Should you rely on group insurance alone?

How individual insurance can complement your group insurance

Your employer may offer group insurance coverage – for example, life insurance, critical illness insurance or disability insurance as part of a benefits plan.

It’s a basic way to help protect you and your loved ones.

But what if you could do more than just cover the basics? Your lifestyle is important to you and your family, so what if you could complement your group benefits coverage with individual insurance and help keep the lifestyle you’d want for your family, if you died or became too sick or injured to work?

Knowing the details of your group insurance plan is crucial. You want to make sure you have the right type of insurance, and the right amount of coverage, to cover all your bases when dealing with the unexpected.

Individual insurance, such as life, critical illness and disability insurance is coverage you can get outside of work. They typically offer more control and choice based on the needs of you and your family. And it’s all about you: you own it and you choose the products and options you want that are customized for your needs.

Together with your group insurance, they can help protect you, your family and your lifestyle from unexpected events that could jeopardize your financial goals and keep you from meeting your obligations.

Uncover your needs to find out if your group insurance is enough

Does group insurance cover your needs? Consider the following questions:

1. If something were to happen to you or a loved one would you be able to:

2. Does group insurance coverage include the types of insurance you and your family need?

  • Will your insurance protection last a lifetime?
  • Does your partner have group insurance coverage through their work?
  • If you’re too sick to work, would your coverage give you a lump-sum payment to help with recovery?
  • Can you increase your coverage if your needs change?

Better together: Group and individual insurance

For some people, group insurance is enough, but an individual insurance plan can complement your group insurance benefits. I can help sort out the details and fill in any existing gaps.

Help your parents secure their legacy

Is it time to have the talk with your parents?

Do you remember when your parents sat you down for the talk? Back then, it likely included some anxious moments and uncomfortable feelings.

It could be time to think about another talk, but this time you’d be initiating a conversation your parents may have Talk to Parents About Legacy & Fiancesbeen avoiding – about how they want their final wishes carried out.

It’s time to have the talk

Here are a few suggestions when it comes to discussing their legacy:

1. Take advantage of the time you have. You’re on the right track by helping your parents think about this now as opposed to reacting in the moment. Taking the time now helps your parents put the right plans in place to protect what matters most to them.

2. Get organized and help ensure your parents’ wishes are maintained. Help your parents understand the value of getting organized early on so their wishes are understood and carried out according to plan.

You’re on the right track by starting to think about this now, as opposed to reacting in the moment.

3. Ensure they choose someone as their power of attorney. Encourage your parents not to wait too long to select their power of attorney. A lot of important decisions may end up in this person’s hands, and the more time they have to understand your parents’ preferences, the better.

Things to consider

Figuring out your parents’ wishes can take time. When you’re having the talk, it’s important to keep in mind how you can work with a financial security advisor to help protect their estate. Some things to think about when developing a plan are how to help:

  • Protect your parents’ investments from market downturns.
  • Avoid unnecessary legal, estate administration fees.
  • Ensure their money goes directly to the people and/or cause(s) they have chosen.

Work with a financial security advisor to include an Estate Protection policy on their financial security plan. It combines potential growth with protection for the beneficiaries of the policy to help make sure the estate is secured.

What should we talk about?

Start with the basics and learn about:

  • Your parents’ sources of income
  • Any mortgage balance outstanding and types of insurance they have
  • Their medical history
  • The name of and contact information for their advisor (if they don’t have one, ask about how they’ve been making financial decisions)
  • Whether they have a documented will, living will and power of attorney
  • How they would like their money allocated (i.e., to family, friends, charity or a combination of these)

While you’re helping your parents develop a plan, encourage them to provide their banking information to their power of attorney.

I can help your parents ensure their wishes are carried out. Whether you’re having the talk for the first time or revisiting the subject, you can feel a sense of relief and security knowing you’re helping them carry out their final wishes.

Savers versus spenders – the great divide

Five tips to help couples bridge the gap on their financial attitudes

We’re all different when it comes to our perspectives on spending. Some people have no problem saving all their extra pennies, and some people spend what they have without thinking about the future. While differences make the world go round, conflicting thoughts on money matters can lead to tension in relationships. If you and your partner find yourselves at opposite ends of the saving versus spending spectrum, these tips can help you meet in the middle.

