Take the pulse of Your Financial Health

Borrowing Basics

Reaching your financial goals involves more than choosing the right investments.

The Small Steps

It’s the small steps that will make a big difference to your long-term financial health

Take a look at the checklist below. The more of these steps you can tick off, the better the chance of reaching your goals.

Find the Money
It doesn’t have to be painful. Track your expenses (mortgage or rent, child care, clothing, food, utilities, transportation, entertainment) for a few months. Then zero in on areas where you’re spending more than you should. Going through this exercise will help you learn to distinguish between “wants” and “needs” and help you free up some cash.

Pay Yourself First
Having money automatically transferred from your bank account to an RSP or savings fund on a regular basis is an easy, convenient, and disciplined way to reach your goals. Pre-authorized contributions are a great way to save for retirement, but they work just as well when saving for a vacation or other short-term goal.

Pay Down High-Interest Debt
Interest charges can add up quickly, so paying down high-interest debt — such as credit cards or department store credit — is one of the best financial moves you can make. You may be able to reduce your interest costs significantly by consolidating outstanding debt with a loan or line of credit.

Maximize Your RSP Contributions
Not only is your RSP one of the best tax-saving vehicles available, the money in your plan grows on a tax-deferred basis. If you can’t contribute the maximum, consider an RSP loan — the long-term benefits will usually outweigh the short-term interest costs, especially if you pay the loan back quickly.

Keep an Updated List of Your Investments
Having a list of all your different investments — mutual funds, GICs, stocks, bonds — on a single sheet of paper will make it easier to find new opportunities for maturing investments. Consider consolidating your investment accounts for ease of tracking.

Invest 'Found Money' and Financial Windfalls
If you receive an inheritance, a raise or bonus, a tax refund, or any lump sum that you weren’t expecting, put that money to work to meet your short-term or long-term goals.

Reduce Mortgage Costs
Set up Automatic Bill Payments Paying bills electronically avoids the hassle and clutter of keeping track of paper statements and may even save you money on late charges. Paying bills on time can also help build your credit history.

Use Credit Cards Smartly
Paying off credit card bills on time will also help build your credit rating. Sticking with one card can reduce the temptation to misuse credit.

Make Reconciling a Habit
It’s a good idea to reconcile your debit card withdrawals and credit card purchases with your monthly statements. This can help you uncover mistakes or fraudulent uses of your cards.

Open an RESP for Your Kids
With the cost of post-secondary education continuing to rise, why not give your kids a head start by opening a Registered Education Savings Plan? RESPs are eligible for a federal government grant, and the savings in the plan grow on a tax-free basis.

Reduce Taxes
Are you taking advantage of all available tax credits and deductions? Get professional advice to help you find ways to save on taxes.

Set up an Emergency Fund
Despite our best intentions, life can sometimes derail our financial plans. That’s why it makes good sense to build a “rainy day” fund to cover any unplanned events, such as a disability or emergency home repair.

Review Your Beneficiary Designations
Many of us named our beneficiaries when we opened our registered savings plans or bought life insurance — sometimes quite a few years ago. Have there been major changes in your life since then, such as a marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child? If so, it’s important to update your beneficiaries.

Prepare a Will
Many of us named our beneficiaries when we opened our registered savings plans or bought life insurance — sometimes quite a few years ago. Have there been major changes in your life since then, such as a marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child? If so, it’s important to update your beneficiaries.A properly drafted will can help ensure that your assets go to whom you intend, in an efficient and tax-effective manner, should you pass away.

Track Your Financial Progress
You should review your financial plan at least once a year. As part of the review, set attainable targets, such as increasing your regular monthly RSP contribution, or paying off your mortgage more quickly. Major changes to your situation, such as marriage or the birth of a child, should also prompt a review of your plan.

So, how did you measure up? Speak to your financial advisor about how you can do more of these little things right and stay on track to reach your financial goals.

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