Take a few moments to think about the words “learning” and “education” in the more traditional sense. What initially comes to mind? For many, it may be thoughts of your own school years, or that of your children or grandchildren. Now think specifically about financial education. Is that something you generally associate with younger age groups as well? While many of us may have a tendency to isolate education as something that’s primarily limited to the formal schooling years, with financial education, the reality is that it can and should be an ongoing process, and it’s never too early or too late to start.
Being conscious of knowledge gaps in the family
With financial decision-making, oftentimes within families, there may be one spouse or partner who tends to take the lead or who has more of an active role with the finances. If this holds true in your household, while this setup may work well for a number of reasons—convenience, lack of time or the splitting of household roles—it’s also important to consider the peace of mind that comes with ensuring both you and your spouse are financially educated, so you’re prepared no matter what life may bring.
While difficult to think about, consider a scenario where a married couple has kept their household responsibilities separate for the course of their relationship, with one spouse exclusively handling the financial affairs, and the relationship either ends or something unexpected happens to that spouse. This could result in an overwhelming and stressful situation for the other spouse who’s then left to try and navigate the finances without the knowledge or confidence to do so.
The same or similar challenges can arise across generations as well. For those with parents either in or entering that phase of life, without a foundation of financial knowledge or an awareness of these situations and planning processes, there may be a greater chance for conflict, issues and financial missteps.
It’s likewise important to look at financial education from a multigenerational lens. While a family’s focus may be on helping to educate younger generations on financial topics, it can offer a great opportunity for parents, grandparents and other loved ones to augment their own financial knowledge or to build on their existing experience with different areas of planning. By participating in the process, this may also help to seed conversations within your family, which, over time, may be beneficial for communicating your wishes and intentions for areas such as your estate and wealth transfer.
Developing your own approach to learning
If you think about the range and amount of financial decisions you and your family will make over the course of life, and all of the different life events that may occur along the way, a solid foundation of financial education can go a long way in helping to promote informed decision-making and to set the stage for reaching your financial goals.
Whether your focus is more on building broad financial management skills, or you’d prefer to gain knowledge that’s specific to a circumstance or event in your life, how you approach financial learning can be individual to you and should be viewed as something that can fit into your goals and needs.
Using your life stage as a catalyst for learning
Within each broad phase of life, there are generally some main milestones or areas of focus that commonly impact financial priorities and planning during those years and that will contribute to your overall financial picture as well. Depending on your current comfort level and familiarity with financial topics and your particular circumstances, it may be beneficial to use your current life stage as a driver for the type of learning you want to pursue.
In general, there are three main wealth stages individuals move through and between over the course of life:
With these details in mind, here are some financial planning tips based on your wealth stage:
If you’re an early saver…
- Think about and record your short- and long-term financial goals, big and small.
- Establish a budget that factors in all of your lifestyle expenses and other financial components.
- Consider setting up a pre-authorized savings plan to help prioritize your savings.
If you’re a mid-life accumulator…
- Review your short- and long-term goals to ensure your financial vision is matched with the right investments.
- See where you may be able to increase your savings in general, try to make your retirement savings a priority and maximize your contributions where possible.
- Ensure you have the appropriate mix of investments to build your savings within your projected time horizon before retirement.
- Turn a focus to estate planning, including a Will and Power(s) of Attorney, and start giving thought to your preferences and intentions for transferring wealth.
If you’re a preserver/spender…
- Revisit your financial plans to explore the options in structuring your finances to support your retirement lifestyle.
- Consider the potential for senior care or other healthcare-related needs and how those costs may impact your overall financial picture or your wealth transfer intentions.
- Take the time to review your estate plans and carry out any further planning as needed. If you haven’t done so already, work on building an inventory of all of your assets.
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.