Financial Planning With Megan Skelly

Have you ever thought about investing, but did not know where to start?

You went to your bank and they gave you this bullshit 3% that you are going to get back, and you are, what the fuck was that!

Welcome to Day In The Life Of Happily Single. I am your Happily Single host, Brooke Bevan. Today we are talking with a financial planner. I have with me, Megan Skelly. She is from IG Wealth Management. She is a financial planner. Megan, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me, Brooke. I am excited to be here.

So, how does one become a financial planner?

There are a few designations that we have to get to, in order to get to this place. Of course, typically you start out with a different licensing, depending on what you are literally looking to offer to clients, whether that be a mutual funds license or a securities license. Typically, financial planners are those working towards the certified designation, which is where I am right now, taking my CFP, to get that extra three letters behind my name.

That is a three-year, typically a two to three-year study, and then a massive exam at the end. At the end of the day, you look at your designations and say, what do I want to offer my clients? Really, how can I add more value, and what does that look like? But in the reality of it, our education never ends.

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Megan Skelly

Megan Skelly

B. SC., Consultant

IG Wealth Management

Megan is as a consultant at IG Wealth Management and has been them for the past 7 years. She works with professionals, families and business owners to build, manage and protect their wealth - empowering them to make good business decisions about their money instead of emotional ones.

Born in raised in Vauxhall and then Taber she is an older sister to her younger brother and sister. Megan played hockey throughout her childhood, eventually taking her to Syracuse University in New York on a full ride scholarship to fulfill her dream of playing Division I hockey. She played for the Orange for 4 years and served as a captain, and upon graduation came back to Lethbridge.

She currently serves as a board member for the YMCA of Lethbridge on the audit and finance committee, is a member of Dynamically Speaking toastmasters and serves as a Head Coach of a women’s hockey team in Lethbridge.

 

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Syracuse New York

What made you want to be a financial planner?

It is a convoluted story. I actually used to want to be a doctor, and that was my original intention of heading up to school. I have always known that I wanted to help people, and that has been very evident, regardless of where I have been in my life. I get satisfaction out of really providing value and taking care of people. When I came back from university, went to school in Syracuse, New York, I was at a quandary, as to where my direction of life was headed. 

I decided that school, Med school, was not really a passion anymore. It was something I had decided when I was a child essentially. I wanted to look at my other options, and so I had looked into a couple of different avenues. I ended up, at the time, at Investors Group, which has now turned into IG Wealth Management, and actually just started out as an assistant on the private wealth management team. Really, the goal of that was to get some insight into the industry, before I had made any commitments, any further investment of time, dollars, and am pleasantly surprised I am still there.

Obviously, not an assistant, I run my own practice now, but it has been a door, unexpected, but really a fruitful journey. I have fantastic clients and to be honest, helping people, outside of the medical profession, I really believe that our role can be that big of an impact when you are partnered with the right people.

When we start out, what should we look for in a financial planner, and how should we expect they could help us, as a single person, looking to plan for the rest of our lives.

I think the key thing is, first also, really just understanding your expectations. The first thing is being, that if you do not really know what you want, it is very hard for someone like myself to really satisfy that for you. So, really understanding, you want just a transactional relationship, right? Do you want to go in, say, I have got a little bit of extra money? Here are my RRSP contributions. Is that something you want?

Someone like myself is definitely not a transactional person. I do not simply sit down and say, “I am going to take your RRSP contributions, see you in 12 months, have a great year. We will talk about your investment performance when I see you for an annual review next year.” Realistically, I am going to help you build, manage and protect your wealth.

Everyone in our industry definitely has their own flavour and flair. It is really important to understand, really, what are you looking for? What is your personality? I like to say, this is not a sprint for me. In my practice, this is a marathon. I really look at my clients, and hope to build that relationship over 20 to 30 years, work with multiple generations, and become an integral part of their family. So, personality-wise, I think that is huge. Do you feel respected? Do you feel like this is a conversation? Very much so. 

Do I sit down and just get dictated what to do, not having asked questions, not really having a deep dive into what is important to Brooke? What is important to client X? What are the goals you would like to achieve? Those are, really, to be honest, the most important things that I need to understand. If I do not know your definition of success, it is very hard for me to help you accomplish that. When you meet with somebody, I think it is just really important to, first off, have a look at what do I actually want out of this relationship. Does that person fit it? 

Also really communicating that. Typically in our industry, you can very much book an introductory call, that is complementary, or at a cost, or go through our discovery process and really understand, who am I? What do I bring to the table? It is not an arranged marriage, is what I like to tell every single client. You want to come to meetings. You want to be excited to discuss, that even when the markets are down, you really see.

 

Like right now.

Incentives. Yes. Markets are up a little bit this morning.

Oh are they? I saw my investments yesterday. I am not looking at them anymore.

And honestly, even understanding that I have some clients. We have an app that you can put on your phone, and I thought I had told them, do not download the app. I know your personality. I know that this is not going to serve your ultimate goals, and so having those conversations, when March of 2020 hit and the markets went down, I called all my clients and said, do not open your statements. Not to all of them, but the two or three that really had communicated that, were outside of their comfort zone. I said it will tell you when to open them again. 

We had that conversation prior to COVID hitting, and the market was going into a bear market. I think that is the type of relationship I want with my clients, but not every single person, or every person, wants that relationship. There is definitely more of a commitment there. You can definitely ask a financial planner and advisor, a consultant, or whoever you are working with, “What are your qualifications? How long have you been in the industry?” 

Some people see me and think, “Hey, you are only 30 years old. I want someone with gray hair, and they are 60!” That is totally fair. We are able to decide what our comfort levels are, but for me, I always tell people it is really important to make an educated decision based on questions. What are your qualifications? What is your experience? What does your average client look like?

