Certified Financial Planner

Canadians stressed about money, financial buffers can help: FP Canada’s Kelley Keehn

September 10, 2020

FP Canada recently released their annual 2020 Financial Stress Index. Save with SPP reached out to FP Canada’s consumer advocate Kelley Keehn, a noted financial author and educator, by email to find out about the survey’s results.

Q. Research shows money is number one worry, and that people worry about saving for retirement and debt. Is there a relationship between the two – like, if you are paying down debt you can’t save for retirement, and vice-versa? And maybe also did you find out what people think the consequences are of not having enough for retirement (working forever, a less exciting retirement, etc.)

Yes, money still is the #1 worry. FP Canada’s Financial Stress Index found yet again that people worry more about money than health, relationships or work.

The survey didn’t go into your exact questions, but I can anecdotally state that without a clear financial plan, it’s nearly impossible to figure out complex scenarios like paying down your debt vs. saving for an RRSP (or using the tax deduction to pay down on your debt), etc.  And you’re correct, that the consequences for not having saved enough for retirement means either living with less or working longer.  

Consistent with previous years, in 2020 money is the number one cause of stress for Canadians by a large margin. Money (38 per cent) outranks personal health (25 per cent), work (21 per cent) and relationships (16 per cent) as the top source of stress in Canadians’ lives. This is particularly significant given multitude of non-financial stresses related to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The 2020 Financial Stress Index also reveals that as Canadians age, they feel less stressed about money – with 44 per cent of 18-to-34-year-olds listing money as their leading concern compared to one-in-four (25 per cent) of those aged 65+.

Q. Putting money aside for an emergency fund is a great idea – we would like to hear a bit more about this, if possible. Are people basically realizing they need to create one for the first time? Or are they moving from having a sort of contingency credit line to having actual savings? We guess it’s because of the pandemic that this is being considered more?

Before the crisis, many stats revealed that 50 per cent of Canadians were just $200 away from insolvency.  I don’t know the current numbers, but one could suggest that it’s much worse now.  And, many people don’t realize that the time to get a line of credit is when you don’t need it (i.e. not after you’ve lost your job). 

A recent Canadian Payroll Association survey revealed that it’s not the amount of income that you earn that reduces stress, it’s the financial buffer that you have.  The problem for younger Canadians is that they haven’t been in their career long enough to save (i.e. student loan debt, getting into a home). 

Q. The financial regrets part is fabulous. We wondered whether “having a better job” might refer to having a job with better benefits (or maybe just better money). We retirees sure wish we had had the brains to try and find a job with a good workplace pension earlier (this writer got such a job in his mid-30s). That sort of thing.

The survey didn’t dig deeper unfortunately.  But people really should think of their career as their fourth asset class. If you’re in a high-risk career like an entrepreneur, your investments should perhaps be less risky.  On the flip side, a professor with tenure likely takes less risk with their investments, but possibly should. It’s essential that your career is part of your financial plan (do you have a pension or not, benefits, etc.)

Q. The number one takeaway from the research – what results surprised you the most, and why?

That Canadians are still not reaching out for help and thus suffering sleepless nights.  We wouldn’t self-diagnose when it comes to our health, nor would we go on a new road trip without the help of Google maps on our phone.  Why do so many Canadians still not reach out to a financial pro like a Certified Financial Planner (CFP)?

We thank Kelley Keehn for taking the time to answer our questions, and her colleague Emma Ninham for setting things up.

Is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan part of your own financial plan? The SPP could serve as your personal defined contribution pension plan, a workplace pension or can supplement any workplace or government pension plans to which you belong. It’s a plan with a long history of successful investing returns at a very low management cost, and has averaged returns of more than eight per cent since inception. Consider checking out SPP as a way to help take the stress out of retirement saving.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

Chet Brothers: Brothers and Company named to Financial Wealth Professional Magazine Canada's 2014 Top 50 Advisers

June 18, 2015


By Sheryl Smolkin

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Today I’m interviewing Saskatchewan financial planner Chet Brothers for savewithspp.com. He formed Brothers and Company Financial, an independent planning and wealth management firm in 1994 after spending a number of years at the wealth management subsidiary of a large Canadian financial Institution. He’s experienced in all aspects of personal finance and wealth management.

