Financial Planning. Step by Step. Take the next step.

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1 Financial Planning Step by Step Take the next step.

2 With every baby born, mortgage mulled over and education anticipated. With every retirement dreamed of, with every eventuality hopefully accounted for. With every one of the countless steps that make up a life, there are choices. This guide is designed to help you better understand the financial planning process and what you should expect of financial planning professionals. It has been prepared by Financial Planners Standards Council (FPSC), the not-for-profit organization committed to benefiting the consumer of financial planning advice and the financial planning profession in Canada. FPSC administers the certification process for the Certified Financial Planner (CFP ) designation currently held by more than 13,000 financial planners in Canada Financial Planners Standards Council Financial planning is the process of meeting your life goals through the proper management of your finances With every one of the countless steps that make up a life, there are choices. Choices that often lead to new goals. Buying a home, saving for a child's education or planning for retirement, are all good examples. Financial planning is a step-by-step process that helps you reach your goals by gaining perspective on where you are now and defining where you may want or need to be in the future. It provides direction and meaning to all your financial decisions, defining each in context with the other, how they are all part of a whole. In this way, financial planning should help you adapt more easily to life changes and keep you on track. Once the process is understood, it is a simple matter to see how just about anyone can benefit from some level of financial planning. When in doubt about your finances, it is a good idea to ask for professional advice Financial matters can seem, and often are, complicated. If you are in doubt as to your ability to make the most of what you have, or will have, for your future and for those you love, it may be time to consult a professional. Risk evaluation, retirement plan maximization, financial emergencies, estate planning, inheritance : these are a few of the many areas in which the guidance of a professional financial planner could be beneficial, and, at times, crucial to your long-term well being. Even if you haven t any doubts about your own financial planning expertise, you may simply feel that you do not have the time to devote to looking after your financial matters. There are many reasons to consult a professional, all of them valid. When it comes to your financial affairs, it s usually worthwhile to take the view: when in doubt, ask an expert.

3 Financial Planners versus Financial Advisors Financial planners are individuals who know how to use the financial planning process, the big-picture approach, to help you figure out how to meet your life goals. They examine and explore all your needs and can help you with budgeting and saving; and tax, investment, insurance, retirement and estate planning. While they may work with you on a single financial issue, it is always within the context of your overall situation. As well as offering qualified financial planning, many planners are also registered as investment advisors, or hold insurance or securities licences that allow them to buy or sell products to help you put your plan into action. Some planners may guide you to or use more specialized financial advisors to help you implement their recommendations. It is this big-picture approach to your financial goals that sets financial planners apart from all other financial advisors who may have been trained to focus only on one aspect of your finances. The Financial Planning Process Financial planning consists of the following six distinct steps. When it is comprehensive financial planning guidance you want, these are the steps that should guide your planner. Be familiar with them. They ll help you get the most out of the process Establish the client/planner engagement : Explain issues and concepts related to the overall financial planning process that are appropriate to you : Explain the services he will provide, the process of planning and documentation : Clarify your responsibilities as a client : Clarify her responsibilities as your planner. This should include a discussion about how and by whom she will be compensated. You and your planner should : Discuss the scope of the client/planner engagement : Agree on how decisions will be made. Gather data and determine your goals and expectations : Obtain information about your financial resources and obligations through interviews or questionnaires : Gather all the necessary documents before giving you the advice you need. You and your planner should : Mutually define your personal and financial goals, needs and priorities : Investigate your values, preferences, financial outlook and desired results as they pertain to your financial goals, needs and priorities. Clarify your present financial status and identify any problem areas and opportunities : Analyze your information to assess your current situation (cash flow, net worth, tax projections, etc.) : Identify any problem areas or opportunities with respect to your: Capital needs Risk management needs and coverage Investments Taxation Estate planning Employee benefits Retirement planning Special needs: (adult dependant needs, education needs, etc.)