1. Understand each other’s differences

You’re buying a new car together. The spender wants all the upgrades, while the saver is just fine with the base model. When emotions run high, it can be difficult to see where your partner is coming from. The truth is, our Budgeting with Partnerattitudes about money are deeply rooted. Perhaps you or your partner is stingier with spending because there was less to go around growing up. Perhaps the person who is free with money gets an emotional reward from spending. Try to take a step back and discuss the reasoning behind your behaviour. It’s always easier to negotiate when you try to validate each other’s feelings, instead of assigning blame.

2. Set goals you can agree on

As a saver, it can seem irritating if your partner is constantly making purchases you deem frivolous. Creating a spending plan as a couple – with shared goals in mind – can help bring you together around common values. For example, say you agree that taking a trip overseas or buying a home is your biggest priority. You may want to consider how much you’ll need for that expense and factor how long it will take you to save that amount. With that savings goal in mind, it will probably be a whole lot easier to pass up unnecessary indulgences.

It is possible for partners with different spending styles to find a middle ground.

3. Establish a system for bill payment

When your bills roll in each month, avoid the last-minute scramble by setting parameters on who will pay each bill if you manage your finances using separate accounts. Perhaps you each cover half of your mortgage or rent, one of you pays the auto insurance and the other covers hydro. Since these expenses are generally fixed, setting up a system for handling bills up-front gives you one less thing to worry (fight) about.

4. Set a threshold for joint purchases

Every couple has a different way of structuring their finances, and sometimes, it takes a bit of trial and error. Some people keep separate accounts and split everything down the middle, while others pool all their resources. Other couples have four accounts between them: one joint for savings, one joint for everyday expenses and two individual accounts for whatever’s left (fun money). Whichever system you decide is best for you, you may want to consider setting a limit on the amount you can spend on a joint purchase without consulting each other. Discussing big-ticket purchases with your partner before you take the plunge is an easy way to avoid a disagreement.

5. Call for backup

Sometimes, reaching out to an impartial third party is the best way to solve financial disputes. I can help by talking to you about your goals and determining the best way to structure your finances to suit your needs. With a customized financial plan in tow, you’ll have a solid foundation for the decisions you make about your money.

With a common vision for your future and the right financial action plan, it’s possible for partners with different spending styles to find a middle ground.

Six apps to help you shape up your health and finances

Tech tools to empower you to meet your personal finance and fitness goals

If you’re aiming to make this the year you fully commit yourself to your goals, look no further than your smartphone or tablet. Starting out the year with the right tools can help you make smart choices for both your finances and your health. Check out these apps that could help you manage your finances better and make smarter fitness and lifestyle choices.

Finance and budgeting apps

Mint: Free on iPhone and AndroidMint Personal Finance App

What it is: A budgeting app with easy-to-understand graphs and charts that explain your spending.

What it does:

  • Provides a comprehensive overview of your finances in real time.
  • Automatically tracks spending and categorizes it.
  • Alerts you if and when you’re close to your budget limit.

Starting out the year with the right tools can help you make smart choices for both your finances and your health.

Level Money: Free on iPhone and Android

What it is: If you need help with sticking to your budget, Level Money will be your friend.

What it does:

  • Shows how much you can spend in a day, week or month.
  • Detects your income and expenses and can even help you see how you can save for big-ticket items or clear debt.
  • Handy planning component helps you stick to your goals in a hassle-free way.

Unsplurge: Free on iPhone

What it is: Are you looking to save for a special splurge like that Hawaii trip, a new car, or your parents’ silver anniversary bash? Unsplurge offers a slightly different, more fun, approach to budgeting.

What it does:

  • Log and track your savings progress to reach your goal.
  • Receive motivation and guidance from the community to help you get to your goal.

Health and wellness apps

Sworkit: Free on iPhone and Android with optional in-app purchases

What it is: You want to exercise regularly but are hard-pressed for time. With Sworkit you no longer have an excuse not to flex your muscles. Just tell the app what kind of workout you’re in the mood for at any given moment and for how long.

What it does:

  • Delivers exercise moves to you, whether it’s strength, cardio, yoga, or stretching you’re looking for.
  • A premium option at $4.99 a month helps personalize the experience even more by setting the number of reps and the areas of the body you want to focus on.

Yonder: Free on iPhone and Android

What it is: If you’re an outdoor person and want your workout to be in the midst of nature, Yonder can help.

What it does:

  • Once you enter your location, Yonder throws up dozens of suggestions for hiking, biking, kayaking, and skiing.
  • Offers reviews and tips from fellow outdoorsmen and women.