Brothers has dedicated his professional career to educating the public and financial advisers about the importance of comprehensive financial planning. His professional qualifications include Certified Financial Planner and Registered Financial Planner designations. He also served his profession as past president of the Institute of Advanced Financial Planners and he is currently on the board of the Canadian Institute of Financial Planners.   He came to my attention as Wealth Professional Magazine recently named him one of only two Saskatchewan financial planners on their Canada’s Top 50 Advisers’ list in 2015.

Thank you so much for joining me today Chet.

You’re welcome.

Q. How did you get into the business of financial planning?
A: I started in investment sales and was looking for a career that offered lifetime learning opportunities. So I upgraded and moved into the financial planning area.

Q. How do you think Canadians can benefit from working with a financial planner?
A: I think a financial plan really makes the most efficient use of all the resources that an individual or a family has at hand to enable them to realize the hopes and dreams they have for themselves, their family, and their community.

Q. Are your clients typically close to retirement or do you work with a broad spectrum of clients developing financial plans?
A: I would say if you looked at the bell curve, the peak would be people either five years before or five years after retirement. But we do deal with the entire spectrum. Often as people get closer to retirement, the importance of financial planning becomes clear to them and they seek out advice.

Q. What should people who require financial planning services be looking for? What questions should they be asking?
A: First, I think you want to make sure you are dealing with an accredited person with a professional designation — either the CFP or RFP or hopefully both. You want to make sure that they have some experience. Let them practice on someone else. I started at a large financial institution, essentially apprenticing. They also need to have a defined and tested investment strategy and a comprehensive approach. If someone wants to talk to you just about your investments and hasn’t asked you about your will or your power of attorney, I’d run.

Q. Do you sell products like securities or insurance or are you an independent adviser?
A: I am an independent adviser who is licensed in securities and insurance. In order to implement a financial plan in this country, you need to be licensed to sell individual securities, mutual funds or insurance. So, we do implement plans and we are licensed.

 Q. How are you compensated? Do people pay a flat fee or an hourly rate to have a financial plan developed or are you on commission?
A: To develop a financial plan, we charge an hourly rate of $175/hour. At that point, the client can do what they want with the plan. If they choose to implement with us, then we will use the products and services available to us and we’ll offset that fee. If someone were to use our investment services, any revenue that we receive from the investments or insurance would offset the fees that they paid for the financial plan in first 18 months.

 Q. If a client has little knowledge of investment products how do you educate them or how can they educate themselves so they make wise investment choices?
A: Investing is not rocket science. There are two basics: ownership or “loanership.” After that, explaining how markets work is not all that complicated. I think the industry makes it unnecessarily complicated for people. Most people grasp pretty quickly that if they are buying a fraction of a business, they have to identify what are good businesses. It’s a lot harder to determine whether it’s the right price to pay or not.

Q. How important is asset allocation from a risk management perspective? In other words, what portion of a client’s portfolio should be stocks, bonds or other assets? How do you decide what split to recommend for a client?
A: It depends on the client’s situation. But it’s also important to know that, just moving around asset classes doesn’t necessarily reduce risk. You want to make sure that you reduce the risk at the source. Buying quality is the first step.

That is if you’re going to buy into the equity market you should be buying quality, profitable businesses that pay dividends. That will reduce your risk on the equity side. On the debt side, you want to make sure that you are buying quality debt obligations of borrowers who can pay you back. You also want to make sure that the duration is reasonable.

The next step would be to determine what asset mix is appropriate. I think in very few instances would it be appropriate to have 100% of your money in ownership of businesses, just because most people can’t handle the volatility. They wouldn’t stick with program, and they’d bail.

For most people, depending on age and stage and their experience, we would add more or less fixed income to a portfolio. There’s no exact formula. It’s determined through the financial plan, interviews and getting a sense of their ability to handle volatility.

