Whatever situation you may encounter in life, it’s always wise to do your research and make informed decisions. When it comes to money matters, this is particularly important as it can help you avoid costly detours on your journey to reach your financial goals.

Here are some dos and don’ts to help keep you on the road to financial well-being.

Do

Monitor your credit card activity 

Using credit responsibly will help you avoid taking on too much debt or paying too much in interest. It will also make it easier to qualify for items like a cell phone, a car loan or mortgage, and may even earn you a lower interest rate.

Here are 5 tips to keep in mind when using credit: 

√   Always pay your bills on time – paying at least the minimum payment
√   Try to pay your bills in full whenever possible, or as much as you can afford 
√   Don’t spend more than your credit card allows 
√   Read your monthly account statements to ensure they’re correct – and report any errors as soon as possible 
√   Know your credit score and monitor any fluctuations (your credit score generally falls between 300 and 900 – the higher the better)

If you are feeling overwhelmed with your debt, or want to learn more about options to pay off debt more effectively or quicker, schedule a meeting with a Scotiabank advisor to review your situation and help you find a solution that works best for you.

Start building an emergency fund

Life is often filled with surprises – some more pleasant than others. When it comes to unforeseen events like job loss, illness or major home repairs, it’s important to be financially prepared.

Many financial advisors suggest you build an emergency fund equivalent to three to six months of living expenses, that can be accessed quickly, to help you make it through financial setbacks.

Create a financial plan

The minute that you’re working and filing your taxes, it’s time to start a financial plan. While an initial plan for a younger person might not be that extensive, it’s crucial to start the process early on. 

A sound financial plan focuses on your current needs and future goals and puts strategies and timelines in place to help you achieve them. It provides you with a complete picture – including items like an assessment of net worth (assets vs. liabilities), cashflow (i.e., income and spending) and retirement and insurance planning. 

Start saving early – time is on your side 

When it comes to saving for retirement, the earlier you start the better because your money will have more time to benefit from compound growth. 

An easy and convenient way to start building your retirement savings is with Pre-Authorized Contributions (PACs) – you choose the amount you’d like to contribute and how often (e.g., weekly, bi-weekly or monthly). 

Visit scotiabank. com/PAC  to learn more about PACs.

Thoroughly review your financial situation 

Before you start looking for a home, determine what you can afford. Visit scotiabank.com  under “Mortgage Tools” and try out the What Can I Afford Calculator  to calculate the maximum purchase price you can likely manage.

If your income can not easily support all the expenses associated with home ownership, you may want to consider targeting more affordable properties or waiting a little longer until you’ve saved more. 

Sometimes renters assume that since they can afford a rental payment, they can also afford a mortgage payment. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. While your calculations may indicate that you can afford a mortgage payment, keep in mind that you will also need to factor in money for a down payment, maintenance, utilities, property tax, homeowners’ insurance and general living expenses.

You can book an appointment with a Scotiabank advisor to discuss your home ownership plans, determining the maximum amount you are eligible to borrow – and taking into account the additional household expenses you’ll be responsible for.

Take full advantage of your employer benefits package

If your employer offers to match a portion of your RRSP contribution, or perhaps offers an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, make sure you’re taking full advantage – contributing the maximum if you’re able to. 

To ensure you’re making the most of all your employer benefits, do your research and reach out to your employer’s Human Resources department, or appropriate area. You want to access all the benefits you’re entitled to. After all it’s your money, so take advantage! 

Plan for your estate

You work hard throughout your life to provide your loved ones with financial security, and you want to ensure this will continue when you’re no longer here.

A comprehensive financial plan will address your estate-planning needs, which include preparing a will, establishing a Power of Attorney and implementing tax planning strategies to help you pass assets onto the next generation with minimal tax consequences.

With access to planning tools, products, resources and specialists across the bank, your Scotiabank advisor can help you create a financial plan that addresses your estate-planning needs.

Don't

Overspend on credit cards

One of the most common financial missteps, especially for young adults, is accumulating too much credit card debt. 

Overlook saving for emergencies 

Unfortunately, many Canadian households are living paycheck to paycheck. If something unexpected does arise, without an emergency fund you may need to access your savings or take on credit card debt, which could create more financial hardship down the road.

Wait to start building a financial plan

Many people think they need substantial wealth in order to create a financial plan. That’s simply not the case. You start a plan in order to begin building wealth.

The time to create a financial plan is now.

Put off growing your retirement savings

There always seems to be a good reason to put off saving for retirement – you may be working to pay off a student loan, saving to purchase a home or you may think you can only start when you have a significant amount to contribute.

Take on too much mortgage debt

Buying a home is a major financial step that could see you making payments for up to 30 years or more, so you want to make sure you’re able to comfortably take on this financial commitment. 

Say “no” to free money

If you’re not taking full advantage of your employer benefits, it’s like turning down free money.

Although matching contributions are usually a part of most employers’ benefits packages, a surprising number of employees do not take part in the program – make sure you’re not one of them.

Avoid talking about the inevitable

For many of us, death is an uncomfortable topic. Unfortunately, we’ve all heard stories about people who work their entire life to ensure their family will be taken care of when they’re gone, then sadly neglect to put a proper estate plan in place.

Learn about more financial strategies to help you make informed decisions

Visit the ScotiaAdvice+ Centre at scotiabank.com/adviceplus, where you’ll find timely financial information, advice, tips and tools to help you become off today and tomorrow. 

At Scotiabank, it’s our goal to provide tailored and personalized advice so that you can reach your financial goals. 

Ready to get your finances on track for your future? Come in and speak to a Scotia advisor today