Invest

 How good are you at teaching what you talk about? I think for me, that would be…

Yes, that they understand you.

Yeah, because I am one of these people. If I do not know what you are talking about, and you are talking over my head all the time, I am not going to be comfortable working with you. I need to be able on some level to understand the conversation, because I am not someone who would go, “Okay, okay. You can go home, go”. I did not have a clue what just happened, and I know people who do that.

It is pretty common, and to be honest, relatively speaking, my goal is to help people feel educated, and not of the essence of transferring all my information, that I have in my brain, to my clients, but really helping them understand the building blocks. Right?  Is that a foundational part of their practice or not? 

You are the CEO. I encourage my clients, and you, that you are the CEO of your future. Your vision is important, your dreams, your goals, your aspirations, and the things that you are concerned about, along the way. We are the CFO’s, so we are here to give you solutions and strategies, but really empower you to make decisions that align with what you are looking to achieve. If you are empowered to take responsibility for that decision, even with our recommendations, more than likely, you are going to stick to the recommendation. You are going to stick to the decision. As opposed to walking in and saying, “Hey, Brooke, you have got to do this and this”. 

We all were children. We still have that inner child inside of ourselves, some of us stronger than others, and I think it is important to really feel like you are part of that conversation. So, really just understanding what that narrative looks like? How do they communicate with me? Do they ask me if I understand? Do they get it when I have hesitation? So typically, if you have a meeting or two, another thing to consider would be, what type of comprehensive services do they offer? Is it strictly investment management?

Are they going to look at risk management? Are they gonna look at cash flow? Are they going to talk about retirement goals? Even when you are 30, are they going to talk about estate planning? All those factors, tax planning, looking at the major expenditures that you have coming up, are all those things going to be really involved? I believe the more we operate in the essence of understanding how everything is really interconnected, the better we will be prepared to handle life’s ups and downs, and more than likely, we are going to hit our target.

If you have a client that, let’s say, is single. They are looking at their retirement, they are looking at their risk. They have a business and they have specific big future purchase goals. You would look at all of that, kind of at the same time, wouldn’t you? Not just break it up into individual sections.

Yes, so typically, we will put some priorities and realistic expectations, so time horizon. What is that goal? Probably in a realistic world, it is going to be achieved. We talk about retirement. You love your job, you may work longer, but when is that date that you really would like to be done? That is really important for us to understand. If you need to replace that car, what does that timeline look like? If you have a business, really understanding, first off, the priority in terms of urgency, and then comprehensively coming up with a plan.

If I only focus on your retirement, and we say we can get you to a 100% of what you define as success in retirement, which again takes some time to tease out, but we have not talked about the house you want to buy. We have not talked about the car you want to buy, and we have allocated all your cash flow. It is very hard for you to see, actually, true success, and I would still, like clients, what are you willing and unwilling to live with? 

If we have an educated conversation and you say, “I would like to retire at 60”, then we have conversations based on your current cash flow, based on today, assumptions of market returns, et-cetera, et-cetera, you probably could retire at 60, but you might not be able to hit this goal. We can now have a very educated conversation about, okay, what are my options? Do I see an opportunity to earn more in my employment? Do I want to start a side business? Do I want to work longer? Do I want to spend less? Maybe taking a roommate on, in that house, would give you some alleviation.

 If you only look at one part of the pie, I would argue that your chances of hitting the other areas of your life will be harder, because you are operating in a vacuum. Whereas, really, when you look at a comprehensive plan, it is going to include all of those things.

Opportunity Risk

Yes, that is a good way to see it, because from my point of view, there are so many different things happening in my life, and then prioritizing them, financially, is really important, because I do not have a ton of income right now. I am building a business. I am in the first three years of my business, and everyone knows you do not make money until after the fifth or sixth year. Everything gets poured into the business. 

Right now, my biggest thing is keeping my business going, especially during this pandemic, and everyone is going through a lot of hard times right now. My risk actually went down, quite a bit, because I was able to plan, in such a way, that it was not the end of the world when I lost half my clients in one go.

As much as you would never wish that upon yourself, I think that life is life. There are opportunities. There are things that are going to make you stumble, and so again, we do not operate in essence that things only work in perfect scenarios. What happens if you become critically ill? What happens if you could not work, due to an illness or a disability? Supercritical as a single person, you rely upon your income.

That was a really big conversation I had, oh, what was it? Two years ago, someone was trying to sell me life insurance and said, “Oh, you will be covered when you die”. I said, “I don’t really care what happens after I die, because I am dead and that is just me. So, you are going to liquidate my assets, and pay my bills, and off we go”. That is how it is going to go, but what happens if I get sick or injured, and I am by myself here? 

Holy shit, that was a scary thought. How am I gonna afford my bills? Who is going to take care of me, if I need help? That was a really big smack in the face because I never considered that before 35, at all, it was not even a thought. 

At the beginning of COVID, I thought, “What happens if I get critically ill, what would really happen? Am I going to be a burden on my parents, to take care of me, financially, as I am ill?” That would not be fair to them. They are retired now. They are living their best life because they worked hard and saved hard to get where they are. So no, I went and started looking at options for actual insurance to cover me, if something were to happen long term. I actually had to do that.

Yeah, it is not a fun conversation, to be honest. I have it with people every day. I think the big thing is like you said, you are the CEO. I can come and say, “I see a risk here.” I think it is really important to have those conversations. I think it is very important to understand, okay, what are my risks? What am I willing to live with? Am I willing to live with the risk that if I became critically ill, I might not retire, because I have liquidated all my retirement savings? 