ShopWell: Free on iPhone and Android

What it is: Serious about how many calories you’re consuming and need help maintaining a healthy target? ShopWell will impress you.

What it does:

  • Personalizes your calorie intake based on your height, weight, age, and allergies.
  • Scores every food in terms of how healthy it is for you; try to get closer to 100 for best results.
  • The app even makes individual recommendations for similar, healthier alternatives.

Think of these apps as your personalized digital gurus as you move through the year. But remember — they don’t replace expert advice. Just as you need a doctor or dietician to help you with particular health conditions, a professional, such as myself can provide you with specific and detailed advice on how best to manage your finances.

Buying versus leasing a car

What you need to consider when purchasing a new car

Buying a vehicle can be one of the largest purchases you can make. Aside from choosing the colour, make and model, you also have to decide how you’re going to pay for it. If you don’t have the cash on hand to buy the car in full, should you finance or lease? While there are supporters of both sides, each option has its pros and cons. Here are four things to consider when purchasing a new vehicle to ensure it fits within your financial plan.

1. Your monthly budget

If you choose to finance, your loan is for the full purchase price of the car (including any interest charged for borrowing the money). With a lease, instead of borrowing money for the full purchase price, you’re only borrowing for the vehicle’s depreciation during the lease term. As a result, your monthly payments will generally be much lower when leasing than financing.

However, if you continually lease you will always have a monthly payment; you’re essentially paying to rent the car Finance vs Lease Car?each month. If you finance, each payment helps build equity. And once you’ve paid the car off it’s yours – which means no more monthly payments. So while leasing gives you a lower monthly payment, financing gives you an asset and no monthly payments down the road.

2. How often do you want a new car

One of the biggest appeals of leasing is the ability to always drive the newest model. Once your lease is up, you can turn in the keys and sign a new lease for the latest model – starting the process all over again. Since most warranties last three years – which is the same length as the average lease – you’re driving the car in the best years of its life with minimal maintenance costs. Plus there’s no hassle of trying to sell your car when you want a change.

Of course if you finance a car, you’re free to sell your car at any point and use that money to purchase a new one. While buying a vehicle does give you an asset, keep in mind it’s one that depreciates as soon as you leave the dealership.

The choice between financing and leasing really depends on your lifestyle, needs and priorities.

3. How hard you are on your car

Messy kids? Are you a magnet for scratches and dings on your car? Want to put a different exhaust on your fancy new sports car? You may want to consider buying. With leasing, anything above and beyond normal wear and tear could result in extra fees in order to be fixed or replaced.

To ensure you’re following the regular maintenance schedule on the vehicle, your lease agreement may also require you to get servicing done at the dealership. Regular maintenance is something you also want to consider if you plan on financing, not only for your safety but also any damage to the vehicle will impact its resale value.

4. How much you drive

When leasing, there’s often a maximum number of kilometres you can drive over the course of the lease. If you put on a high number of kilometres every year, you run the risk of going over your mileage allowance. And each kilometre you go over will cost you when it’s time to turn in the keys.

Ultimately the choice between financing and leasing really depends on your lifestyle, needs and priorities. No matter what you decide, just make sure you take the time to consider all your options beforehand.

How to weather the transition from saving to spending in retirement

Create a retirement plan that will adapt as the financial winds change

You’ve worked hard to save for retirement – prioritizing your goals along the way. You’re tiptoeing towards retirement and you’ve earned your “me time” – now, create a plan for how you’ll spend it.

Approaching retirement after years of hard work can be an exciting time, but it can also trigger feelings of uncertainty about how sunny your financial forecast may be. How long you’ll live is an important factor that impacts how long your money needs to last. The fact is, Canadians are living longer than before, which means you’ll likely need more to be able to support your retirement dreams.

Make the most out of your retirement by working with an advisor.

As you begin to shift your mindset from saving to spending, you may be asking yourself, “Am I going to be OK?” You’re not alone. It can be difficult to envision exactly how you would like the next 20, 30 or even 40 years to look – and creating a plan to support your vision can seem daunting. Don’t fret – I can help.

It’s important to have a retirement income strategy that sets the stage for a long and fulfilling retirement. Part of Retirement Incomecreating a plan that works for you involves setting realistic expectations about your saving and spending habits. Working with me will help you stay focused on the things that matter, rather than the checks and balances of financing your retirement.

