Managing my finances does not spark joy for me. Quite the opposite, in fact. Unfortunately, it’s not like a set of old bath towels–I can’t let it go and declutter my mind the same way Marie Kondo goes about decluttering a house.
Fortunately, I have someone in my life who helps me make decisions and drives me to think about investments, my savings, retirement planning and everything else related: my dad.
He’s a financial advisor, and one of the best things he has done for me and my siblings is to take his expertise in that arena and apply it to helping his children. I’d like to share some of the things that, much to my chagrin, my dad has taught me about financial health.
Businesses are generally about making a profit, and you should think about your personal finances the same way. You’ve got overhead (groceries, utility bills, your mortgage) that keep your life running, and revenue (your income). Those two columns in the YouCorp ledger are what shows if your life is in the black or in the red.
In those most basic terms of money-in, money-out, you can, with a good degree of accuracy, map out how much you’ll have in the bank over time. Then you can make a plan that not only allows you to keep YouCorp running, but makes room to make your money work for you.
And that’s the next lesson.
My dad always says that generally, each month, you should have about 30% of your income left over after all your expenses. That’s what you’ve got to work with to invest, and start making your money work for you.
You can put it in RRSPs, TFSAs, RESPs or any number of other acronym-based money containers, so long as you stick to investments with these basic principles:
Stable, long-standing institutions
Not affected by short term swings in markets
Minimal or no tax payments required
I watch my checking account closely, and I rely on my dad’s advice to make sure my money is going to the right places.
When my siblings and I entered adulthood, my dad instituted something that has really helped me solidify my plans, both financially and in life in general: family meetings.
At this meeting, which happens once every couple of years, my whole family gathers and shares their current situations, both financially and in life. There’s an established structure to it, and an agenda. We go around the table, talk about our net worth, where our money is situated and how that aligns with our future goals. Those goals vary, but usually it’s stuff like saving for our kids’ education, buying a home or budgeting for vehicles or family trips.
With the numbers out of the way, my parents make time to share stories about family history and sometimes we discuss a book that my dad assigned as homework. (I routinely fail to read the book, but that’s a story for another time.)
I know what you’re thinking. Share your net worth with your parents and siblings? Are you folks crazy? Yeah, I guess we are a bit nutty, but show me a family that doesn’t do at least one bizarre thing together, and I’ll show you a working perpetual motion machine.
I should say that, as an adult, the words “family meeting” bring me the same amount of reluctance, grief, eye-rolling, and general huffiness that I would feel as a teen, when I heard the words “family game night”. I have mixed feelings about putting the details of my personal financial situation out there for my family to see. That said, it does force me to take a close look at where I’m at, and where I want to be, and that’s good for me overall.
The family meeting may not work for you, but the lesson here is not that you have to put your finances on display for anyone to see, it’s that you should take some time to collect this information for yourself, and connect with a professional to see how you can properly manage your money, make it work for you, and get closer to your goals.