With signs of the New Year only weeks away, I would think that many people are looking forward to being done with 2020! However, sadly, the circumstances we’re in with the pandemic will not likely change until a vaccine is widely available. But… that does not stop us from making positive changes in our life, our health, our business, or our finances. While most people start the New Year with big goals for the coming year… many of those plans fall by the wayside as the year gets underway. But that doesn’t have to be! Instead of attempting BIG changes right out of the gate, focus on smaller, continual commitments that you can build on throughout the year.

“How did my upbringing affect how I view, and manage money today?”

Wishing You All a
Wonderful Holiday Season and
a Happy & Healthy New Year!
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Last year, as 2020 approached, I spent some time in deep introspection, evaluating many aspects of my life. I have always been extremely passionate about health and wellness, and I have been an active person all my life. I have always loved to exercise, partly because it makes my body feel good, but also because it makes my mind feel good. However, I don’t always feel like exercising. But I decided as 2020 began, that I would make exercise a daily habit in my life. As I write this article, I have exercised every single day for the past 334 days – through a short hospital stay, through all the ups and downs of COVID-19, through injuries, migraines, you name it. My success has been possible by making my goal a small one…5 minutes a day minimum, of any form of movement. So, in my hospital bed I was able to move my arms and legs, rotating my ankle and wrists, with some gentle stretches. Some days it’s 20 minutes of EssentricsTV (my absolute favorite type of exercise), and other days I can spend an hour or more doing anything from boxing, to handstands, to weights. I never gave myself an excuse not to move my body for at least 5 minutes a day. More often than not, on those days that I really don’t feel like doing it, when my timer hits 5 minutes, it feels so good that I just keep going.

I used the same strategy as above for other things this year, and it has been equally effective. I firmly believe the key to implementing meaningful change is to first take a deep introspection to understand WHY something is important, followed by small but continual actions. Introspection is not always easy.  It requires asking some tough questions, for which the answers don’t always come easy.

Evaluating and making changes in our financial or money situation is no different. Like physical and mental wellness, financial wellness can mean different things to different people. Financial wellness can be endless – from dealing with a fear of losing everything, to never feeling secure enough financially, to spending too much, to wanting to make a large purchase. It can mean making sure everything is on track with retirement planning, education planning or estate planning. Starting from a place of introspection and questioning what’s on the inside is the first step to achieving financial goals and in turn financial wellness. The questions below will get you started, and if you dig deep enough, and are honest with yourself, the discoveries can lead to meaningful change. All progress begins with the truth.

Ask yourself:

  1. What is my definition of success and/or happiness? (Does it have anything to do with money?)
  2. If so, where did that idea come from? (Parents, society, marketing, etc.)
  3. How did my upbringing affect how I view, and manage money today?
  4. What is my definition of financial success? (Big house, nice car, enough money to not have to work, good habits, etc.)
  5. Why is financial success important to me? (security, freedom, others perception of me, etc)
  6. Does my definition of financial success align with my values? How?
  7. Do I factor in these values when making financial decisions?
  8. How much of my confidence or self-worth is related to my financial success?
  9. Do I generally feel good about my financial decisions? (Or do I feel, guilty, fearful, etc.)
  10. What causes my financial stress? (Investments, cash flow, estate planning, retirement, etc.)
  11. In what area(s) of my finances do I feel most vulnerable?
  12. What area(s) of my finances do I most often choose to ignore? And why?
  13. If I had a magic wand, what three “realistic” wishes would I have about my finances? (i.e. my Will would be done, I would have enough savings to never worry, etc.)
  14. Do I make short term, impulsive financial decisions that lead to stress down the line? (investment choices, over-spending, building up debt, etc.)
  15. What is the single, most significant change I can make regarding finances in 2021?
  16. What actions can I take to get closer to achieving overall financial wellness?
  17. What am I most proud of financially? Do I give myself enough credit?
  18. Are there any people in my life who don’t support my financial goals?
  19. Do I blame others for my financial stresses?
  20. What will I feel when I have achieved overall financial wellness?

“With 2021 around the corner, take advantage of the “fresh start effect”

Now, try this exercise. List the aspects of your financial situation that are most important to you. Areas can include: saving, spending, having enough for retirement, investments, saving taxes, protecting my family, buying/selling a home, etc. On a scale of 1-10 rate how important each one is to you. Next, on a scale of 1-10 rate where you currently are with each one, and then where you want to be. Now pick a couple of areas to focus on for next year and determine what you can do to work towards your goal. Ask yourself what habits you can create that align with your idea of financial wellness.

One of the areas where I find many people hit a road block is estate planning. Yes, it can be a tedious task, especially if you have a complicated situation, blended family, or businesses. It’s easy to put things like a Will or mandate on the back burner, with good intentions of “getting around to it”. So, if that is something you need to tackle, just plan to take the first step. Make the first call to a professional. No matter what situation may be giving you unease, break it down into manageable small steps.

“Evaluate what financial wellness means to you, decide on some goals or habits that you can put in place”

With 2021 around the corner, take advantage of the “fresh start effect”, which suggests that it’s easier to adopt new habits at natural transition points. Evaluate what financial wellness means to you, decide on some goals or habits that you can put in place, and start taking baby steps in the right direction. And while you’re at it, why not include those few minutes of exercise every day. Just sayin’…

Wishing you all good health, happiness and hopefully a return to “normal” in 2021.

Lynn MacNeil, F.PL. Associate Investment Advisor, is a Financial Planner with Richardson Wealth Limited in Montreal, with over 25 years of experience working with retirees and pre-retirees. For a second opinion, private financial consultation, or more information on this topic or on any other investment or financial matter, please contact Lynn MacNeil at 514.981.5795 or Lynn.MacNeil@RichardsonGMP.com. Or visit our website at www.EphtimiosMacNeil.com.

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