Saturday, January 15, 2011

Life 101

At the beginning of every new year, it's a good idea to take some time to address some of life's critical areas. For me it adheres to a set-it-and-forget-it mentality, which translates to getting your life "stuff" in order early, then you don't have to think or worry about it the rest of the year! 

Budget - Money makes the world go round and no matter how little or much you have, you need to manage it. It's simple, know what is coming in and going out and do the math. Then adjust accordingly. If you have extra disposable income, then decide how you wish to use it. If you are just making ends meet or spending more than what's coming in, you need to adjust and cut back ASAP. Whether it's a personal budget or family budget I've used two simple methods 1) pen and paper 2) excel spreadsheet. Nothing fancy. And for example, I noticed we were unnecessarily spending an arm and a leg on satellite TV last year! Set financial goals, plan ahead, and leverage expertise, such as your bank's investment managers, a personal financial planner, or even an accountant.

Taxes - It's never too early to start preparing to file income tax. Gather statements, forms and receipts. Fun stuff. Plan and prepare early to take advantage tax saving programs (in Canada RRSP and TFSA, etc) the best you can. It's your money, and you've worked hard for it. Be smart and keep as much of it as you can!

Insurance - Boring...but if you've done your annual budget you'll notice you spend a small fortune on insurance. Review all your policies and plans including health, house, car, life, mortgage and debt insurance. Are you under or over insured? Do you have the right coverage? Your needs change over time especially if you have a young family. Being that we have a young family I've been taking a closer look at Critical Illness Insurance where the benefit is paid at diagnosis.

Wills & Accounts - Lawyers advise to review and update your will every 5 years, but honestly, just make sure you have one to avoid complications and ensure your wishes are carried out. Along with wills come Power or Attorney and Health Care Directives. As an extra step and for peace of mind, I keep an updated list of accounts, assets and insurance (bank, investment, property etc) in our safety deposit box.

 Medical - Make medical appointments for you and your kids early to ensure you get in and on your calendar - annual physicals, dentist check ups and teeth cleaning, optometrist, even therapies such as massage. And don't forget your pet with a visit to the vet!

□ Special Projects - Last but not least plan out special projects. Some of these will have an impact on your budget as well and would be things like house maintenance, renovations, landscaping, travel, family gatherings, or any large purchases that require some research. Try to make sure that you include some fun things that you can look forward to! This year, I know we should replace the roof at the cabin that we'll have to budget for, and I'd also like to plant a small vegetable garden with my son, and plan our first family vacation...better start on passports!

By no means am I an expert or advisor, but the above is basically my To Do List for January and I'm making pretty good headway on it so far!

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