just takes up too much space (and holds more stuff you don’t use)? You can sell items you haven’t used in years to receive extra cash to treat yourself to something special or add to your savings for a future need! Consider listing your items for sale online or having a garage sale if you have lots of things to sell at once. Here’s a great article on the best places to sell online if you’d like to explore further.

5. Paperwork!

You don’t need to hold on to all your paperwork forever!  Understanding what you need to keep, why and for how long will make it easier to sort through your piles. Certain paperwork can be shredded after reading, while some documents are important to keep. For example, anything you can easily obtain a copy of online (ie. a bank or investment account statement) can be shredded after reading.  In fact, consider switching to paperless statements instead and you’ll avoid collecting the paper in the first place. For audit purposes, you need to hold onto tax reporting documentation for at least 5 years (sometimes longer).  That doesn’t mean it needs to be in paper form.  You can scan and save documentation online to a secure location for easy access in the future. Receipts for purchases can also be saved in digital form which not only reduces paperwork, but makes it much easier to locate should you need it at a future date.

With these tips, we hope that you will feel less cluttered and more organized going into your Spring season! Let us know how your organizing went!

Tag us on your social media posts about your decluttering experience - and include pictures for inspiration!

Creating a Home Office

Many of us are now required to spend our work days at home to avoid the spread of the COVID 19 virus. This means working more frequently in a space that is either already dedicated to a home office, or clearing out a corner of your home to use in the short term for your work needs. There are a few things that are required to make this transition a successful one and set you up for productivity at home. Both form and function should be considered to create a space that is comfortable to work in and creates a sense of enjoyment.

 Create the "corner office" feel Let There be Light!

Choose furniture pieces that are not too big, not too small, but are just right! 

Repurpose furniture pieces that you already own 

A few stylish art or decor pieces will give your space that personal touch

Words by: Amy McGeachy 

Self-care during a pandemic

This past year has been a challenging one for all of us. Not only have we had to change how we live, work and socialize, our health has come to the forefront as the result of this pandemic.

Stress comes in all forms and how we deal with stress most definitely impacts our health status. For some it can manifest as anxiety or depression, for others it can play out on the more physical level such as skin and digestive reactions.

It is under these more stressful times that we often begin to neglect our health.  We begin to ignore body cues to relax or rest and we will tend to eat foods we know we shouldn't or drink (or in excess). 

In order to manage and get through these stressors, the following is a ‘reminder’ list of what you can do to help your body adapt and recover. 

5 reminders to improve your health during stressful times 

1. Exercise

Our body produces stress hormones like adrenaline that cause our heart rate to increase and our nervous system to become heightened.  If levels of adrenaline remain in the blood stream, issues with sleep, anxiety and inability to relax and focus can occur.  Exercise helps to break down adrenaline and excrete it from the body. 

2. Sleep

Our bodies heal when we sleep, we produce hormones such as growth hormone and DHEA that encourage tissue and organ regeneration. To support sleep consider having a relaxing sleep routine to prepare yourself for good rest and avoid stimulating activities.  If sleep is a chronic issue seek medical (naturopathic) help.

3. Nutrition

Our bodies use up essential nutrients under excess stress.  Our main nutrients needed include B- vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C.  Consuming foods high in these nutrients or supplementally will certainly help.

4. Physical Relaxation

Schedule in a massage, acupuncture or yoga at least once a week.

5. Mental Support

Talking through our stresses often helps us gain clarity in how to manage as well as develop coping skills.  Seeking a good counsellor or practicing meditation are helpful ways to support our mental health.

We hope these 5 tips will help you practice self-care!

Words by: Dr. Kristen Bovee at www.hydrateiv.ca 

Why make a day about love, stressful?

Valentine’s Day is a day to dedicate to love, which can look many different ways. Time with your soulmate, close friends, or family. Society has made Valentine’s day out to be materialistic, which can cause financial stresses.

Here are 5 tips and tricks that can make your Valentine's Day special without breaking the bank:

1. Spending Time is The New Spending Money

Take some time out of your day to write a letter to your partner or someone you love. Nothing says ‘I Love You’ like preparing a good ol’ fashion love letter. The longer, the better!

2. Go Offline

Our world is filled with constant stimulation from the technology we place in our hands. Spend some quality time with your Valentine without your devices. Free and incredibly meaningful! 

3. Travel Down Memory Lane

Spend some time going through vacation photos, your wedding photos, or even pull out some childhood tapes from the archives.

4. Cook a Meal Together

Although not necessarily free, this can be a beautiful way to spend time together and do what everyone needs to do - eat! Beats the expensive Valentine’s Day restaurant reservations.

5. Dive into a Movie or Your Favourite TV Series

Snuggle up and appreciate down time. Snacks and tea encouraged!

We hope these 5 tips will allow you to relax and appreciate Valentine’s Day without pulling out your wallet.

Is 2021 your year of goal setting?

With the craziness 2020 had, why not get a bit more serious about your 2021?

