It feels as though pandemic life has shown us a lot about ourselves—how we handle a crisis, social isolation, boredom and, possibly, financial stress and insecurity.
It may also have brought to light any shortcomings in your personal financial system (e.g., lack of emergency savings). If that’s the case, here are five ways to make a positive change.
1. Develop a Solid Relationship with Your Finances
Many of us are intimidated, embarrassed, and even a little ashamed of our financial situation. That doesn’t mean we should avoid dealing with it. In fact, it’s an opportunity to take a deep breath, lean in and get to know your money. Start by compiling all your financial information onto one page so you can see the whole picture. This should include your income, assets, liabilities (secured debts), debts, and monthly fixed and variable expenses. What do you notice? Does it balance? Does it make you feel empowered to carry on as is or adjust course a little? Is there anything that needs addressing?
2. Manage Your Expenses
This sounds so obvious, but the reality of a busy life is that sometimes we operate on autopilot with our expenses. If you’ve ever asked yourself “Where the heck did all my money go last month?” you’re not alone. The solution is somewhat boring but extremely enlightening: Instead of thinking you know where your money is going, track your expenses for a month or two to see where it's actually gone.
3. Deal with Your Debts
It’s easy to slide into the “I can afford my minimum payments so it’s okay” thinking. However, every dollar you put toward debt is a dollar that isn’t going anywhere else (e.g., your children’s RESP, your retirement, your vacation fund). There are options available to Canadians to help with debt. You can call your local credit counselling agency for support services, including one-on-one counselling, group seminars and debt management plans.
4. Ask For What You Want
Ask for that raise. Ask for better plans with your utility providers. Ask for a discount. The answer will always be no if you don’t ask—and remember, asking is always free. Do some research so you can present a rationale for your request. Remember, it’s simpler for companies to keep a customer (or employee) than it is to find a new one.
5. Learn About Investing
Once you have a handle on your day-to-day personal finances, go further and take an active role in your future. If you have investments, review them, write down your questions and book an appointment with a financial planner to discuss. There are no silly questions except the ones never asked. If you don’t have any investments, think about meeting with a fee-based financial planner to get you started. Consider taking a course, attending webinars and/or reading about investing so you can develop a level of comfort and confidence with your retirement plan.
Financial well-being is not a destination, but rather a journey that is unique to each of us. It’s all about finding ways to enjoy and engage with your money to cultivate the confidence to make financial decisions that work best for you.