4 4 Develop and present the financial plan : Develop and prepare a financial plan tailored to meet your goals and objectives, values, temperament and risk tolerance, while providing projections and recommendations : Present the plan to you and establish an appropriate review cycle. You and your planner should : Work together to ensure that the plan meets your goals and objectives. 5 6 TEN QUESTIONS TO ASK Implement your financial plan : Assist you in implementing the recommendations discussed if you want. This may involve coordinating contacts with other professionals such as investment fund sales representatives, accountants, insurance agents and lawyers. Monitor the financial plan You and your planner should WHEN CHOOSING A FINANCIAL PLANNER You may be seeking help from a financial planner for a number of reasons: planning for retirement, finding the best way to finance a new home, saving for children s education or simply to get help putting finances in order. Whatever your needs, working with a financial planner can be a helpful step in securing your financial future. Finding the right planner is extremely important because your choice will almost certainly affect your financial future. The questions in this checksheet will help you interview and evaluate several financial planners to find a competent, qualified professional with whom you feel comfortable and whose business style suits your financial needs. Don t be afraid to ask these and any other questions you feel need a full and open answer. Any professional will welcome them. : Agree on who will monitor and evaluate whether your plan is helping you progress toward your goals. 1 What are your qualifications? If your planner is in charge of the process, your planner should Many people offering financial services call themselves financial planners. However, financial planning is a detailed, comprehensive process. It requires hands-on experience and a strong technical understanding of topics such as personal tax planning, insurance, investments, retirement planning and estate planning and how a recommendation in one area can affect the others. : Contact you to review the progress of the plan periodically and make adjustments to the recommendations required to help you progress toward your goals. This review should include : A discussion about changes in your personal circumstances and how they might affect your goals : A review and evaluation of the impact of changing tax laws and economic circumstances : A review of your life circumstances and an adjustment of the recommendations if needed as those circumstances change through life events such as birth, illness, marriage, retirement, etc. Pull out this section and keep it as a handy checksheet Ask the planner what her qualifications are to offer financial advice and if, in fact, she is a qualified planner. Ask what training she has successfully completed. Ask what steps she takes to keep up with changes and developments in the financial planning field. Ask whether she holds any professional credentials including the Certified Financial Planner designation, which is recognized internationally as the mark of the competent, ethical, professional financial planner.

5 2 What experience do you have? Experience is an important consideration in choosing any professional. Ask how long the planner has been in practice, the number and types of firms with which he has been associated, and how his work experience relates to his current practice. Inquire about what experience the planner has in dealing with people in similar situations to yours and whether he has any specialized training. Choose a financial planner who has at least two years experience counselling individuals on their financial needs. 3 What services do you offer? fer? The services a financial planner offers will vary and depend on her credentials, registration, areas of expertise and the organization for which she works. Some planners offer financial planning advice on a range of topics but do not sell financial products. Others may provide advice only in specific areas such as estate planning or taxation. Those who sell financial products such as insurance, stocks, bonds and mutual funds, or who give investment advice, must be registered with provincial regulatory authorities and may have specialized designations in these areas of expertise. 4 What is your approach to financial planning? The types of services a financial planner will provide vary from organization to organization. Some planners prefer to develop detailed financial plans encompassing all of a client's financial goals. Others choose to work in specific areas such as taxation, estate planning, insurance and investments. Ask whether the individual deals only with clients with specific net worth and income levels, and whether the planner will help you implement the plan she develops or refer you to others who will do so. 5 Will you be the only person working with me? It is quite common for a financial planner to work with others in his organization to develop and implement financial planning recommendations. You may want to meet everyone who will be working with you. Financial planners often work with other professionals, including ones you If the planner works with professionals outside his own practice, get a list of their names to check on their backgrounds. 6 How will I pay for your services? disclose in writing how she will be paid for the services she will provide. Planners can be paid in several ways: Commissions: The planner is compensated if you purchase financial products to implement a financial planning recommendation. In some cases, the commission is paid by the suppliers of financial products such as an insurance company. In other cases, you pay the commission, for example, if you buy shares of a publicly traded company. Commissions are usually a percentage of the amount you invest in a product. Salary: The company for which the planner works pays the planner a salary. The planner's employer may get its revenues from fees paid by clients such as yourself or in commissions paid by clients making a purchase or by the suppliers of financial products. Fee-for-service: Planners paid on a fee-for-service basis may charge an hourly rate, set a flat rate for a specific service or be paid a fee based on a percentage of assets or income. In some cases, compensation would be a mix of fee and commission. You should also ask if the planner or organization receives any benefit other than commission, such as advertising and promotion subsidies, from suppliers of financial products. 7 How much do you typically charge? While the amount you pay the planner will depend on your particular needs, the financial planner should be able to provide you with an estimate of possible costs based on the work to be performed. Such costs would include the planner s hourly rates or flat fees or the percentage he would receive as commission on products you may purchase as part of the financial planning recommendations.

