E Point Perfect

Tools and habits to stay on track with your money goals

A net worth statement is a good tracking tool to implement. If you summarize your assets and liabilities on a regular basis, you can monitor your progression. It also helps you visualize your financial life all one page and make decisions accordingly.

If you are checking your investments every day, it is probably too frequent. It is often said that investments are like bars of soap—the more you touch them, the smaller they get. Some would disagree with this statement, but most people should not be checking their investments frequently. Monthly, quarterly or semi-annually is probably a better frequency.

If you are depositing or withdrawing money, a simple plan for which accounts or investments to buy or sell can be set quarterly, semi-annually or even annually to take any second-guessing out of this process. Ideally, you should aim to maintain an asset allocation that is in line with your risk tolerance and time horizon, and this generally includes buying low and selling high. In other words, buying more of what is on sale and less of what is expensive.

Decumulation—or, drawing down the assets you’ve saved for retirement—can be a little trickier, because there may be tax implications related to withdrawals and which investments you choose. But again, establishing a rough game plan annually can make the monthly withdrawals or whatever you are taking easier to administer.

Revisit your goals and change course if necessary

There are bound to be times in your life when you need to tweak your goals. There can be little financial surprises, like car problems or home repairs, or a bonus at work or a gift from family. There can be big financial surprises, like a job loss or divorce or an unexpected inheritance.

Setbacks are bound to happen in your financial life, so it is OK to go backwards sometimes. The younger you are, the easier it is to recover. But even when you are older, being conservative enough with your spending and saving and anticipating these occasional setbacks can make it easier to handle them.

People often prepare budgets that include no car repairs or home maintenance costs. If you build an expectation of unexpected costs into your budget, it can be a more reasonable way to plan for the short and long term. If you want or need to monitor your spending, there is no shortage of budgeting apps available to suit your style.

Make a habit of checking in on your progress

Beyond that, set reminders in your calendar. Year-end is a good prompt for income planning for retirees, business owners and those with non-registered investments. The new year is a good time for TFSA and RRSP contributions. Spring is tax time and ideally you should aim to have your tax documents prepared by mid-to-late March so that you are not rushing at the end of April.

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