Remember, tomorrow can be sunny – and it can come sooner than you think

Do you think your spending will decrease in retirement? Canadians need to be wary of that assumption because spending actually stays more or less the same – and may even increase. To help position you for a bright future, you can take the following steps as you move closer to retirement.

Three to five years before retirement

  • Estimate how much guaranteed income you’ll receive from the government and your employers.
  • Estimate your living expenses and lifestyle needs.
  • Review your investment portfolio with me to find out if you are on the right financial track toward your retirement goals.

One year before retirement

  • Verify eligibility and amounts of retirement income from all sources.
  • Review estate planning.
  • Work with me to put the finishing touches on your customized retirement program.

Six months out

  • Update your beneficiary information.
  • Apply for government benefits.
  • Apply for retirement income from your workplace plan.

Stop asking, “Will I be OK?” Make the most out of your retirement by working with an advisor who can help you better understand and manage your potential sources of income. I can help you develop a retirement strategy that can help set you up for fair weather, while also providing you with a financial umbrella – just in case the wind shifts.

Helpful tips for first-time life insurance buyers

Buying life insurance doesn’t have to be difficult

Buying life insurance for the first time can seem daunting. It’s a big decision, there are many options to consider and it can be stressful to think about what might happen if you’re no longer there to support your loved ones.

Getting insurance coverage that’s right for you is one of the most important ways you can financially protect those you care for from the unexpected. Buying life insurance is essential at any age and there are key advantages to starting early.

Here are some helpful tips to make the whole process easier for you.

Remember why you need insurance

Insurance can help financially protect those you care about when you’re no longer there to support them. It means there could be money available when it’s needed the most, so your loved ones can spend more time helping each other through a difficult time, and less time focused on how to pay the bills.

Life insurance can help:

  • Cover everyday living expenses
  • Settle debts
  • Keep the family home
  • Continue plans you’ve made for your loved ones, like an education fund

Once you know what type of life insurance you want, you’ll then want to determine how much your family will need to continue their lifestyle after you’re gone.

Life insurance that’s right for your needs and budget

There are two kinds of life insurance:

Term life insurance – temporary, lower-cost insurance coverage (at least initially) which you buy for a set period of Life Insurancetime. When that time’s up, your coverage can be renewed or you can convert to permanent, lifelong, coverage without having to answer further health questions.

Permanent life insurance – typically costs more, but lasts a lifetime and includes features that can grow money inside your policy over time (called cash value). You can access this money while you’re still alive or leave a larger legacy for those you care about.

Once you know what type of life insurance you want, you’ll then want to determine how much your family will need to continue their lifestyle after you’re gone.

To start, calculate:

  • Monthly household expenses – groceries, bills, mortgage, loan payments, etc
  • Planned expenses – RRSP or contributions to your children’s education, for example
  • Expected one-time costs – for instance, funeral expenses

You should figure out how much these expenses will cost for a full year, then how many years your loved ones would need to rely on this income. It’s a good starting point, so you have an idea of your insurance needs, which you can finalize with the help from me.

Don’t forget to insure your health

Did you know you’re much more likely to experience a serious illness or injury before you retire than you are to die? Ask yourself: if you were too sick or injured and couldn’t work for a month, six months or even a year, would you need an income source (that’s not your own) to support yourself and your family? If your answer is yes, critical illness and disability insurance may be valuable additions to your financial security plan that can protect what you’ve planned for and help ensure your loved ones are taken care of.

Consult a financial professional

I can help you create a plan – including life, critical illness and disability insurance – to help protect yourself and your family from any financial or non-financial issues that might come up.

Tips to help make the most of your Canada child benefit

If you’re a parent, you know that raising kids is costly from day one. It can be hard to think about putting money aside for their future, or your own, when daily expenses pile up.

As of July 2016, the government introduced the non-taxable Canada child benefit (CCB) to help eligible families offset the expenses of raising children under 18. The CCB replaces the Canada child tax benefit, the national child benefit supplement and the universal child care benefit.

The amount you receive is based on a number of factors including the number and ages of your children, your adjustedCanada Child Benefit family net income and your child’s eligibility for the child disability benefit. An additional amount for the child disability benefit and related provincial or territorial programs might also be included.

After determining eligibility, Canadian parents can apply online and must file income taxes every year – regardless of employment status – to receive the benefit. For full eligibility and application details, visit the Canada Revenue Agency website.

