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Professionals help Canadians control finances amidst pandemic

Mike Kidney quoted. Globe & Mail: Nov 20, 2020

Financial advisers across the country are helping Canadians regain their bearings and reassess their financial goals in the new reality of the pandemic.

Financial advisers across the country are helping Canadians regain their bearings and reassess their financial goals in the new reality of the pandemic. Professional advisers see their role as multi-faceted; they are guiding their clients to reflect on many issues more deeply than ever and focusing on their need for a measure of control in a situation that feels uncontrollable.

Four professionals who are members of Advocis, the Financial Advisors Association of Canada, share their insights on clients' needs, as well as advice on “weathering the storm” in the wake of COVID-19. All hold a CLU designation, specializing in advising individuals, business owners and professionals in the areas of risk management, wealth creation and preservation, estate planning and wealth transfer.

“After five years of recession, people here were starting to feel more optimistic, and the pandemic has rocked that optimism,” says Jennifer Tweddle with The Co-operators in Calgary, Alberta.

“Regardless of their financial situation, everyone is anxious and uncertain. Everything seems unmanageable, and that’s why I suggest people focus on what they can control,” says Ms. Tweddle.

“Set a budget. Look at areas where you can add more protection; for example, if you’re concerned about losing your job, supplement your employer health benefits with extra insurance or extend your mortgage term to reduce monthly payments.”

One “silver lining” to the pandemic is the fact that people are turning to financial advisers more than ever, Ms. Tweddle says. “If you don’t have a professional who is helping you to chart a path forward, find an adviser in your area. Now is not the time to go it alone.”

Elsie Altamirano is an independent insurance and financial adviser in Toronto. “Many of my clients are reassessing their life plans along with their finances,” she says. “Some whose lives have slowed down in the pandemic are thinking about planning for an earlier retirement, and people see the importance of estate planning, wills and living wills.”

Whatever their current financial situation, Ms. Altamirano advises her clients to adjust their plans to reflect any reduced expenses arising from the COVID-19 situation. “Transportation costs, money spent on restaurant meals and entertainment – set aside the money you’re no longer spending to build an emergency fund to support you for three to six months through any future periods of financial instability.”

Mike Kidney, who runs an independent practice called Live by Wealth in St. John’s, Newfoundland, says his clients are also seeking advice on how to prepare for future financial emergencies. “We urge our clients to create a ‘liquidity account.’ We help people plan ways to easily access funds to get them through a short-term downturn with no income; for example, if they get sick and can’t work.”

More of Mr. Kidney’s clients are focused on drawing up wills and powers of attorney. “People are reviewing long-dormant estate plans and having more in-depth conversations with their families about their wishes,” he says.

“Despite the fact that most meetings are now held virtually, discussions have been more intimate,” he says.

John Hamilton, president, Insurance Services, RBC Wealth Management Financial Services Inc. in Toronto, is also seeing a renewed focus on estate planning. “Another issue that has come to the forefront is planning to support yourself as you age,” says Mr. Hamilton.

“The focus on issues with long-term care has shaken people up. Clients are considering insurance and other options for care that could make it easier to age in their own homes, for example.”

The pandemic has focused people’s attention on planning for the unexpected, he says. “If you’re struggling, have a conversation with your family and friends, and an accredited financial adviser. A professional can give you objective and informed advice to help you feel more in control through the good times and bad.”

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