Written by Tangerine
Thursday, February 26th, 2015
You can feel financially overwhelmed at any stage of your life. So whether you’re in school, or 20 years into your career, here are some universal rules to help you start making sense of it all.
First: you need to know where you stand. That’s done by figuring out your net worth. Your net worth is simply what you OWN minus what you OWE. Once you’ve figured out your net worth, you’ll want to focus on increasing it over time. You can do that by increasing your assets (what you own), decreasing your debts (what you owe), or both.
Next, you’ll want to get familiar with some of the main pillars of personal finance. For example:
Insurance – do you understand the basics of life insurance, disability insurance, and other types of insurance? For example, with disability insurance, consider that your single biggest asset, especially when you are young, is your ability to earn an income for the rest of your life. Disability insurance can help you protect that potential future income, and yet, it’s one of the most overlooked part of people’s personal finances.
Estate planning – Most people know what a will does, but do you have one? What happens if you get into an accident or get sick to the point where you can’t make decisions for yourself? That’s why you’ll want to learn about Powers of Attorney. If you have kids, have you told the named guardian that they’re the named guardian?
Debt Management – how much of a mortgage can you truly afford? Why is carrying a balance on your credit cards a cardinal sin of personal finance? If you can minimize the interest you pay over a lifetime, it can add up to many, many thousands of dollars.
Budgeting – These days, it’s easy to start by collecting your bank and credit card statements to quickly see your spending behvaviour for the last few months. Once you know how you HAVE been spending, you can start to think about how you can change it for the better.
Investing – Do you understand the basics of asset allocation, diversification, and rebalancing? What about how fees are charged? Most importantly, can you stick to your investment strategy in good times, and bad?
Taxes – Understanding the basics of taxes in Canada is important. If you can reduce the tax you have to pay, you can put more money in your pocket to save or spend.
Financial Advice – there are many forms of financial advice. These days you can get information and services from software and websites, and you can work with full service advisors, and there are many options in between. Many Canadians turn to professional advice, especially to help them with complex financial concerns. A financial plan can help tie your whole picture together.
Like I said, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with your personal finances if you don’t know where to start. But one of the most important things you can do IS to start. Start reading about the topics we discussed today, and you’ll have made the first step. Then, most importantly, it’s time to take action!