With the rising costs of education and everyday expenses, setting aside a portion of your benefit amount for your child’s financial future could give them a welcome head start. Depending on your situation, here are a few ideas to consider to help you make the most of your monthly CCB cheque.

Make an RESP contribution

Opening a registered education savings plan (RESP) is an important investment in your child’s future. This tax-advantaged savings vehicle is designed to help you save for your child’s post-secondary education and related expenses, such as housing, food, books, technology and travel. There’s no limit to how much you can contribute each year, but there’s a lifetime maximum of $50,000 per child. As a bonus, the government will help you save through the Canada education savings grant (CESG), which provides 20 per cent on the first $2,500 you put into an RESP each year, to a lifetime limit of $7,200. Some provinces may also provide additional grants.

Start a savings account

With the ever-rising cost of living and uncertain job markets, setting aside a small amount of money for your child beyond their education costs could help to ease future financial burdens. Alternatively, you could contribute a portion of the benefit to your own savings account. This money could be used as an emergency account or to fund unexpected family expenses. If you’re worried about spending your CCB cheque as soon as it arrives, consider setting up automatic transfers that will divert it to your account. Once your emergency reserve is fulfilled, you might consider transferring additional funds to a longer-term investment, like a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) or tax-free savings account (TFSA).

Consider a life insurance policy

When you buy a permanent life insurance policy for your child early, it means they’ll be insured for life, regardless of any future health problems. Permanent life insurance includes features that can grow money inside your policy over time (called cash value). This money can be accessed during your child’s lifetime.* When your child reaches the age of 25, the policy can be transferred to them tax-free. Later in life, your child could have the option to access the policy’s cash value to contribute to things like supplementing their retirement income or establishing a financial legacy of their own.*

* If money is withdrawn from the cash value of a policy, it may be subject to tax.

Did your lender talk to you about Mortgage Insurance?

Protect what matters most, not just your house

When you buy a home, you need a way to help protect yourself and your family financially, no matter what happens.

Your bank/lending institution probably talked to you about mortgage insurance (also called creditor insurance) when you bought your house. It means if you die, your mortgage is paid off.

Mortgage Insurance vs. Individual Life Insurance:

But is mortgage insurance the best option for you?

If you want to protect more than just your home, individual insurance may better suit your needs. Individual insurance generally provides more control, options and benefits to help you financially protect what matters most.

By comparing mortgage and individual life insurance, you ensure you’re giving yourself and your family the type of insurance protection that meets your needs.

I’m a trusted professional who can help you build a financial security plan to help protect your mortgage and what matters most in your life.

Your guaranteed paycheque in retirement

After spending years working, you’re now closer to retirement and might be thinking about what that means to you. For most people, retirement is a time of mixed emotions. Along with the excitement of entering this new phase of life comes the nervousness stemming from the absence of a paycheque or steady income. As you approach retirement, you could be asking yourself:

  • What will my spending look like in retirement?Guaranteed Retirement Income
  • Will my money last?
  • Do I need to worry about interest rates?
  • How will market fluctuations affect my finances?

Do you have a plan in place for addressing these concerns? What if there was a way to help you feel confident about your finances in retirement?

Challenges in retirement

It is well-documented that Canadians are living longer. Statistics show retirees now need to plan for as long as 20 to 30 years in retirement1. This makes it critical to secure a part of your nest egg in a way that can provide you with guaranteed income – similar to a paycheque – for the rest of your life.

Income annuities – a steady paycheque throughout your retirement

Fortunately, there is a way for you to receive guaranteed income for life – with an income annuity. Securing a part of your retirement nest egg with an income annuity can help you cover most of your basic living expenses throughout retirement. Then the other portion of your money can be invested in funds that have the potential to grow.

Income annuities – other perspectives

Not only are annuities a great way to receive a steady income throughout retirement, there are other factors that make income annuities even more attractive in retirement. They provide excellent value even in low interest rate environments, provide a predictable income regardless of whether markets are up or down and can also help with estate transfer.

Watch this animated video about how income annuities can be your personal paycheque in retirement.

To find out more about how annuities work, exclusive annuity features and options and how income annuities may fit into your plans for retirement, speak to me.

1Issues related to increasing the “retirement age”, Canadian Institute of Actuaries, 2013. http://www.cia-ica.ca/docs/default-source/2013/213038e.pdf