 Q. When you are developing a financial plan or a retirement plan for a client do you consider the equity in the family home as a potential source of retirement income?
A: No. I generally wouldn’t.  In a financial plan sometimes we run the plan out beyond age 80 and there could be a short fall. Then it’s conceivable someone would sell their home and move into a rental, or a long term care facility.

But, your home is your home. Borrowing or taking equity out of the home makes no sense. The other argument is “We’ll downsize when the kids are gone.” However, in this market, condos cost almost as much as stand-alone homes or more. There’s no real way to get equity out, in my opinion.

Q. There’s an ongoing debate in the media and the financial industry about actively managed portfolios versus passive index products. What are your views on the subject?
A: I think it’s funny, because the stats show that only 20% or 25% percent of actively managed portfolios beat the index. But zero percent of passive investments beat the index!

The only index or benchmark that a person needs to  care about is the number that is in their financial plan. If you need five percent return on your investments over your lifetime to give you all of the things that you dreamed about for yourself, your family, and your community then, it’s irrelevant what the markets do as long as you get it.

Q. So, you are not an advocate necessarily of just an index or passive approach?
A: If you take an index or passive approach the problem is, which index? You’re making a market call. It’s incredibly risky. People who do so have made a huge call based on zero or little if not knowledge.

Q. Congratulations. I see you’ve been named one of Canada’s Top 50 Advisers in 2014. Tell me how this process took place and how you were ultimately named to the list?
A: Wealth Professional Magazine does an annual survey. We took part in 2014 and 2015. They base their decision on the number of clients, growth of client assets under management and other factors. And we were fortunate for two years in a row that we made the list.

It’s an honour to be on the list. But it’s certainly not how we measure our success. We measure the success of this business by the success or our clients. What we focus on is their results which we monitor and measure.

Q. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s Balance Fund in which non-retired members are invested earned 9.1% in 2014 and an average of 8.16% over the plan’s 29 year history. Do you think that participating in SPP can form a valuable part of an individual’s overall investment strategy?
A: Yes. Those are reasonable returns. I think that the hardest thing is accumulating the money in the first place. If you’re not doing anything else, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan makes it very easy to accumulate money at a reasonable price. Putting money into that pension plan on regular basis is a great starting spot. If you have more significant assets or a more sophisticated situation, or you are a more sophisticated investor, there may be other places to look. But, for a vast majority of people it is a place to start because SPP does some of the heavy lifting to help you save money.

Q. Thank you Chet. I really appreciate talking to you . It was a pleasure to speak to you today.
A:  My pleasure.

This is an edited version of a podcast interview recorded on April 15, 2015.

Robb Engen takes on new challenges

June 19, 2014

By Sheryl Smolkin


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Today in savewithspp.com’s continuing series of interviews with financial bloggers, we talk with Robb Engen. Robb is “Echo” from the very popular Canadian personal finance blog Boomer & Echo. He also has a bi-weekly column in the Toronto Star where his research focuses on budgeting, banking, credit cards, and debt management.

Robb is a happily married Dad living in Southern Alberta. Over the past five years he has gone from taking an amateur interest in personal finance and investing to working towards becoming a full-fledged money expert by taking the four-course Certified Financial Planner program online.

In addition to writing this blog, he appears regularly in the online podcasts Because Money.  He and his mother Marie have started a “fee only” financial planning business and Robb has a new blog called Earn Save Grow.

Thank you very much for joining me today Robb.

I’m glad to be here Sheryl.

Q:  Robb, you’re one busy guy. Before we start talking about your blogs, tell me a little bit about your day job.
A: Sure. In addition to all that you mentioned, I do have a day job, and I’m the Business Development Manager at the University of Lethbridge. That’s a fancy title saying I fund raise and generate revenue for our sports teams here in Lethbridge.

Q: When did you and Marie start “Boomer and Echo”, and why?
A: We started it back in August 2010, so we’ve been at it almost four years. My mom worked for a big bank for two decades plus, and we always chatted about personal finance and investing.

