Are you trying to make better life choices? Given everything we know about rising interest rates, inflation and stagflation, making smart financial choices are likely at the top of your list.

The good news is making smart money moves is easier than you may think. Here are 13 ways (some quick, others need more planning) to help set yourself up for a brighter financial future.

1. Make a budget

A budget is the starting point of any good financial plan. Don’t have one? Try our Budget calculator to get an idea of your monthly expenses. Or update the one you’ve already got. Make sure it’s realistic. Don’t forget emergency expenses like car repairs and yearly expenses like property taxes or winter clothes for the family. Then stick to your budget as best you can.

2. Pay yourself first

This is one of the most important rules of personal finance. What does it mean to pay yourself first? It means putting aside an affordable amount every month before you pay bills or make any other purchases. For example, you could set up automatic withdrawals from your pay that go into a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP). That way you never see the money and aren’t tempted to spend it.

3. Build an emergency fund

The pandemic taught many Canadians about the importance of saving for a rainy day. How much should you have saved up? Aim for 3-6 months of your net income. What matters most is that you start saving today. Even a small amount every paycheque can go a long way. Putting that money into a tax-free savings account (TFSA) might make withdrawals less tempting.

4. Maximize your employee benefits

This includes both retirement savings and health benefit plans. Call the company that administers these plans and ask about how to get the most out of your plan. For example, a lot of employers match the retirement plan contributions that employees make, up to a certain level. It’s free money that you don’t want to leave on the table.

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5. Meet with an advisor

Or find an advisor if you don’t have one. A Sun Life advisor can help you build a personalized plan to make your life dreams a reality. 

Need an advisor?

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6. Prepare your will

Or update the will you already have in place. Thinking about your will might not sound like anyone’s idea of fun. But you’ll sleep better knowing your wishes are clear.

7. Read or watch as much as you can about finances

Financial literacy is the gift that keeps on giving. Becoming familiar with financial terms and concepts may help you be more mindful of your money. You can start small by subscribing to Sun Life’s Brighter Life newsletter. You’ll get money and health advice in your inbox every month.

Want to increase your financial literacy?

Get started with our Simply Put video series.

It’s all about explaining insurance, savings and investment terms – simply.

8. Review your insurance coverage

Your needs and those of your family will change over time. Talk to your advisor about the types and amount of protection you have. Don’t forget to update named beneficiaries if your situation changes, like after divorce

Need life insurance?

You have options with Sun Life.

1. Get a free insurance quote. Apply for life insurance online with Sun Life GO.

2. Find an advisor. Talk to a Sun Life advisor who can help you understand your options.

9. Write down financial priorities

Start with your short-term goals. Think about what you’d like to accomplish by the end of the decade. Choose goals that are attainable, but optimistic. Studies show optimists have a better relationship with money than pessimists.

Next, focus on your long-term priorities. Here’s where you can dream of life goals, and retirement. An advisor can help you update your financial roadmap to get you there.

10. Calculate your net worth

To do this, just add up your assets (what you own) and your debts (what you owe). Then subtract your debts from your assets. It can be an eye-opening experience.

11. Check your credit score

You can access your credit score through your bank or through a credit bureau. It’s free and doesn’t take more than a few minutes. Why take a peek at your credit score once a year? A good credit score may make the difference when applying for a new job, getting an apartment or a new mortgage.

12. Talk about finances with your partner

This is especially important if one of you usually takes the lead on the family finances. It pays to have a good sense of what your financial situation is. And especially important when you or your spouse dies.

13. Rebalance your portfolio

What does that mean? It’s the portion of your money invested in stocks, bonds and other assets. You’ll want to reset this asset allocation as you age and as the markets go up and down. Talk to your advisor about a plan that follows your changing needs.