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Many of us can relate to that moment when the clock strikes midnight. We celebrate and reflect on the year ahead. We vow, “This year I’m going to…”, and identify our goal. And while these resolutions are optimistic, they often fall to the wayside. But there’s a way you can help clients achieve their goals.

Don’t worry, we’re not implying you take them to the gym, go grocery shopping with them, or help them find a new job. But there are ways you can help.

The 2014 Sun Life Canadian Health Index tells us that Canadians share some common concerns, and 76% of Canadians are stressed out — citing money, money and money as their top three stressors. The top three drivers of excess stress are:

  • 41% worry about personal or household finances,
  • 31% worry about trying to maintain a budget, and
  • 30% worry about unexpected expenses.1

Resolution #1: Lose your debt weight

In September 2014, Statistics Canada reported that consumer credit debt in Canada stood at $513 billion, up $7.1 billion from the first quarter.2 It’s no wonder that Canadians are worried about their personal and household finances. How can you help get clients get back on track and take control of their debt?

1 in 3 Canadian retirees holds some form of debt.

The average retired individual over 55 has an average debt of $60,150.

Source: Statistics Canada

  • Set a budget – It may sound like an obvious task, but budgets can help clients clearly see where their money is going and make decisions on where to reduce costs. They may be able to find money to help pay off their debt within their own budget just by cutting back on expenses.
  • Prioritize debts – Talk with clients about their credit and loans and get them to list each loan/creditor with their interest rate and amount due per month. Help them identify which ones to pay first, such as paying off the highest interest credit card, or tackling the oldest debt.
  • Seek expert advice/credit counselling – Depending on your clients’ situation, it may be beneficial for them to speak with a credit counsellor to help create a debt management plan and consolidate their bills.

Taking steps to help clients lose their debt weight and get their finances on track will not only help them reduce their personal and household finance stress, but it can free up some money to put towards their retirement savings.

Resolution #2: Get your budget on a diet

Do clients ever say to you that they just can’t afford a life or health insurance policy, or to increase their savings? Once clients set their budgets, the tricky part is to stick with it and find ways to reduce costs. Instead of looking at the bigger items, a simple solution is to look at the little things that can quickly add up.

  A week A year
  Coffee ($5.00 x 5 days a week) $25.00 $1,300
  Lunch ($10.00 x 5 days a week) $50.00 $2,600
  ATM fees ($1.50 x once a week) $1.50 $78
  Bottled water ($1.00 x once a day) $7.00 $364
  Total $83.50 $4,342

These daily purchases seem like small costs at the time, but when we look at the savings for the year it can motivate clients to make small changes. With an extra $4,342 a year, clients may be able to afford that policy or put it towards their retirement savings. Or they could put it towards a registered retirement savings plan for the additional tax break!

To help show clients how their weekly coffee and lunch purchases can add up over 30 years, show them the ‘Saving a little can mean a lot’ infographic.

Resolution #3: Create a “healthier” retirement plan

78% of Canadians have not saved money or otherwise planned for health-care expenses in retirement.

Last year, Canadians reported paying $1,511 out-of-pocket for health-care expenses.

Source: 2014 Sun Life Canadian Health Index

Finances, budgeting and worrying about unexpected expenses is a source of stress for many Canadians. To plan for the unexpected, and to prepare clients heading into retirement, look for opportunities to create a “healthier” plan. From the 2014 Sun Life Canadian Health Index, we know that: (view infographic)

  • 42% of Canadians have had a financial hardship as a result of a health event … but only 12% own critical illness insurance.
  • 53% worry about the cost of drugs and medical treatments in retirement … but only 24% said they own personal health insurance.
  • 47% worry about being in long-term care longer than they’re financially prepared for … but only 10% own long term care insurance.

Help clients make the connection between their financial health and physical and emotional well-being. Losing debt weight, putting their budget on a diet, and building a “healthier” retirement plan can help them live more stress-free.

Additional tips on how clients can make the most of 2015 are included in the article ‘Start the New Year bright’ on Brighterlife.ca, linking to great conversation starters you can email to clients.


1 2014 Sun Life Canadian Health Index.

2 Statistics Canada, National balance sheet and financial flow accounts, second quarter 2014.

Originally published on Advisor.ca