What We Do
Our skills as financial planners, expertise in wealth, retirement and education planning, personal insurance, investments, tax, and estate planning uniquely position us to assist our clients in financial life planning. We help clients develop and put in place plans using their money to make a life rather than using their lives just to make money.
“Time is worth more than money,
we can always make more money …”
We want to help our clients use their investments to live meaningful and fulfilling lives. To encourage this, we broaden the money conversation from just financial asset management to life management as well. We ask clients to tell us what is really important to them and their answers allow us to create the kinds of comprehensive financial plans they can get excited about.
“We provide independent financial advice on professionally management investments solutions, mutual funds and personal insurance products”.
Financial Life Planning is about:
- Exploring what money represents personally
- Defining the tangibles and intangibles expecting your assets to provide
- Anticipating life events and transitions and making financial preparations for when they occur
- Assisting in the process of establishing financial goals that facilitate life goal
- Initiating awareness regarding the non-financial aspects of retirement preparation and retirement living
We believe in the eight tenets of Financial Life Planning as detailed in the Money Quotients philosophy of Financial Life Planning (www.moneyquotient.org):
- Life is about change. The purpose of Financial Life Planning is to facilitate successful transitions.
- Each person’s life is a continuum of unique experiences. Life experience greatly influences how an individual perceives and responds to change.
- Each person’s life course is unique. In the past, most transitions were age-graded and occurred during predictable times in the life span. Today, either by chance or by choice, most individuals are following an unconventional life course.
- An adult’s orientation to learning is life centered. To engage adults in understanding a product, service, or process, they must see the relevancy or direct application to their own lives.
- Adults have a strong need to be self-directing. Most individuals want to feel in control of their lives. The Financial Life Planning approach seeks to empower individuals to make wise financial decisions and to develop a sense of mastery in this area of life.
- Adults desire balance and meaning in their lives. The Financial Life Planning approach helps individuals to clarify goals in all areas of life and to design a financial strategy to support those goals.
- Each person’s internal compass (values & priorities) guides both the big and little decisions of life. Financial Life Planners help clients identify their values and priorities in all areas of life, and then guide them in making financial decisions that are in sync with those values and priorities.
- Successful financial education and communications is built on asking the right questions. Good communication is more about listening than it is about talking. The goal of Financial Life Planners is to really get to know the individuals they work with in order to tailor advice to each person’s unique set of circumstances, goals, values, and priorities.
Comprehensive financial planning involves a complete and ongoing review, monitoring and recommendations of the following areas:
- Financial goals based on life plans
- Income and expense cash flows
- Short and long term debt
- Education savings
- Risk management – insurance
- Estate plans and their implementation in Wills
- Investment allocation based on goals
- Suitability of investments
We make recommendations helping clients maximize the use of their financial resources in these areas to insure they achieve their life plans. We keep clients on track and revise plans annually.
Good financial planning helps our clients plan transitions from full time work to full time travel…
One of our long time clients, a business owner and consultant, decided they wanted to retire early at 58 and spend more time travelling. We had been planning for them and managing their investments since 1998 and this was a change in their longer term plan. They also wanted to own a home in a more favourable climate along with a home in Ottawa. We completed a comprehensive plan which included all the expenses they expected to have with the two homes and the amount they would like to spend travelling and projections on the growth of their assets. We were able to tell them exactly how long they could expect to own the two homes and when they would have to downsize and how much they could spend travelling while having a comfortable amount to live on.We update this plan annually ensuring he can continue his lifestyle – we plan and manage, they live.
…From full time to part time work…
Another of our clients wanted an accurate timeframe of when they could move from full time work to part time and how much they would have to earn and for how long. They had multiple sources of income; a small pension, investments and rental properties. They still had some debt and education costs for one of their children. They were willing to increase their annual investment contributions based on being able to move from full time to part time work earlier than planned. We reviewed all expenses (current and future) and projected their long term income needs. We projected their long term after tax income from all sources and made recommendations on what they had to do now to move to part time income later.
Comprehensive Plans require expertise in eight key areas
Managing spending – We typically spend in retirement about what we spend while employed – at least for the first 10 years of retirement after which our spending begins to decline but our risk of increased healthcare expenses increase. Our expense needs vary every year as will our income needs. In any one year we may buy a car, replace a roof, or renovate a kitchen. Completing an accurate long term cash flow plan and updating it regularly is the only way to ensure financial security. A simple linear projection of income needs, which basic plans provide – just isn’t reality.
Income Planning – With most of us planning on working longer, but working less and with multiple sources of income: company pensions, Canada Pension, Old Age Security, income from registered investments and income from non-registered or open investments, rental income and possible dividend income from our personal corporations. A long term income plan takes into account all sources of income, the tax impact and risk of receiving that income. It recommends the best source of income from a risk and after tax perspective meeting your expense needs.
Education Planning – The average student can not earn sufficient income over the summer to pay for a full year of university expenses. Helping our children by planning and saving for these costs is an important part of the overall plan. The good news is that RESP’s can contribute significantly to these costs but involve some unique strategies if they are to be managed well.
