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Financial planning tips

October 31, 2016

5 financial frights and what to do about them

Ghosts and goblins may no longer keep you up at night, but here are five financial frights that might.

1. You're afraid fluctuating markets will wipe out your retirement savings

One day the TSX is up, the next day, it's down. But giving into your emotions is the worst thing to do, notes Jim Yih, an Edmonton-based financial educator who writes a blog called Retire Happy.

"Just pause, take a step back and think before you react," he says. "If you look at any downturn in the market, it always comes back." Still, review your asset allocation mix regularly (what portion of your portfolio is in equities versus fixed income and cash). "A balanced asset mix will help temper the volatility," Yih says, noting that someone who is close to retirement should have less equity exposure.

2. You're worried you're spending more than you're earning

We all know the solution: Spend less than we earn. "We can blame our debt on stores, financial institutions and corporations, but at some point in time, we have to be accountable," says Yih.

He recommends writing down all of your expenses, no matter how mundane, and keeping all of your receipts. Only then will you know where the money is going and what you're spending too much money on.

Besides reducing expenses, you could try some creative ways to come up with additional cash. For instance, Yih once bought a $1,500 barbecue, but instead of simply laying down the credit card, he sold some stuff in his garage to come up with the money.

3. You're concerned you aren't saving enough for your child's education

Open a Registered Education Savings Plan at your local financial institution pronto. Along with what you save, you'll get an annual grant from the federal government of 20% of your contributions, to a maximum of $500 a year. Why leave free money on the table?

"Start saving early, even if it's only $50 a month," says Mike Holman, who writes the Money Smarts Blog, focused on personal finance.

Short on cash? Ask grandparents or other relatives to contribute to the RESP in lieu of giving you gifts, Holman suggests. Older children can also help contribute by working part-time during the school year and during the summer months. And have them apply for scholarships and bursaries — many are community-based and are not necessarily based on having straight A's, says Holman.

Finally, Holman says there's always the "pay-as-they-go" method. If you concentrate on paying down your mortgage when your kids are young, you'll have extra money to help pay for their education by the time they're ready to go off to college.

4. You're unsure you have enough insurance to protect your family

We've all heard the stories. A woman breaks both legs while cliff-diving near a tropical resort and has to fork over thousands of dollars to pay for the cost of surgery. A man suffers a spinal cord injury, leaving him unable to work and support his family.

You may have travel, life and disability insurance through your employer, but be sure to check the fine print. Is your income protected for the long term? You may need to supplement those policies with your own individual coverage. Use our life insurance calculator to get an idea of how much protection you need.

5. You're worried you may lose your job

Want to be valuable to your employer? Think of the bottom line. "You have to find ways to tie your responsibility to the profit margin and finds ways to streamline processes and procedures," says Melanie Benwell, managing director at PathWorks Personnel.

If you score a major achievement, tell your manager. "You want to show that you're adding value. If you don't sell yourself, nobody else will," she explains. While these tips won't guarantee job security, "you can at least take those achievements and accomplishments to help you land your next job."

There's nothing like taking action to dispel fear. Sleep soundly by assessing your needs and making sure you've taken the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family.

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