I may have to sell my house. I may have to put this burden on my parents. Potentially, some parents can help you, but there are a lot of people that do not have that luxury. Some people do not even have family around, they have immigrated or moved. There are a lot of things that, again, you can make the decision, if you want to ensure the risk, but even just having the conversation to say, I have never really thought about it.             

You do not think about it.

Because we think we will be here forever.

We do not have to think about retirement in our twenties. We do not have to think about sickness, or illness, in our twenties. I know you do not want to think about it, but you really need to think about it.

It is not a scare tactic. It is just, unfortunately, the stats are on your side, that you would probably be okay. What I would argue is, what is it worth to put a little money aside, to make sure that if that happened, you can still be successful?

Here is a fun question. If you are young, let’s say you are 18, right out of high school, and you just decided to think of retirement now, you do not have to invest a whole lot of money long term if you start investing early?

I always joke and use my sister as an example a lot. She is nine years younger than me. I said she is the luckiest person in the world, mostly because she gets to me, as her sister. But, outside of that, she has really created a habit. Creating habits is huge. Honestly, the reality is, I believe simplification is the key to success, and the more that you have habits, the easier it will be for you to just continue on.

But compounding interest is the miracle of growth. Realistically, if you start putting money away earlier, it makes it not such a burden. It is not, “Oh, I have to put away $1,500, at this point, in my life, because I am 40 now, and realize that I do not have anything.” I think the big thing is just getting started, is key.

It can start with, as little as, $50 bucks a month. It could be $50 bucks every other month, and really just navigating and putting that into your plan. The biggest thing, I typically will say, for an average person, starting out wherever you are in your life, the first thing I would look at, with someone who is single, is cash flow. What are you bringing in and what is going out? No one likes to do it. Cash flow management is a verb. It is management, but the reality is just the first thing is creating awareness. So what is it? Yeah, for some of us, it is eating out. 

 Investment Piggy

Some of us have our vices, and I think the key is, first thing, creating awareness. So what does it actually cost me to live? Not the fun part of it. The utilities, the car insurance, average fuel costs, cell phone, internet, those things that you do not anticipate you have to give up on. Those are things that you really build into the budget either way. Then, big things I see, especially with people in today’s day and age are groceries, eating out. 

Just to give you an idea, what was it? Not April, but March, my grocery bill, my actual grocery bill, was $62. My eating out was $800. I saw that and said, “What the fuck am I doing? Oh my God!”

That is not entirely uncommon. Really, to be a hundred percent frank, especially, I would say between COVID and a desire for life to be busier, and more complicated, it makes sense. I really do understand why it becomes a thing, but the reality is, if you can look at that, and really just get some awareness around it, you can now make educated decisions.

Especially for single people, because if you think about it, who, unless you, really loves to cook. Cooking as a single person sucks. There is figuring out portion sizes, and then losing half an hour to an hour of a day. Cooking to me is not fun. I hate it! When I looked at that and saw that $800 bill and groceries would maybe have been $500, if I had cooked, ate well and had fresh stuff. So, this is the month that I am trying, and have not eaten out this month. It has been a painful lesson for me, but I just wanted to try to save that $300.

And I think the important thing is, just do not climb the mountain overnight. If you are a person that can do cold turkey, great! But, maybe it is just incremental improvements. A big thing I talk to my clients about is celebrating the wins. If you have been spending $600 a month on eating out, maybe your goal is to only do $500. You celebrate that, that extra hundred bucks did not go towards it, or if you only were able to save $80, that is still $80 more dollars than you saved last month.

For people that are single, I think cash flow is a huge thing. I have seen clients become very successful earning way less because they are very aware of where their cash goes. It is part of their core values. Someone like myself, I really do value, not during COVID, but I love to go out with friends, go for a nice dinner and have a glass of wine. That is a valuable thing for me. I am willing to build that into my budget, but how much do I want to allocate towards that? What does that look like? Would I rather go on a trip or do that four times a week? I would argue I would rather go on a trip. 

I think the first thing is cash flow. What do you need to live? What do you want to live? Two very different components that will help you inform. For someone like myself, I spend a lot of time on cash flow, because I want to help inform you what you need in retirement. If you do not know what you need and want to live now, how do you know how much to save for retirement? How do you know what you need in retirement? Do you just want a number?

I made the habit of paying myself first, is a word I am going to use. I take the money that I want to invest right off. The minute the money hits my account, a certain percentage automatically goes into my investments, and then I do not even have to think about it, because then I have paid myself first. My future is secured that way. What I have left to work with is what I have to work with.

For sure it is important. It is important to view it as a bill. I believe the human condition sometimes struggles. We are very touched to the here, to the now, how am I feeling now? Instant gratification. I think that is a big part of our existence, and I, a hundred percent understand that. We are not very attached to our 60-year-old self, who wants to retire, but your sixty-year-old self wants some of that fun. 

Typically, that is why I think habits are key, having a look at your cash flow, and having a little grace with it. If you are not doing exactly what you want to do, that will help inform your retirement planning, to give you an idea of what do I need in retirement? The second piece being, have that emergency fund. I like to call it a liquidity fund, because it is liquid liquidity, meaning it is cashable. If you work to go pull that cash out tomorrow, it is not in the markets.  You are not taking it when it is down.

Train wreck

I call it my ‘fucked up fund’. That is honestly, I fucked up somewhere and I need money now. My fuck-up fund is if something goes right to hell, I am not going to be sick trying to come up with cash to replace something, or to cover something of some sort. 

Financial stress is hard. It is hard on your body. I know sometimes we do not always feel it, but I really believe there is some freedom, when you start to make decisions, from an educated standpoint. Whether or not you want to go interview a financial planner, or a consultant, or someone to really be this partner with you, that is a decision you make. If you work with someone like myself, I really should be helping you ensure those goals are coming true, but it is a two-way street, for sure. 

