hands drawing budget calculations

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.

A snapshot of financial learning

According to recent survey findings from Phoenix Marketing International, among Canadian respondents (across a variety of age ranges), the top three financial management topics identified as important for younger generations to know about are financial planning, saving and budgeting, and investing. Furthermore, almost half of respondents felt that educating their family about financial topics is “very important.”1

Interestingly, however, in that same survey, when it comes to personal financial education, only 16 percent of respondents identified it as a priority for themselves.2 In other words, while many individuals and families place a high level of importance on building financial literacy among youth and younger generations, many may be overlooking the benefits and importance of their own financial knowledge and its value throughout every life stage.

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. In fact, recent data shows that about 60 percent of Canadians surveyed say their spouse or partner does not regularly participate in financial planning decisions. What’s more, about 40 percent said that if they were unable to continue in their current capacity, they weren’t confident or certain that their spouse/partner would be able to take over the planning decisions.3

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. With a growing senior population in Canada, more families are facing situations of incapacity, estate administration and wealth transfer. 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.

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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.

two women looking at a computer together

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:

Stage Description Main objectives
Early savers
  • Getting established in a career, perhaps buying a home, getting married or starting a family
  • Earning and saving
  • Growing assets
Mid-life accumulators
  • Have a stable career, are a homeowner
  • Starting to think about retirement and estate planning and transferring wealth to the next generation
  • Creating a balanced portfolio for preservation and growth
  • Maximizing savings where possible
  • Focusing on retirement goals and short- and long-term intentions for wealth transfer
Preservers/spenders
  • Retired or working less
  • Using accumulated wealth to generate income as a salary replacement
  • Estate and wealth transfer planning is a priority
  • Protecting assets and making it last through the senior years
  • Minimizing risk
  • Managing wealth wisely in regards to income tax

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 RRSPs, TFSAs or RESPs; 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 (called a Mandate in Quebec), 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.

Note: To learn more about some of the core concepts in building sound financial management skills, please read the Spring 2018 Perspectives article, “6 financial literacy principles.”

The RBC Wealth Management Financial Literacy program

RBC Wealth Management (WM) understands the value of financial literacy for all age groups and its direct connection to informed financial decision-making. To support financial education for those age 16 and over, RBC WM offers an RBC advisor-led comprehensive approach to building sound financial management skills with the RBC WM Financial Literacy program.

References
  1. Wealth-Affluent Monitor-Canada. Spring/Summer 2019 key findings and proprietary data reports in partnership with RBC Wealth Management. Phoenix Marketing International. July 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Government of Canada. Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. Financial Literacy Month webpage. Accessed August 2019. https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/campaigns/financial-literacy-month.html.