Nearly half of Canadians lack a financial plan
A new CIBC (TSX:CM) (NYSE: CM) poll finds that nearly half (46 per cent) of Canadians do not have a financial plan in place to reach their goals, despite many feeling concerned about their retirement years.
“While most of us have a fairly good sense of our financial goals, so many Canadians do not have a clear road map in place to achieve what they want today – and tomorrow,” says Sarah Widmeyer, Managing Director and Head of Wealth Strategies, CIBC. “Whether the goal is to eliminate debt, save more, or retire early, you can achieve success with a financial plan.”
Key poll findings include:
- 54 per cent of Canadians surveyed have a financial plan, with
- 64 per cent of them having a long-term plan that identifies their savings goals and the steps to achieve them;
- And 36 per cent who describe it as only a budget they review regularly, a short-term plan or ‘other’.
- 46 per cent of Canadians surveyed do not have a financial plan
- with 42 per cent of them saying they ‘have a pretty good idea’ and don’t need to write it down.
- When thinking about retirement, just over half (51 per cent) are most worried about increasing health care costs, 45 per cent are concerned about how to manage unexpected expenses, and 43 per cent worry that they won’t have enough money to live the life they want.
‘Life gets in the way’
According to previous CIBC polls, ‘paying down debt’ has been the top financial priority for Canadians for seven straight years, indicating few people are making headway on their goals.
“We all aim to have a sufficient nest egg for retirement and money to handle the unexpected, but everyday life has a tendency of getting in the way,” says Ms. Widmeyer. “By setting out a clear path to your goals, a financial plan can help you stay on track. It also gives you the confidence to manage surprises, so that setbacks don’t put your retirement dreams and other goals at risk.”
The poll finds that having a financial plan in place makes Canadians feel more confident in their ability to manage unexpected changes in their finances. Additionally, those who have a financial advisor (61 per cent) also feel better able to manage setbacks. The poll surveyed Canadians with household incomes above $100,000.
A financial plan and a budget are not the same: But both are important
The poll findings show that even among those who do have a financial plan, more than a third (36 per cent) appear to be confused about how it differs from a budget, pointing to a limited understanding of the full value and purpose of a financial plan.
“While budgeting and financial planning go hand-in-hand, a budget alone is insufficient in crafting the life you want in the future,” says Ms. Widmeyer. She adds that confusing a budget with a financial plan may leave Canadians ill-prepared.
Ms. Widmeyer describes a financial plan as a clear, written report detailing an individual’s personal goals, financial needs and priorities in areas such as income and expenses, taxes, mortgage planning, education needs, retirement, estate planning, and insurance. A financial plan also incorporates assumptions like inflation, the time to a goal and expected rates of return, which many may miss on their own, she adds.
“There are many things to consider depending on your life stage, income and lifestyle expectations,” says Ms. Widmeyer. “Is it better to pay down debt or save? Are you saving enough? Could you possibly retire earlier than you thought? These are some of the questions a financial plan can help you answer and where the real value of a plan lies.”
Tips to get started
For those who are unsure of where to start, Ms. Widmeyer offers these tips:
- Identify your short-term and long-term goals
- Take a detailed look at your budget
- Create a plan setting measurable and time-based goals
- Review your progress annually
“Now is the perfect time to speak to a financial advisor who can help you identify and prioritize your goals and set a plan to achieve them,” adds Widmeyer. “The keys to success are to have a plan in place, review your progress annually, and then make any changes as needed. This will keep you on track to achieve what’s important to you.”
A plan for ages
- In your 20’s and 30’s – When you’re starting out, it’s important to manage debt effectively and keep an eye on savings. Taking advantage of the Home Buyer’s Plan can help you build a down payment for your first home, while saving through a TFSA could save your RRSP contribution room for years when you’re likely to earn a higher income. Read Paul and Andrea’s story.
- In your 40’s and 50’s – For the sandwich generation, it’s all about balance. Competing priorities pull you in different directions, and can make it difficult to stay on track. Look for ways to maximize savings through Registered Education Savings Plans, and be sure to balance your portfolio to fit the right time horizon, risk tolerance and accurately forecast future cash flow. Read Xue and Mei-Lien’s story.
- In your 60’s and beyond – For those at or nearing retirement, it’s important to understand your new income needs, lifestyle and plan for any unexpected health costs in order to set a clear course for the years ahead. Knowing the right time and amount to withdraw from Registered Retirement Income Funds to reduce tax liabilities and continue saving for later years, while discussing your estate can help protect your wealth and minimize taxes. Read Andrew and Jennifer’s story.
Financial Plan Poll Disclaimer:
From January 5 to 9, 2017, an online survey was conducted among 1,007 Canadian adults with a household income greater than $100,000 who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has a margin of error of +/- 3%, 19 times out of 20.