There is definitely some involvement on both sides, but I should really be holding your hand through that process, holding you accountable, coaching you through, picking you up, making sure that this is a priority and focus. Some people spend more time planning their vacation, which again instant gratification, than looking at their finances and I get it. That is why I have a job.

Do you help people work their way out of debt as well?

I, typically, do not take those people on as clients. I do some pro bono work throughout the year. I always will take referrals, or introductions to people that are interested in just chatting, getting to know me and for people that are fairly high in debt loads.

What I will do is, I will take a peek at the cash flow. We will walk through that process together, and then we look at their debt. I provide some information around that, and then I will say, this is my recommendation. Here are some areas. I really think this is what I tackle first, and it does not mean they become a client. It means that they walk out, after that meeting or two, with a really good idea of what are my next steps, right? 

Realistically, those people, as much as you would like to apply for retirement if you are paying high interest on a credit card, that is all they can see. It is like carrying this rock around on your back. I usually will not give that pro bono, to say, I do believe I am here to help people. If my sole intention is to sit down and say, I am only here to make an income, I believe I am not in the right industry, and I do not have the right, really, the right approach to being that partner for people.

That process for the people out there, if you are in a really big debt situation, is maybe work with someone who specializes in organizing you, so you can get yourself out of debt. Then, once you are out of that debt situation, speak to your financial planner and start interviewing in that process. So there is a two-part series there.

For sure, and you can, a lot of times, probably get some advice on cash flow. You can download cash flow spreadsheets, right? You do not have to come to someone like me. You can go through the various categories. What are my housing costs? What are my personal costs? What are my entertainment costs? Really, you can do that yourself. The reason I have a job is most people will not do that, but if you want to take responsibility, I believe you do the best thing you can, today, with the information you have. Just take a little step, if you want to. 

If I want to lose weight, because of COVID, I have become a little lazy, and I can have a goal of X amount of pounds, I would like to lose, or whatever that may be. I know, I do not register for the gym and lose 40 pounds. The first win is just registering for the gym, if that is important to me, or going for a walk around the block, once a week. I think the important thing is just starting. 

Sometimes we get so paralyzed by fear. So, for those of you who are single, who are in debt, just giving yourself some grace, and saying, “What is the best thing I can do today?” I do not need to climb that mountain overnight. I just needed to take that next step. 

The funny thing is, it is like a snowball, it is like compounding interest. You get a little bit of a feeling and it just really naturally starts to build itself. You really want to focus and do those things, because you start to see the fruits of your labour, and that terrible elephant in the room you do not want to talk about, do not want to address. It becomes a little bit less scary.

Just for everyone out there, who is listening. Oh, when she talks about the snowball effect, it is amazing. When I was at my worst in debt, I kid you not, I had four or five credit cards that were maxed out. I picked one and paid the minimums on the others, but I picked one and started with that. Once that was done, with what I was paying on it, I moved to the next card and kept just floating it down the line. 

By the time I was done, with all the cards, I was paying a good chunk of money to credit. Now, since I am not paying credit on it, I actually moved that money straight into the investment side. I did not even let it go anywhere else. To my mind now, that money is paying for something important, that I cannot touch, and it just kept snowballing. It is now into my investment side, so it is nice. I started that habit with credit cards and worked it into my investments. 

Habits are key. It is just first creating awareness. I have a lot of clients who are single. We plan for their retirement and have a partnership. We ensure that I can be that confidant, and their partner, to encourage them, support them, bring forth solutions, but that does not mean you cannot do some of these steps yourself either. 

At the end of the day, we all can gather information, but just knowing something does not mean you do it. The key is really just understanding yourself, and aligning yourself with what do I actually think I will do? How do I take those steps? Again, doing the best you can, one day at a time. You do not climb anything overnight.

So, we have built healthy habits. We are ready to invest. We have got some cash. What is the fun way to make some money with you?

To be a hundred percent frank, most of my clients are fairly hands-off. They usually will come in and say, “I am a really busy person. I know that I would like to do these things, but I do not want to. That is why I have you, Megan. This is why I have you. I do not want to think, yes I will have conversations with you, but I am really not interested in knowing the nitty-gritty.” I think, to be honest, this is really, again, understanding. 

Sometimes, too much self-confidence can actually be problematic. Just because I could literally look at how I change my oil, does not mean that someone, like myself, can change my oil. It is just really understanding, again, first off, how much risk are you willing to handle, right? There are a lot of things to help frame that mindset. Some people want that high return, and that is fantastic, but can we handle the March 20/20, you know, April, 20/20? 

Are we going to make emotional decisions? When it comes to a financial planner or someone that you are working with, they really should be helping you make business decisions, rather than emotional ones, but they are going to talk you off the ledge. It is very easy to be attached to your own money, and through my process, I will educate clients on, if you were to invest in a portfolio, or you are messing anywhere in the market, what are the components, right? 

On the ledge

What are we, what do we pay attention to? How do we ensure that we give you a return that really captures the market? What are the things that provide risk, right? If you do not have very much money to just throw it all into one stock, yeah. If it is GameStop, and Reddit takes over, great, but the reality is that is not the average story.

Big one-off story? Yes. For people out there, if you were following the GameStop and the Shorts. I learned a lot about the stock market, just watching the people on Tech Talk, discuss it. It was a real eye-opener, but it was a really big one-off, so do not expect that to happen again. I am pretty sure it is never going to happen again.

There are always unicorns. I would argue that again. Do you want to gamble? That is what it is when clients tell me, I want to just have a little stock portfolio and I want to create a WealthSimple account. I honestly will say, absolutely let’s talk about what type of account that should be in. Let’s talk about how much your cash flow that should be in. Do we have first off a liquidity fund? 