6 8 Could anyone besides me benefit from your recommendations? Ask the planner to provide you with a description of her conflicts of interest in writing, for instance, any business relationship with the companies or ownership interest in any company that supplies financial products sold by the planner and the planner's employer. 9 Are e you regulated r by any organization? Financial planners who sell financial products such as securities and insurance or who provide investment advice are regulated by provincial regulatory authorities and may also subscribe to a code of ethics through a professional association. Others who are members of the accounting and legal professions are usually members of professional bodies that govern their fields. Planners who hold the CFP designation are subject to disciplinary proceedings of Financial Planners Standards Council. It is a fair question to ask if he has ever been the subject of disciplinary action by any regulatory body or industry association. You can verify the answer by contacting the relevant organization. Ask the financial planner whether he subscribes to a professional code of ethics such as the Certified Financial Planner Code of Ethics. 10 Can I have it in writing? Ask the planner to provide you with a written agreement that details the services that will be provided. Keep this document in your files for future reference. Certified Financial Planner. Take the next step. Financial Planners Standards Council 505 University Avenue, Suite 1600, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1X3 Telephone : Fax : Web site : Mistakes & Misconceptions When seeking professional financial planning advice, expectations often vary. Here are some common client mistakes and misconceptions: Planners come across clients who - Confuse financial planning with investing - Neglect to set measurable financial goals - Neglect to evaluate their financial plan periodically - Think financial planning is the same as retirement planning - Expect unrealistic returns on investments - Don t understand how advisors are compensated - Are looking for a quick financial fix instead of a long term strategy - Don t understand that good professional planning advice is largelydependent on good information from clients - Believe financial planning is primarily tax planning - Think they ll lose control over their decisions if they use a planner Making financial planning work for you You are the focus of the financial planning process. The results you get from working with a financial planner are as much your responsibility as the planner s. To achieve the best results, you will need to be prepared to avoid common mistakes. Consider the following advice: Understand the big-picture approach to financial planning Each financial decision you make may affect several other areas of your life. An investment decision can have tax consequences harmful to estate plans; a decision about a child s education may affect when and how you meet your retirement goals. Financial planning is an ongoing process that takes all your objectives into account. Remember that all of your financial decisions are interrelated. CFP and Certified Financial Planner certification marks are used by FPSC under a license agreement with the CFP Board of Standards, Inc.