We just had our first child, so there was a lot going on financially, and I started reading a lot of personal finance blogs. My Mom and I thought we might have a unique spin on financial issues.

We wrote a couple of articles, just to get the feeling for putting that kind of thing together, and I did some research on how to start a blog. Then we just jumped into it, I guess.

Q: How many hits do you typically get when you post a blog?
A: We’ve built up a pretty decent-sized following, and most people follow us by Email. We have about 6,000 email subscribers, and of that, I’d say two to three thousand probably actually click through to the blog to read a new post, and some probably just read it by email.

Q: What have some of your most popular posts been about?
A: I’d say probably the more personal stories. When I talk about my changing careers and what that looks like and dealing with a pension plan versus in the private sector, trying to save on your own. I wrote about the challenges I had as a first-time homebuyer, and that got a lot of hits. My mom’s had the same success talking about personal stories.

Q: How have you been able to monetize your blog? What have some of the spinoffs been?
A: I saw that Google has their AdSense network, and that seemed to be the go-to place for monetizing a blog, so we’ve done okay there. It also seems to be that writing about personal finance and investing tends to find more advertisers than say, if you were to write about cats or maybe photography or something like that.

Q: You also blogged for the Toronto Star’s site “Moneyville” three days a week, and now you’re writing a column for thestar.com so those really are spinoffs from your blog as well.
A: Yeah, and what I noticed were some of the more profitable things that people search for information about are rewards cards and loyalty programs. I didn’t want to inundate my Boomer & Echo blog, with posts about air miles and aeroplan so I started a little offshoot called “Rewards Cards Canada,” and that’s where I talk about that niche area.

Q: How many hours a week do you spend on your own blog and the various other related personal finance activities outside your 9-to-5 job?
A: I’d say, for all the online activities, I probably spend about two hours a night from Sunday to Thursday. 

Q: Tell me how the “Because Money” series on YouTube works and the technology used to link Moderator Jackson Middleton with you and the other interview subjects. 
A: I attended the fantastic Canadian Personal Finance Blogger’s Conference in Toronto, and one of the takeaways I got was maybe, try to explore some different forms of media. Video blogging has really come into the forefront now.

Sandy Martin, a fee-only planner who writes at Spring Personal Finance knew marketing and social media manager Jackson Middleton, and so we all got together and decided to do this video series called “Because Money.”

It’s all done through the social network, Google Plus. Google owns YouTube, and they formed what they call “Hangouts on Air.” It’s like a Skype video call. You can get up to 10 people, video chatting on hangout at the same time, and you can put it live on air or you can just record it and play it later. We do it live every Wednesday night.

Q: What kind of hits are you getting on it?
A: Pretty good. We get a couple hundred views a week, and when we have better know people on, like Rob Carrick and Dan Bortolotti, we get a lot more views.

Q: You’re also taking certified financial planner courses, and along with Marie, you’re now offering a unique fee-only personal finance planning service online. How does the service work, and how’s it going?
A: What we found was, we built up quite a following over the years, and that people would Email us and ask about their own situation. Without knowing their complete background and history and their goals moving forward, it’s pretty much impossible to give that tailored, specific advice.

So we talked about this and came up with a fee-only model where we’d work with a client for a year. We develop a financial plan together. Clients get unlimited access to us by phone, email, Google Plus, Skype, whatever, and they can talk about their own financial issues without any pressure to buy anything. We are not licensed to sell products.

Q: You recently launched a new blog called “Earn, Save, Grow.” What do you hope to accomplish with this blog, and how is it different from subjects covered with “Boomer and Echo?”
A: I started a new blog because Boomer & Echo focuses a lot on frugality and money-saving tips and a bit of investing. But I don’t know that the audience is quite there for discussions about earning extra money. There’s always the debate whether you should try to earn more money versus spending less.