Do you have enough money, that if you got shut down in your business for three months, you would not have to reach for a credit card, you would not have to reach for a line of credit? I know people that invest in their tax-free savings, and they do stocks, that are not necessarily my clients, guess what? Those stocks went to nothing. They never got their tax-free savings room back, and that is one of the most valuable things we have for ourselves. 

You invest in a tax-free and you put five grand in. If that grows to $15,000, that $10,000 of growth is not taxable. You only have so much room. I think it is just understanding that someone like myself is fairly human. I get that people all have different desires, but the real thing is, again, if you are picking someone, you are interviewing someone. What is their style? What are they willing to offer me? Is this kind of one phone call a year? Are they meeting me? Are they willing to look at all these areas? Are they wanting to have discussions? Do they meet me during the day? Will they meet me via Zoom? What is really the client service offering? What does that definition look like? Then you can make an educated decision.

You leave the meeting, you leave that phone call, and you can really sit there and marinate it. Okay, is that really something I want to align with? Is that something I want to go forward with? We are in business. We understand that not every client is going to be our ideal match and vice versa.

I always say that I am not everybody’s cup of tea and that is okay.

I think that is great, right? There are tons of people out there. I think it is really important just to say, this is an arranged marriage. I am not going to guarantee you I will take you on as a client, and I think that is really important.

I want to make sure that you are successful, and if I am not the right person to guide you on that journey, it is important to just be honest and say, you know what? Based on your philosophy, you probably should self-invest. You really should. Here are some tips, here are some things to keep in mind, and with a single person, the same thing. Really understanding what I want to do. 

I want a hands-off approach. Am I willing to invest myself through QuesTrade, through WealthSimple? The key being, if you are starting out, you do not have a lot of money, setting aside $50 a month in a WealthSimple account. Absolutely, probably the most preferable option.

Really, it is quite simple. Your fees are super low. If you can pick a diversified option that just fits in the market. It is very hands-off. It is not something that you need to worry about. At some point, you may build your wealth to a point at which, someone like me, becomes even more important.

We are now talking about, I built up a little bit of a nest egg, but now I have some tax things I want to look at. When you talk about retirement, it is not just what you contribute. It is, am I contributing to CPP? That action on my paycheck, every month, that I did not really ever pay attention to

When I pay once a year when I pay taxes.

Yes. If this is a self-employed person, that is something that you do as well. CPP is a factor, right? So, we want to contribute.

If you are in Canada, CPP is not enough to retire on. Please plan!

Equivalent to social security in the US, so what does that actually look like? How much am I actually going to be potentially getting from there? In Canada, another one is old age security, right? Do you have a pension at work? All of those factors are going to build into what becomes your retirement paycheck. Taxes are a massive part, taxes and deaths. Two guarantees, got to love taxes. 

You can definitely self-manage, and there is a real niche in the market for it, and absolutely I will never tell clients, it is a bad thing to do. I think it is really important to understand that you now have to take responsibility for being me. You have to know what account to put it in. You have to manage your emotions as you go through those swings, you have to have the ability to research, and say how much do I need for retirement?

I have decided I need sixty grand a year for retirement, or fifty, or whatever your number is. What is my life expectancy? I applied for all my clients to live to ninety, just pass the life expectancy of an average male, female, or anyone within the spectrum, but what happens if I live longer? So those are all the things that, realistically, I become more valuable.

Sometimes when things are fairly simple, you are just putting money away. Really, my ability to really help you push forward is a little bit hamstrung, as life builds though, and as your goals change, and you are able to accumulate more throughout your life, definitely the value I can bring to the table increases.

Peace of mind

And just a peace of mind, because I like to play in my stocks. I do, but I do not play a lot, because I am not a risky person. I want to be safe, but I want my investments to do well. I do have someone, like Megan, who takes care of all my stuff. If I lose my stocks, I lose them. It is what I have been playing in, but for the most part, the rest of my retirement is safe. I am not too worried about that end of things. 

From my point of view, because this is just me personally, I like to play, but the rest of it, the stuff on the other end is more transnational because I do not want to hear it. I just want to know I am doing well on that end. I am giving you the money, and you are doing your thing. I am very much of the believer, that you trust the professional, who knows more than you, to do their job. As long as the numbers keep going up, I am good.

There is nothing wrong with being curious. Some clients would say, “I just blindly trust you.” I have never asked them to do that. I make sure, regardless of whether that is the case or not, we really still have those conversations.

Yes. Mine was not a blind trust. I have known this person for a while. It took them a long time to make me comfortable enough to want to invest, because I was very much like some other people, where I was taught that you do not really talk about money.

You trust the bank with your investments. They were telling me one day, oh, it was a while back, how much they were earning for a particular client. They were just rattling off some numbers, and I was sitting there barely getting 3% through the bank. I have been investing this many years. I have been putting this much money in. I get the statement and have made this measly little bit of money. I know if I decided to take that money out, they are going to take the whole damn thing in fees. 

That just choked me, it kicked me so hard. That is the kind of moment I decided to go with a private financial planner, versus the bank, because I was just so disgusted by the word. I was living in Saskatchewan at that time and was investing through the bank. When I moved back to Alberta that bank was not here, so I had to switch banks. I pulled all my investments, everything, and they wanted to move it to my new bank. When I got the statement from the old bank, they took everything I had made on those investments, plus some of the investment in fees

Unfortunately, there are definitely situations I have come across with my own personal relationships, in which there are definitely some frustrations with regards to, how were the fees disclosed, and all of the things that really are enclosed and really investing. I think that it is important to have those, and also saying, how are you paid? When I have a new client relationship or even a new potential client relationship, we have a conversation about how I am compensated, and make sure that is very easy to understand, and an opportunity for questions. 

