If you’re like me, you like to travel. Last summer I took a road trip. Can I just say, “I love GPS!” I can’t imagine navigating a drive without it. It’s given me the confidence to just set the destination and enjoy the journey so much more. Even if I know which way I’m heading, it alerts me to traffic jams or delays. And the very best part? When I make a wrong turn, it effortlessly, and without judgment (as to my skill as a driver), recalculates the best new route. So. Much Less. Stress.

While we don’t think twice about getting help on the road, when it comes to our finances, Canadians often go it alone and this leads to high levels of anxiety. In a recent survey, money worry ranked at the top over health, work and relationships. The Financial Planning Standards Council revealed that 6 in 10 Canadians haven’t reached out to a professional financial planner to help them deal with it. That leaves many people too afraid to look at their finances to see the interest they’re paying on their credit card(s), how much they owe, and the fees they’re paying for financial advice – just to name a few key issues.

 

“We’re stressed about our money and going it alone”

 

Get a Financial GPS

November is Financial Literacy Month and the week of 18th to 24th is financial planning week. What better time to reach out to get help and the answers you need when you’re debating whether to pay off your mortgage faster or invest in a RRSP or TFSA. Self-help is great—up to a point—but sometimes you need the services of a pro, someone with the Certified Financial Planner designation. After all, if you broke your leg, reading a book on surgery wouldn’t do the job.

“There’s a lot of “free” information on the internet, but it’s difficult for individuals to determine whether that information is applicable to their situation,” says Cynthia Kett, a fee-only Certified Financial Planner with Stewart & Kett Financial Advisors Inc. “A CFP can provide the objective, third-party expertise that individuals and couples often need to define, prioritize, and plan for the achievement of their life and financial goals. Also, couples often differ in how they manage or think about money. Each person brings knowledge, experience, cultural and/or personal biases into the mix, which can affect their ability to agree on a course of action. CFPs can facilitate communication about financial matters and add his/her own expertise and experience to the clients’ decision-making process.”

 

Study shows that having a plan gives you a financial boost.

According to a 3-year longitudinal study, using a financial planner improves financial health:

  • 85% of Canadians with a comprehensive financial plan felt a greater sense of financial well being, 62% reported increased emotional well-being and 42% said it contributed to their overall contentment.
  • 78% of those with a CFP vs 54% of those with a non-certified planner feel their finances are on track.
  • 73% of those with a CFP say they have a greater peace of mind and 70% say that they are closer to achieving some of their life’s goals as a result of planning (vs. 63% and 61% respectively of those with a non-certified planner).

Okay, so having a financial planner is a smart money move. But how do you find one? Except for Quebec, anyone in Canada can call herself a financial planner. There’s no regulation that restricts the use of this title, so it’s vital that you do your research.

 

Tips for finding a reputable financial planner

  • Visit the FPSC site and click on the “Find Your Planner Tool”. http://www.fpsc.ca
  • Ask some of your trusted friends or current advisors for referrals.
  • Research financial planners and financial planning websites on the internet.
  • Speak with them on the phone prior to setting up a meeting.
  • Interview one or more in-person to determine whether there is a good fit with your unique needs; this should be ideally be a long-term working relationship, so you’ll want to be comfortable with them from the beginning.
  • Visit the FPSCs consumer website to learn the questions you should ask before you invest.
Kelley Keehn is an award-winning author, personal finance educator and is the Consumer Advocate for the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC). She has written nine books on personal finance including Protecting You and Your Money; A Guide to Avoiding Identity Theft and Fraud and A Canadian's Guide to Money Smart Living. Kelley is the Marilyn Denis show’s personal finance expert, was the host of the W Network’s Burn My Mortgage, sat on the National Steering Committee on Financial Literacy, currently serves on the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s Consumer Protection Advisory Committee, the Ontario Securities Commissions’ Seniors Expert Advisory Committee, and is a member of the OECD’s International Network on Financial Education.