Obviously, I’m going to cross promote it a little bit with Boomer and Echo, but time will tell what kind of audience moves over there and is interested in how to make more money or do something on the side with their time. I don’t intend to monetize this site, so I won’t have any ads up there, at least for now.

Q: If you had one piece of advice for Canadians struggling to make ends meet and save for retirement, what would it be?
A: We talked about this in “Because Money” with Rob Carrick recently. The real estate market has gone up so much, and people just feel this need to be a homeowner, and without necessarily understanding the full financial costs.

You can’t spend 40% to 50% of your income on a place to live and still expect to save for retirement, have kids, save up for their education and still have some money left over to go out for a beer or go for a nice dinner. I think we have to rethink the idea of renting for a little while so that if you buy a home you can really afford it.

That’s great. Thank you very much for talking to me today, I’m sure the “savewithspp.com” readers will really be interested in what you had to say.

Thanks for having me, Sheryl. It was a pleasure.

This is an edited transcript of the podcast you can listen to by clicking on the graphic under the picture above. If you don’t already follow Boomer & Echo, you can find it here and subscribe to receive blog posts by email as soon as they’re available.

How to choose a financial planner

November 21, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin


When I was considering retiring from my corporate job, I sought the advice of a financial planner. He gave me the confidence to pack up my downtown office and embark on a new journey.

Choosing a financial planner at the time was easy, because a retired actuary I worked with previously had attained the Certified Financial Planner designation and started his own business. One significant point in his favour was that he fully understood my entitlements under our company pension plan. I also knew and trusted him.

A financial plan is both an essential part of working towards your long-term financial objectives and a critical tool to help prepare goals for the unexpected. But if you don’t already have a relationship with a financial planner, finding one may seem like a daunting challenge, at least in part because financial planning is not regulated in most Canadian provinces. Some people who call themselves “planners” are simply licensed to sell investments.

One recognized designation is the Certified Financial Planner. CFP certification provides some assurance that the planner is committed to internationally-recognized professional standards of competence, ethics and practice as set and enforced in Canada by the Financial Planning Standards Council. CFP professionals are also subject to FPSC’s continuing education requirements and enforcement processes.

On the FPSC’s website you can search for a CFP in your area. However, choosing a financial planner involves much more than selecting a name. Finding a planner who is the right fit is extremely important because it will affect your financial future.

The FSPC offers the following 10 tips for choosing a financial planner.

  1. Be prepared. Do some independent research to maximize your familiarity with financial planning terms and strategies.
  2. Think about your financial and personal goals. Take the time to reflect on what’s most important to you for both today and tomorrow.
  3. Ask for referrals. Speak with friends and family members whom you trust; ask them if they know of or have worked with financial planners they would recommend to you.
  4. Your due diligence. Get referrals from sources you trust, but also take the time to verify the planner’s credentials by contacting his or her professional body to confirm he or she is in good standing.
  5. Interview more than one planner. Interview two or three planners, either by phone or in person, and ask them to outline their qualifications and experience.
  6. Understand fee structures. Planners are paid in a variety of ways (i.e., commission, fee-only, salary) so understand how a particular planner will be compensated.
  7. Look for competence and ethics. There are a variety of different designations in the financial services industry, and some only require day or weekend courses to earn. Ensure the planner you choose has a qualified based on a rigorous education and certification process.
  8. Get it in writing. Insist on a written letter (sometimes called an engagement letter) outlining the specific terms of the engagement and any potential conflicts of interest. The letter should also clearly disclose the planner’s method of compensation and business affiliations.
  9. Re-assess the relationship regularly. Frequent communication is imperative to a good relationship with your planner. Make sure your planner understands your needs as they change over time, and have your planner update your plan accordingly.
  10. It’s all about fit. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing personal issues with a particular planner, continue your search. Honesty, trust and communication (on both sides) are critical to the success of the planning relationship.

Do you have any suggestions for readers who are looking for a financial planner? Share your tips with us at http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

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06-Dec Holiday decorations A real tree or an artificial one?
13-Nov Holiday gifts Ways to save money on winter driving