That is before we even made a decision to work together. Just understanding that we are definitely professionals, I will say that there are a lot of studies out there that we can add significant value, again, if we are doing our jobs. So again, a two-way street. If I have a client that never calls me back, it is pretty hard for me to do a lot for them. But, I would argue, most people come into this industry because, like me, they want to help. 

I would argue, I do believe in the good in people. Most people do really want to help. What I would argue is, what is the structure that they are in, that dictates how much they can help you? Ask them how many clients they have. Do you have some institutions, again, particular banks or different branches that may have 500, 600 clients? They may be the nicest and smartest person in the bank. They do not have enough time for you, if that is the type of thing.

That was the other reason I left the bank. Every time I went to book an appointment, or talk to the advisor that I had, they were never available, they were always on holiday. That was super frustrating. As someone who is investing, I expect to be able to sit down with the person that I am used to dealing with and have those conversations, but they were, it was just ridiculous. I could never get a hold of them. That was another factor in me pulling out. 

For sure, and I think it is important to have those candid conversations, just like I am today. I am usually, typically, really happy to talk about what my client offering looks like, like how does that look? I will tell clients, I am going on holiday in the summer. That does not mean he cannot get service, he cannot get advice, but that is typically what my clients are. I don’t really want to see you. I want to be outside. I want to be doing holidays, and align with that. 

So for me, that is really important and critical. How are they paid? What does that look like? If I move my money from Megan and IG Wealth Management, do I have a transfer-out fee? We do not have transfer-out fees. Do I have any back-end fees? Which means if I redeem my funds in X amount of days or years, do I lose a percentage? Those are all things that are important to allow you to make a decision. You may still choose to go with that person, but now it is with this opinion that you are very much eyes- wide-open.

Those are typically the types of conversations that I would initiate. But again, unfortunately, sometimes things are missed. The two biggest things in my, in our, industry that I really think is like the cancer of the industry, are a lack of time and a complacency factor. For me, I get paid, regardless of whether I talk to a client all year. If I do not talk to you all year and have been busy, I am only worried about getting new clients, really, I am getting compensated. Now we could argue, I would lose clients over time. We could argue, my satisfaction would not be there. 

I primarily do not have to go searching for clients. The majority of my clients come through introductions. I am very grateful, and blessed, that my clients trust me enough to have those. But, if I do not have a focus on making sure that does not become the case, humans are also humans. You say, “Oh, we should have vacuumed today”, and we just let it go. When people say, “Oh, I want the sixty-year-old.” Absolutely, that is great. There are a lot of 60-year-olds out there, I will be one of them one day. They are fantastic. 

But I think, for me, I sit down with my clients every year and say, we are looking to elevate our practice this year. Is there anything you would like to see? Is there anything, and within reason? I only have certain abilities with time and resources. At the end of the day, like complacency and time, do I have enough time for my clients? Or am I just looking to churn you through a system, not really build that relationship? 

Is there that focus on education? Focus on improving, and elevating, that client experience and each to their own. It is really important to understand, because if the relationship has become stagnant, and your focus becomes again, like the vacuum, you, just as an advisor, let it go. Really, I am getting compensated either way and the value is not just, I am putting your money into the markets. It is really in that conversation, the recommendations are informed.

Conversations are important. Know where things are sitting. As you can tell, Megan is very hands-on and very forward. She is not someone who hides behind anything. She is, “Hey, I have not seen you in four months. How is it going?” She was even one who will talk to you over a beer. I will tell you that right now, many good conversations over beer.

A glass of wine is always a good thing. Not when I am actually doing business or doing any trades, but I do really value the personal side of it.

Finances are a very vulnerable thing. I work with people who have millions of dollars, and I work with people that are just getting started out, it does not matter. It is a very vulnerable conversation like you alluded to earlier. Unfortunately, a lot of us grew up in environments where finances were not discussed, and that is another conversation I had. What is the best financial decision you have ever made? You will usually see someone light up and be very proud, “I bought my first car or I paid off some debt”, like your example of paying off that debt. That is an amazing thing, that gives you a sense of joy and purpose and just wow.

It makes me not sick. I was a person who was, honest to Pete,  physically ill, because of my debt. When people talk about the pressures of money and bad decisions, it can actually make you physically ill. When you decide to do something about it, and actually start to succeed, your whole physical and mental health just changes, almost overnight.

When you say, “All right, this is what I am going to do. This is how I am going to fix it. I have the plan in place now, and let’s just go.” I remember just finishing it off and sitting there. I do not have a credit card. I do not have a loan. I do not have a line of credit. I am a girl that cannot have that stuff. This is a really hard lesson that I learned personally is, if I have access to credits, I have zero responsibility for my money. It goes right out the window. If I have to do things in cash, I can tell you, I think of things a lot more seriously.

Very different emotional response. There are easy things that if you struggle with, I can give us examples. If you struggle with your Starbucks, or your Tim Horton’s, or whatever kind of run that you have, that habit, McDonald’s. I have told clients, get a gift card, and put on $50 at the beginning of the month. If you run out in a week, we are very aware of where we are at. You can reload that gift card, but find tips and tricks to make you more aware of that tap of a credit card.

Online Shopping

I have credit cards. I obviously, like not everyone needs to not have them, but really how can I give myself the ability to make my life easy? So, I filled my credit, I did it with my Starbucks card. I filled it with $50 bucks about a month and a half ago. That is pretty good, because I have it in my head about once a week, so I treat myself on the weekends. I would rather go on more trips. I would rather have other things in my life than a Starbucks, that lasts a short satisfaction period.

