A recent survey conducted on behalf of the Financial Planning Standards Council
(FPSC) discovered some worrying results about the financial health of Canadians. The study found that more than 40% of Canadians say they would only have enough money to continue paying their living expenses for four weeks or less if they lost their job or other main source of income; 19% say they could only pay their living expenses for one week.
“A common belief is that you should have three to six months’ salary in a safe account ready for an emergency, but people seem to have forgotten those basics,” says personal finance educator, author and FPSC's Consumer Advocate, Kelley Keehn. “On average, Canadians currently owe $1.68 for every dollar they earn; in the 1980s the figure was only 66 cents – that’s shocking.”
“At that time, interest rates were in double digits but people were focused on paying off their mortgages. They even had mortgage burning parties.”
Although most Canadian advisors are adept at examining the macro details of a person’s life, Keehn thinks that many clients also need help with the day-to-day issue of finding more money. “Can the client get more money by asking for a raise, getting a part time job, renovating a basement and creating an income suite, or creating a really good budget?” Keehn says. “These aren’t things that affect an advisor’s bottom line but they certainly do affect the client. Helping with these questions also helps build loyalty and makes the client feel that the advisor has their financial back.”
The survey also found that more than 66% of Canadians believe the economy – and their own financial situation – “has either stagnated or worsened over the past five years”. That’s led to 40% of Canadians worrying about money at least once a day; around 25% say they worry "almost constantly".
Keehn believes that advisors should view the survey’s results as an opportunity to increase their client offering and add to their value proposition. “I get so many calls from people across the country because the advisor community is not tackling the day-to-day financial issues that are affecting Canadians,” she says. “I would like advisors to think of themselves more as a doctor; there is nothing you wouldn’t go to your doctor for. By being proactive, there is a great opportunity for advisors to increase their business.”
Keehn also advises advisors to take the time to get to know their clients’ needs and motivations through honest and meaningful conversations. “When I lecture to the advisor community, I encourage them to create an emotionally intelligent KYC,” Keehn says. “That means really trying to understand what they’re juggling and what’s important to them other than just their risk tolerance and when they want to retire. What is really on their heart and mind?”
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