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Financial wellness or financial well-being are common buzzwords we’ve all heard thrown around when it comes to talking about personal finance, but what do they really mean and how do we achieve it?
If you search online for “financial well-being,” you will find it is the state in which you can manage your bills and expenses, pay your debts, weather unexpected financial emergencies and plan for long-term financial goals such as building college funds and saving for retirement. This may be your standard state of being, but for some it could be a lifelong struggle that always seems just a little out of reach.
We aren’t born with the innate ability to manage our money, but we often aren’t taught it at home or at school either, so we are left to figure things out on our own, which can be a very long and bumpy road with some rough lessons from the School of Hard Knocks.
Whether you believe you can carve your own path in life or that it takes a village and teamwork to find your way, no one is an island. Everyone has something to offer and finding those who have the skills or knowledge that you don’t have can be exactly the support you need in order to thrive.
Of course, that might sound like a great idea, but asking for help can be hard, especially when we think we should know what we’re doing. Having your own system of support, however, makes it much easier to achieve financial well-being.
Even if you are an expert in finance, you can’t possibly know everything. The network of experts you assemble for yourself will look out for your best interests and consider all aspects of your financial goals. They will bridge your knowledge gaps, share their expertise with you and help you put together the pieces of your plan.
There are several different types of professionals that most people will want to seek out to be on their team. Hiring a certified financial planner (CFP) is one place to start. They can help you create a roadmap of your financial goals and how to achieve them. Some things a CFP can advise you on include a savings plan, your investments, what to consider when retirement, tax or estate planning, funding post-secondary education for yourself or your children, and figuring out your life insurance needs.
They are a reliable source because they are licensed and have a fiduciary responsibility to work on your behalf toward your best interests. It is important to be aware that not all financial planners or advisers have this level of education, so take your time to find the best CFP for your needs. A financial adviser may not have the trusty CFP designation.
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If you’re not ready to work with a CFP, start with your financial institution. Having a good working relationship with your bank or credit union is important. Knowing how to access your money and who to connect with can be helpful especially in emergency situations.
Your branch will have a group of experts they rely on for help, too. A licensed mortgage adviser might be one such person. Whether independent or working with your financial institution, a mortgage adviser can be an important asset to a homeowner or buyer.
Death and taxes, as the old saying goes, are unfortunately unavoidable, so we can all benefit from having insurance, a will and an accountant. An insurance agent can shop around for your specific insurance needs, which might include coverage for life, disability or illness. An accountant will help with your annual tax needs and planning. And a lawyer or notary can help write your will to ensure you have adequately planned for your dependants and assets upon your death.
If you’re thinking about how great it would be to make future plans if only you didn’t have so much debt, there’s an expert to help here, too. A not-for-profit credit counselling agency can offer a free review of your finances, help you create a budget and come up with options to deal with your debt. This can free up money in your budget and allow you to start saving for your future goals.
Your paycheques don’t come with instructions, and neither did your credit cards. No matter where you are on your financial journey, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many professionals don’t charge a fee to provide you with at least some basic information. The insights you learn from them might be just what you need to head in the right direction to achieve your goals.
Sandra Fry is a Winnipeg-based credit counsellor at Credit Counselling Society, a non-profit organization that has helped Canadians manage debt for more than 25 years.
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