I have a pay-as-you-go credit card, so I have to put the cash on it before I can use it. I found that, for me, was very eye-opening, because every time I have to put the cash on, I am aware of how much I am using. I am a lot more, okay, so this is what I have to purchase, this is what my costs are, and just for myself, it really opened my eyes to each transaction.

I think as I said, there are so many options. If you want to go to a Robo-advisor, your own self-directed, you can go to a bank institution. I know clients are friends, or family, or people in my life that have worked with an institution, and have a fantastic relationship with their advisor. They are very happy. I do not believe that I do wealth management, or I have the only best decisions. I really believe there are fantastic people ever. 

There are tons of options, and really it is just understanding, okay, I can go my own route. I can go to the basic institutions, of which I had that debit card. I have really been attached to that bank, or you can go to the more financial planning institutions, independent branches, but you can also ask, do you have a team? Right? Who are those professionals you are aligned with? What are those additional services that you do above and beyond? 

More than anything, everyone does not like to be sold. We are sold every day. If I want to go to McDonald’s and you want to go to Moxie’s, I am going to try to sell you why we are going to the Keg. There is always a sale at the end of the day. I think we need to be okay with that, but I think again, is it in my best interests?

It is great to say this relationship looks really good, what happens after that? That is where that client servicing model comes in. What are our communication levels like? I have a client who replaced the roof. They sent me all four of the quotes and he said, “What do you think?” We put some money away in their accounts, and they said, “What do you think of these companies?” This is something I did, because we have a fantastic relationship. 

You also know a ton of people. 

Exactly, and I want it to be that they start to come to me for everything. They start to say, “Oh, I need a plumber. Do you have a plumber in town? Do you have those?” At that point, we become, I become, integral to their life. It is really a big privilege. I do not take it lightly. I think it is really important to understand that this is someone’s life savings and yes, the markets are going to move, but we should be feeling more confident. 

We should see a financial plan. I have had people say, “Yeah, I have a financial planner.” Great, can you bring it in? They bring in a statement, just a regular statement. I say that is great. This is telling you what your money is growing to, but do you have anything that actually shows you where you are at, with regards to that new retirement goal? Everyone is at a different stage of their journey and absolutely, okay, we all start somewhere.

I am going to flip gears a little bit. Single person, they are doing really good. They have their retirement on track and they come up with a business idea, and are wanting to, maybe, discuss the money end of things. Would you be a good person to discuss that? If they have an idea, and are just looking for somebody to maybe bounce the financial side of it, is it feasible financially?

For sure. We would talk about what is the timeline again? In a perfect world, is this something we can start on the side without quitting our full-time job? Right? Could we dip our toe in, get things set up? Get that website set up? If you do not know, you can go to Brooke for that type of stuff, get the social setup. Can we do that? Right? Could we start it so we do not have to put so much risk on your finances? Or is this something where we should just really set aside some money? This is my goal. I want to make sure we have got some money set aside, so I do not post to our site.

Keeping it close to our soul, until we are ready. Now we are looking at putting some money away, to start a really cool business idea that you are not seeing many people do right now. This is something that I can do, I could make work. So talking to you, as someone who knows money, who can say, “Yeah, we can make this work. We will just have to flip a few things and get this set up, but keep it close to your soul until we have the funds, in place, to get you moving.” 

Then when, let’s say, we are making a business plan and are going to go to the banks to ask for some money, we can say, “I have been working with my financial advisor, and this is what we have been able to do here.” That shows the bank a lot of responsibility, and they are going to say, “Hey, this person really thought this out.”

It is a huge risk, being a business owner. I do not think a hundred percent, I actually understood it, until I was in those shoes. It is a huge risk. It occupies your mind. It occupies your time, and even when you are not thinking about it, you are thinking about it. I think it is a beautiful thing. 

Creation, ownership, flexibility. Those are amazing, but really understanding, okay. What are the things I need to have in place? What are the initial capital startup costs? What are those ongoing startup costs? If I do not bring any revenue in, what am I responsible for here? Is this just my time, or am I going to need somebody else to be on this journey with me? Is there a product here? And of course, you would work with a bank or a lending institution, but you always need someone to talk about this first. 

Fortunately, I have those relationships, right? I have the people that call me and say, “Hey, this is what we are doing.” As part of my actual discovery process, I ask, “Is owning a business something in your future? You might change your mind in five years, is that something that is important to you?” Then, with every actual financial planning review, I do not just have one review with a client, but we say, “Okay, these are the things we are working towards, has it changed?” Do you change things? Right?

Trust

Priorities do change and that is okay. I say that in almost every episode so far, it is okay to change your mind. It is okay to change what direction your life is going, or what you are doing with it, but talking about that change, with your financial planner, makes a really big difference. Sometimes, you think it is a really good idea, and you want to do it now, but you are going to have to put the brakes on, because financially it is not feasible yet. Yet!

A hundred percent! I am not a dream killer, definitely not! But, I am the person that is going to sit there and say, “I am going to look at this from all angles. How can we minimize the risk? How can we reallocate capital? What are those? I will even, just from people, I had one client who said, “You are like the financial, Brene Brown.” I, as much as yes, I do finances, I am not going to say I am even close to Brene Brown. That is a really far reach, but I think if you do not honour the emotional sides when we talk about money, we are missing the point.

If you never talked about money as a kid, it would make sense that you are a little bit hesitant right now.

Understanding that mindset that you bring to the table, I have had clients who come to me and said, “I have lost thousands of dollars. I have been in a Ponzi scheme. You can understand their hesitancy to make a decision then. That helps me formulate, “Well, how do we make decisions then, as a team, that honours the fact that you do have this fear?” Sometimes, it has been as simple as, “I think you really should address this, and honestly go to counselling, or you need to have a conversation with your spouse because some of those things really do hold you back.”