7 Re-evaluate your financial situation periodically Financial planning is a dynamic process. Your aims may change over the years due to changes in your lifestyle or circumstances, such as a birth, an inheritance, marriage, house purchase or change of job status. Revisit and revise your financial plan to reflect these changes so that you stay on track. Set measurable financial goals Set specific targets that will help you achieve what you want when you want it. For example, you need to quantify terms such as comfortable retirement or "good education for your children so that you ll know their real implications. Know what to ask your planner and what to expect from your engagement When working with a financial planner, be sure you understand the process and what the planner should be doing. Ask how the planner is being compensated. Provide the planner with all of the relevant information on your financial situation. Ask about the recommendations offered to you and play an active role in the decision-making. Remember, you are in charge. Be realistic in your expectations Financial planning is a common sense approach to managing your finances to reach your long-term goals. It cannot change your situation overnight. It is a lifelong process. Remember that factors beyond your control such as the stock market, inflation or interest rates will affect your planning results. Remember the bottom line is achieving your goals Life is hectic, and all too often we get sidetracked from reaching our life goals. But proper planning that includes a relationship with a financial planner who helps you articulate your goals and then prepares a plan that will help you meet them, will greatly increase your chances of being financially prepared to handle both the expected and unexpected. Investing in a plan is investing in your future. And a professional financial Seeking out a Professional Planner In your search for help, you need to be able to recognize who you can trust. Implicitly. This is not always easy considering the confusing mix of acronyms and designations for a variety of financial advisors who may, or may not, be qualified or committed to give you comprehensive and unbiased planning advice. In November 1995, representatives of the Canadian financial services industry set out to help consumers clearly identify financial planning professionals by creating Financial Planners Standards Council (FPSC), the not-for-profit, standard-setting, professional regulatory organization that licenses qualified individuals to use the Certified Financial Planner (CFP ) certification marks. To earn the CFP, an individual must meet rigorous standards in Education, Examination, Experience and Ethics. To write the exam, candidates must complete an education program registered with FPSC. Or they must hold specific degrees or professional credentials and three years experience in a field related to financial planning. Additionally, all candidates must have at least two years financial planning experience; three for those fulfilling the education requirement through degrees or professional credentials. The 6-hour exam is based on a syllabus regularly updated through research and in-depth reviews of topics. FPSC conducts surveys of the practice in consultation with financial planners to ensure job-relevance and content validity of the topics covered. CFP professionals must also fulfill annual licensing and continuing education requirements at least 30 hours a year keeping technical skills and theoretical knowledge current. The CFP qualifiying and licensing program ensures an unbroken commitment to professional and ethical behaviour that always puts the clients interests first. In fact, the CFP is globally recognized as representing financial planning s highest standards.

8 Ten tips on choosing a Financial Planner 1. Know what you want: Determine your general financial goals and specific needs (insurance policy, estate planning, investments, education, etc.). 2. Be prepared: Read the newspapers and finance publications to maximize your familiarity with financial planning strategies and terminology. 3. Talk to others: Get referrals from advisors you trust, from colleagues and friends. Or contact FPSC for a referral to a professional financial planner. 4. Look for competence: Many degrees and designations are held by individuals working in the financial planning and investment services. Choose a professional. Choose a Certified Financial Planner licensee who has met high standards of financial planning professionalism and abides by a Code of Ethics. 5. Interview more than one planner: Ask them to outline their education, experience and specialties, the size and duration of their practices, how often they communicate with clients, and whether assistants handle client matters. Make sure you feel comfortable discussing your finances with the individual you select. 6. Check the planner s background: Depending on his background, call his professional associations to check on his complaint record and call FPSC to see if he is a CFP licensee in good standing. 7. Ask for references: Find out if the financial planner works with any other professionals such as accountants, insurance agents or legal advisors. Request references from these individuals. 8. Know what to expect: Ask for a registration or disclosure document detailing method of compensation, conflicts of interest, business affiliations and personal qualifications. 9. Get it in writing: Request a written advisory contract or engagement letter to document the nature and scope of services the planner will provide. You should also understand how the planner will be compensated. 10. Re-assess the relationship regularly: Financial planning relationships are quite often long-term. Review your relationship on a regular basis, making sure your planner understands your needs as they change and develop over time. Where to find a CFP Licensee Today there are more than 13,000 CFP licensees in Canada, and over 60,000 in fourteen countries around the world. CFP licensees work in every segment of the financial services industry in banks, credit unions, the securities industry, insurance companies, full-service financial groups, accounting firms and private practices. For more information on how to find a CFP licensee, consult the FIND A FINANCIAL PLANNER database at or contact FPSC at Partner Organizations Certified General Accountants Association of Canada Certified Management Accountants of Canada Canadian Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors Credit Union Institute of Canada The Canadian Association of Financial Planners The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants The Canadian Institute of Financial Planning

9 FINANCIAL PLANNING Certified Financial Planner. Take the next step. Financial Planners Standards Council 505 University Avenue, Suite 1600, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1X3 Telephone : Fax : Web site : CFP and Certified Financial Planner certification marks are used by FPSC under a license agreement with the CFP Board of Standards, Inc.

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