Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Busy? Ten ways (plus one) to keep your financial life simple and sweet

In the rush of everyday life it is often the details that get missed. But the success of your financial life depends on getting the details right. To help you stay on track in a busy world, here are ten ways (plus one) to keep your financial life simple and sweet:
  1. Set a budget and stick to it. Take a critical look at your income and expenses and establish a realistic monthly budget that includes an amount for savings.
  2. Get debt under control and keep it there. Develop good spending habits and use debt wisely. Pay off credit cards and other high-cost, non-tax deductible debt first.
  3. Maximize your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contributions. Take full advantage of this tax-deferred savings builder by starting early and making maximum contributions.
  4. Develop an education savings plan for your children. Use the tax-deferred compound growth available under a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) to offset the rapidly rising cost of a post-secondary education.
  5. Be a prudent money manager. Carefully consider where each dollar is going. Set enough aside on a regular basis to achieve your goals with a Pre-Authorized Contribution (PAC) program that automatically invests a specified amount in securities held in your RRSP or non-registered portfolio.
  6. Check and revise your insurance coverage to match your changing needs. As your life evolves (career, marriage, family) your need for income protection and estate planning changes.
  7. Make "tax-efficient" investment decisions. Dividends and capital gains are taxed more favourably than interest. So it's usually a tax-wise decision to hold investments that earn interest inside your tax-deferred RRSP and those that earn dividends and capital gains outside your RRSP.
  8. Establish an asset allocation plan that complements your financial planning needs. Your investment portfolio should include assets from the three asset categories: cash, fixed income investments, and equities. Peaks in one category tend to cancel out valleys in another and the overall result should be steadier long-term growth.
  9. Consolidate and simplify. If you have a bewildering array of investments, simplify your portfolio so it's more easily managed and restructure it periodically to align it with your evolving personal goals
  10. Minimize your taxes. Take advantage of all of the tax deductions and tax credits available to you. Examples are moving expenses, child-care expenses, tuition fees, medical expenses, charitable donations, and safety deposit box charges.
  11. Develop a financial plan and stick to it. A professional advisor can help you 'simplify' the financial steps required to realize your life goals.

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