Goal setting helps gain momentum in your life, triggers new behaviours, and helps guide your focus in the areas of your life that need it most. 2021 is the year to set goals and achieve.

Here are 5 tips to setting goals this new year:

1. Specify

Goals give you focus and allow you to narrow in on the task at hand. The more specific you are in your goals, the less room there is for idle time and wasted effort. 

Write them down and look at them every day!

2. Break it Down

How can you break down your goal into baby steps that give you confidence in achieving? To be able to see your goal slowly being accomplished allows for mini victories and ability to stay motivated. 

Say your 2021 goal is to learn how to run a marathon, but you’ve never ran over 5 km in your life! To expect to run the entire 42 KM’s your first crack at it, would be unrealistic. Start off with milestones and break your larger goal into steps that will allow you to celebrate the smaller victories while still working towards your larger goal.

3. Set an Action Plan

If you know your goal has a timeline, or required steps in order to succeed, make sure you are aware of the planning involved to achieve. If you need to put reminders in your calendar or create a strategic plan in order to stick with your goal, make sure you do so.

Setting goals is very powerful, but quite pointless if you don’t know the action steps involved in getting to the finish line.

4. Hold Yourself Accountable

If you know you are more productive when you have a teammate to work with, make sure to share your goals with those who can hold you accountable. Ask them to check in with you from time to time to ensure you're on the right track to achieving what you set out to do.

If you however are a solo achiever and prefer to get things done yourself, make sure to schedule check in’s with yourself and your progress to your goal.  Whether that be daily, weekly, or monthly check in’s, make sure you schedule these.

5. Celebrate

It is so important to celebrate the victories you accomplish when goal setting! If you complete your goal, make sure you celebrate before moving on to the next one.

You can even set up a victory plan for when you achieve your goal. If your goal is to do that marathon, make a mini vacation part of your achievement plan.

When training for that marathon gets tough, motivation will be more accessible if you know what’s waiting for you once you complete it.

Make 2021 the year you complete your New Year's Resolutions!

With holiday merriment in full force, it can be easy to ignore holiday spending mistakes and start your new year trying to pay off holiday debt. Make sure your holiday season is filled with joy and cheer instead of the guilt and anxiety that comes from overspending with these four expert tips to avoid the most common spending mistakes.

1. Make a list of whom you WANT to buy for

Saint Nick isn’t wrong in making a list and checking it twice. With so many people in your life, how do you know where to draw the line on who to buy for? Feeling an obligation to buy gifts for an ever-lengthening list can negatively impact your holiday cheer and your finances. The bottom line is not to buy for people because you feel you should; if you’re going to buy gifts, do so for a select few because you want to, no because you feel you must.

Write a list of everyone you instinctively think you need to buy a gift for. Then, review the list and separate those you feel you WANT to buy for and those you feel you SHOULD buy for. Remember to be realistic who is in which category. With those you feel you want to buy for, consider facilitating a Secret Santa instead of buying for each person individually to relieve more financial pressure.

This is not an easy thing to do! Here’s an idea from Sybil to avoid overspending on co-workers without feeling guilty:

“Several years ago, I used to buy a little something for everyone in my office because I wanted to. I then realized it created a feeling of obligation for my co-workers to return the gesture which was not my intention. Instead of buying gifts for each other, we collectively decided to sponsor a family which provided a fun team-building activity while giving back to those in need. It worked with everyone’s budget and eliminated the stress of shopping for too many people.”

2. Don’t give away more than you can afford

It’s no secret the kind and giving human nature is amplified by the holidays (yes, there are a few exceptions to that statement but let’s leave Scrooge out of things). While good tide and cheer should be embraced, it will be beneficial to set boundaries on giving as it’s easy to give more than you afford during the holidays with many non-profit organizations asking for donations at shopping hotspots.

Be deliberate with your giving by setting an amount you know you can afford and dedicating it to an organization you want to support. This can help relieve feelings of guilt or resistance to saying no to other asks by allowing you to respond, “I already gave a lump sum to my charity of choice.” It’s also important to remember that money is not the only form of giving; donations of time or second-hand goods are also greatly appreciated by many non-profit organizations. Try organizing a volunteer experience or a closet clean-out with your friends!

3. Set a budget

While this is a great way to avoid overspending year-round, a budget can be especially helpful during the holidays to figure out how much you can spend and only spending that amount. Download our free, fillable Holiday Expense Tracker to get started!

Here are some ideas on how to make all of your holiday spending fit within your budget:

4. Focus on what’s truly important

With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season it can be easy to spend more time at the mall than with loved ones. Don’t lose sight of what the holiday spirit is really all about; enjoying the company of friends and family. Perhaps instead of buying gifts, organize an activity for you and your loved ones to do together such as hiking, touring light displays, volunteering at a non-profit organization or a holiday movie marathon.

To get more tips on avoiding holiday money stress, see our blog post 5 Tactics to Minimize Money Stress Over the Holidays or contact us to ask Sybil a specific question!