There is nothing wrong with counselling people, it is good for the soul! Hands down, someone who does the counselling regularly, is good for you. Even if you do not think you have any issues, everybody has baggage, and baggage will show up in the worst possible place.

And there is nothing wrong with you. We are humans.

Yes, as a single person, I go to counselling, because I cannot talk to my personal circle about certain things. It is just not feasible. Sometimes, money is one of those things. I can talk about it with my counsellor, with no judgment, and then come out of it, and go to a meeting. Let’s say, with Megan, with a less emotional attachment to it, with more logical thought. I have dealt with the emotional kind of end, of the baggage end of it, and then going into a meeting, much calmer.

For sure. Everyone that has mental health, is a tough subject. I think the biggest thing I have just learned is that we have a couple of options in life. We either, metaphorically, crawl into a hole, and just accept what it is. Whether we know it or not, we have accepted and we all have accepted in our lives, or we say, I am me, and take a little bit of ownership. I know what that looks like. I have no expectations, but I am willing to try. I am open to trying. 

I go to counselling; it is a fairly regular thing. It sounds funny, but I actually talked to clients about that. There is some baggage here, there is some baggage we need, that you need to get through. Even if you get through retirement, even if you get that too, as I am actually gonna argue, you are never fully going to enjoy it. 

Yeah, we do not work and get there just to check a box. Much of what we experience is through our emotions, as much as we want to fight it, the good, the bad and the ugly. I think really just understanding, if some of them, like some people out there would be like, “Man, I do not want to talk about the worst financial decision I ever made.” That sounds painful. I just want to talk about retirement planning. I am probably not the best advisor for you, and that is absolutely okay.

So, you and I are honest to a fault. We are very, we are, what you see is what you get with us, quite honestly.

A hundred percent and my clients will typically tell you that. I am never going to be callous. It is definitely important to me. I want to honour all areas of that. That is just my own personal practice, just really understanding the limitations. If you have got your retirement goals situated, you want to own a business, fantastic! What does that look like? Do I want to replace a car? Is that something I would like to not allocate in my cash flow?

I would like to never drive again.

Maybe, for example, I went to school in Syracuse. I had friends in New York City who never drove. They did not have any need to, and to be honest, in a lot of parts of the world that is definitely an option and Canada, in some rural communities, 

Yeah, we have to drive. That is not an option for us. Some of my personal goals are, I want to live in a city where I never have to drive again. That is a big one for me. I hate driving. It is so stressful for me. That is one of my big goals, is to remove that one stressor, from what most people do not even think about, for me is a big one. 

I just do not want to. So yeah, a big part, I think, is to figure out what you want in life, and then bring in people, like Megan, to help you get those goals. If you do not have a goal, really work towards learning what you really want. What is the point of just flowing through life and not really doing anything with it? Make your mark in your own way.

Curiosity is key. We are all guilty of floating. I have done it a lot. I went through a breakup in November. It was a really good wake-up call to say, “Okay, what do I want?” I am going to be happy. It is okay. Have a little grace.

I can tell you right now, in my twenties, not in a million years, would I have thought I was going to be a business owner? I really did not think I was going to be single, because I was going with the social norms that, you are going to get married, you are going to have kids. I was not ready to make a lot of decisions. I was not mature enough to do a lot of the stuff that I am doing now. Sometimes, you have to hit rock bottom pretty hard. I learned some really hard life lessons, to really know where you want to go. 

If you are in your twenties, it is okay to experiment, try new things, and just try to live a life, so you get a little bit of experience. When you hit your thirties, you are going to find your mind changes a little bit, in how you see things. That is going to be, I think the best time is, your thirties, honestly, because you lived through some crap, you have dealt with some stuff. Then all of a sudden, this is who I am! This is who I want to be! Now, let’s embrace it and see where it goes. It is really an eye-opener.

Yeah, it is, and honestly, outside of what I do for a living, that is a big part of even my focus right now. Just owning your story, being authentic, and again, leaning into a little bit of that gooey, uncomfortable part, because in my opinion, if either authentic, it invites other people to show up the same way. It is not easy. There are a lot of uncomfortable moments, but the more you do it, the better it gets. I think life has few options, like I said, what is your definition of success? 

That target looks so different to everyone. Some people love to travel. Some people couldn’t care less. Some people want to be around, to be with family. Some people want to pick up and move, and say I would never want to drive again. Those are all awesome and good goals. It is great we all do not want the same things.

How boring would life be, if we all did the same thing and wanted the same thing?

There would be a lot of demand on one or two things, and some of us would not have jobs. There would be a lack of options. A lack of diversity, because we are all demanding the same product or experience.

Diversity makes the world go round, and it is amazing when you actually look at it. It is as if you had to hang out with 10 people that were exactly the same all the time, how boring would that be?

Financial planning. There are lots of financial planners in your area, reach out and start talking to them. A lot of them will give you a free consultation, pick the one that feels best to you. 

But, if you are in the Lethbridge area and want to speak to Megan, I will have her information in the blog post. You want to go check that out, because as you can tell, she is super friendly, super knowledgeable, and she will not lead you in the wrong direction, even if she has to send you somewhere else.

Even if it is a question, I do work with a variety of people. The great thing today is that a Zoom is an option. I am always happy to help, very much that is the focus. Be curious, question things, do not be content, find the right people and keep them in your life, because I think that that is the key.

Thank you for joining us in this episode of Day in the Life of Happily Single. If you want to head over to your favourite podcasting platform, and leave me a review, I would super appreciate that, because I do not know what direction you want me to go, unless you tell me, so have a great day.

And see you in the next episode.

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