4 Financial Tips for Active Young Families
From the desk of Erin Gendron…
With the start of a new fall season and the end of care free summer days, the ‘responsible, let’s get organized’ side of me kicks into high gear. Fall has always had a ‘fresh start’ feel about it for me – similar in a sense to New Year’s Eve; a time to reflect on what’s going well and what new opportunities lie ahead.
A constant source of review in our household is how we’re managing our money. How to plan, be smart and make the most of every dollar while juggling the multi-faceted financial priorities of an active household can be a daunting task.
As an Associate Investment Advisor by day and a wife and mom-to-two by night, the following are 4 of our essential tips that will help start you and your family down the path to money mindfulness.
1. Build your budget
Not unlike so many things in life, we need to know where we’re starting from in order to know where to go next. For this reason, I’m going to come right out and say it – the first unavoidable step is to prepare a budget.
A simple income vs. expenses (fixed & variable) = surplus or deficit as well as a basic idea of your family’s net worth (net worth = assets – liabilities).
This is the hardest, most time consuming part – and sometimes what stops us from even getting started. Let me assure you that it’s not so bad and well worth your time. Make use of great apps available, I use mint.com or get started with an Excel template. If all else fails, break out your trusty pen and paper; whatever you need to do.
2. Positive cash flow is key
Next up! Track your spending and understand where your money is going every month – in the financial world, this is called your cash flow.
Is your cash flow positive or negative every month?Which direction are you trending?
There are many apps available, for example mint.com that link all of your bank accounts & credit cards to make the process easier.
3. Remember the bigger picture
The third step to rounding out a simple financial plan is to think about what your bigger, long term goals are – primarily, retirement and kids education. Other things to consider might include buying a recreation property or starting a business.
My husband and I had our kids in our mid-late 30’s – a reality for many Canadian families. This means raising kids, helping them pay for an education plus saving for our retirement become competing priorities over the next 20 years.
A big mistake is putting off retirement planning, simply because it’s the furthest away and the least “in your face” – waiting for a time when you can “afford it”.
The power of tax free compounding, dollar cost averaging, and good savings habits will have a bigger payoff the sooner you start.
Give some thought to what these goals look like and what time frame is involved. Allocate money in your family budget to these goals. Small steps you take now will have big impact later.
4. Insurance: What no one truly enjoys talking about it.
A last consideration that can’t be overlooked; insurance and wills.
Having put some hard work and thought into your family’s financial plan, it’s worth going the extra step to ensure it’s all protected.
Specifically when you have dependants, insurance and wills are non-negotiable as we don’t have the saving level to ‘self-fund’ in the event of a ‘worst case scenario.’ Some questions for you and your partner to consider…
- Have we discussed and agreed on who would look after our child(ren) should something happen to both of us? How would this person cover the additional expenses?
- If we were suddenly without one person’s income, would our family be able to maintain their standard of living? Most employees have life insurance which includes one or two times their salary but this is rarely enough.
- Do we have a plan in place financially to carry on in the event of disability or critical illness?
The ability to earn an income is your biggest asset – especially during a time when kids are small, debts are high and savings are low. If this is taken away, even for a small amount of time, the financial impact to your family could be severe.
Although not a simple task, once the above items are analyzed thoughtfully, a real life plan can be put together. This will leave you with a feeling of confidence and peace of mind to meaningfully move forward with clear goals and purpose.
Remember to review your plan periodically. A financial plan is meant to evolve over time, to adapt with your families changing needs, wants and priorities as you grow.