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Okanagan advisor’s top four tips for strengthening your financial plan

When it comes to your finances, don’t guess – make a clear plan and check back often
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Senior Financial Advisor Ben Klassen at Valley First in Vernon. Photo courtesy Valley First Credit Union.

Living in the Okanagan, you know there are things you can do to prepare your home and family in case the unexpected strikes. Senior Financial Advisor Ben Klassen says there are similar things you can do to prepare your finances, so you’re more resilient if challenges arise.

“The members I work with are often financially savvy and well informed. They’re keen to be as secure as possible, for themselves and for their loved ones. Once the big things like retirement savings and home ownership are out of the way, there are a lot of little things we can do to help members achieve that security goal,” says Klassen, who works at Valley First in Vernon.

Four ways to fortify your finances

  1. Create a financial folder: Whether it’s a physical binder or a digital folder, keeping all of your financial information in one place means it’s easier to find. Added bonus: compiling log-in information, insurance policy paperwork, investment details and other documents gives you the chance to spot gaps in your planning. Organizing your files is also an incredible gift for your surviving partner, children or other loved ones — you can make their life easier, even after you’ve passed away. Of course you’ll want to ensure that it isn’t easily accessible— in a safe or safety deposit box if you’ve chosen to go the physical route, or a password-protected file if it’s being stored digitally.
  2. Update your Will: If you haven’t assigned or updated beneficiaries on registered accounts, written a will or considered powers of attorney, now is the time. If you already have these documents in place, Klassen recommends reviewing them after major life events including home purchases and sales, births and deaths, marriages and divorces. “Talking about death often carries with it some discomfort or even superstition, but the purpose of this isn’t to be negative, but to be prepared. It’s the only way to ensure that your wishes are carried out, and the people you care about are protected.” If health issues or other challenges arise, will someone you trust be able to conduct financial responsibilities on your behalf?
  3. Change ‘authorized user’ accounts to joint accounts: It’s normal for couples to divide responsibilities, but when it comes to your finances there should be no ‘silent partners.’ “Attend at least some of the meetings with advisors so you know who to call if your partner is unavailable,” Klassen says. Make sure you and your partner both have full access to all accounts, so you both receive their benefits. If you’re only an ‘authorized user’ you may not have a strong credit score, and you may not be covered by your partner’s credit card for things like travel insurance. “Those emails from institutions updating their user agreements can be hard to read, but they can include big changes to services and coverage, so it’s important to keep informed!”
  4. Review your retirement plan: When you first started putting money into your RRSP, you may have assumed you’d be retiring at 65. But do you have to? “After gathering a full picture of your savings and pension options plus your goals for the future, your advisor can give you clear projections for retiring at 50, 55 or 60. You may be able to stop working earlier and still live comfortably,” Klassen says. Creating a detailed retirement plan also makes it easier to see your options for leaving a legacy, and how much you can afford to give to children or grandchildren to help with university or purchasing their first home.

For more planning tips, visit valleyfirst.com or make an appointment with an advisor at your local branch.

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