Financial and Personal Risk – Financial catastrophe may be right around the corner without the appropriate management of risk – the right investments and strategy to mitigate financial risk and the right insurance to minimize personal risk. Understanding the actual financial risk in the event of death or disability and recommending and offering appropriate products to minimize this risk will ensure financial security for the family.
Debt Management – Reviewing debts and recommending the most appropriate strategy – Line of Credit, fixed or variable? 3 yrs or 5yrs? The plan is to retire without debt or to pay it off as quickly as possible.
Tax Planning – It’s not how much you make, It’s how much you keep! Effective tax reviews to ensure clients keep as much as possible.
Investment Planning – Choosing the right investments for both long, short and medium term needs is critical for ensuring the funds are there when you need them. Always focusing on the best returns for the least cost and the most tax efficiency.
Estate planning – Ensuring a proper Will and Powers of Attorney are in place and assets are passed tax efficiently to beneficiaries. Working inter-generationally so parents also pass assets tax efficiently
Who We Do It For
Individuals who want to connect what they want out of life to how they spend their money. They are working to live and not living to work. Individuals, families and their children who have or need to build financial assets and create sources of income for a secure retirement.
Business owners and individuals who have multiple financial planning challenges such as retirement, education funding, managing financial risk with insurance, debt, estate and tax planning. Investors who may own or want to own investment properties as part of their future income plan.
Professionals or Consultants who are incorporated or wondering if they should.
Catherine and Robert* – are self-employed and in their 40’s and have two young children. They came to us because they realized they needed a plan – their investments were held with multiple institutions and were a bunch of “good ideas at the time” vs a portfolio that supported their financial goals. Our first meeting was unlike any meeting they had ever had with a financial advisor – we talked about what was most important to them, what they wanted to do with their lives, how Robert wanted to travel less and spend more time with their growing children and extended family. Our initial planning meetings resulted in them realizing they needed increased life insurance, which could be paid by their corporation, their Will needed to be updated, that they could invest within their corporation rather then RSP contributions which are not as tax effective, how to use RESP’s effectively as a savings strategy but most importantly, how they could use their cash flow to have and do the things that were most important to them.
Mary and Bill* – are approaching retirement and both needed to decide when they would ease out of working and earning an income. We created a financial model of all their assets and expenses and the things and activities they wanted to spend their money on for the rest of their lives. We modeled their cash flow, money coming in and for how long and the money going out. We reviewed a number of “what if” scenario’s from retiring early to working part time to taking a year off and presented the financial trade offs. This process made them feel comfortable that they had options, that they would be financially secure if they chose certain options over others and when retirement would work best for them.
Susan* – is a single mother with two young children and has a stressful executive level position. After her divorce she needed to understand her financial situation, be educated and kept informed on how to stay in control of her finances and build a portfolio which would provide her an income when she decided to stop working. We created a plan and met annually to update the plan and adjust the strategy. Making effective use of the tax strategies available were most important to her: the equivalent to spouse and child tax credit, child care deductions, maximizing RSP contributions, Tax Free Savings Account strategies and how to invest tax efficiently in a non-registered portfolio.
*The names have been changed to protect client privacy
How We Manage Money
Goals based investing – We take a “goals” based approach to investing. This means before an investment is made, we must clearly define what the money is for, when it’s required and how much. This becomes the goal and the focus of our planning – fore example, if your goal is to achieve a comfortable and dignified retirement, and we determine that $75K per year indexed to inflation at 3% is required by age 62, then that becomes the goal.
Allocation, Allocation, Allocation – Allocation is to investing as location is to real estate – this is how all the returns are achieved. After the goals are defined we determine an allocation that makes sense – with an appropriate measure of tolerance to volatility. This is the mix of equities and cash and bonds, domestic and foreign, and style of investment.
Equities for growth – Equities have proven to provide(over the long term) a return 2 to 3 times greater than fixed income. The price for these premium returns is volatility and patience. In an era where we will need at least 25 – 30 years of income and where prices are expected to rise by 2 times during those 25 years, equities are the only investment that can provide an income that rises with inflation.
Portfolio’s of professionally managed investments funds – We build a portfolio using professionally managed products. We select investment products managed by specialists in each of the above areas – fixed income, Canadian and foreign stocks, large company, small company and emerging markets specialists.
We rebalance annually to the target allocation. We change the allocation from time to time depending on certain market conditions or your situation. As long as the investment specialists stick to their investment style we remain invested even if the manager may go through short term underperformance.
This is not a buy and hold approach. Each manager is purchasing securities which are undervalued and selling when they have reached full value or better options are presented. Typical holding periods are 3-5 years.
Over the years, investment companies have created various products to attempt to provide ‘equity like” returns without the volatility of equities. One example are the guaranteed return products offered by insurance companies. The intended purpose of these new products is to eliminate the perceived risk of real equity based managed products. In our experience, no product can provide equity returns other than equities. Some of these products have failed and the jury is still out on many other existing products – We typically do not recommend them as the trade off is always a greater cost to the client.