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What I Learned From Getting A Second Opinion On My Family’s Finances

As I patiently wait with my husband in the sleek, new boardroom, I can’t help but wonder what I’m about to hear. Hand-holding-gift-001Will I be surprised, upset, thrilled, scared or somewhere in between?

Does it seem strange that a finance professional is getting a second opinion on her own financial situation?

Finally, I convinced myself that it’s “normal”; not a sign of weakness. Why not? What’s there to lose (other than my husband’s praise or my confidence in my own abilities)? Would a doctor actually treat herself for her own health problems?

In comes our very competent advisor and 2 of his professional colleagues that we’ve never met before. As we smile, greet, sit, and chat, we are handed a beautifully bound and tabbed 44 page document called Our Wealth Plan.

Wow, very impressive but what does it actually say?! The geek inside me can’t wait to dive into the details.

The Conclusion

Thank goodness for the Executive Summary!

As the professionals walk us through the summary, assumptions and major findings, I start to relax and feel better. I discover my own (reems of)  analysis is rather consistent with their viewpoint- whew!

Our advisors do a superb job of addressing the key question that I asked of them; Given our level of wealth, how much can we safely spend in retirement? They also present ideas on estate planning that we have not considered (and definitely neglected)- food for thought. All in all, a useful & positive experience that gives peace of mind to the “money expert” in our family. Thankfully, my husband is happy too- he does NOT have to go back to work!

Random Thoughts On Our Plan And The Process

1) Would a typical person know if their plan made sense?

Without some depth of financial knowledge, I’m not convinced that someone could assess the true quality of the plan. Are the assumptions reasonable taken together? The graphs are pretty but are the numbers that they’re based on realistic? Where are the risks? Do we have a back-up plan? Please, if you’re having a plan prepared, use a reputable, experienced and knowledgeable professional!

2) Value for money

Our plan was “free”- talk about great value for money! It’s part of the service provided by our commission-based investment advisory firm. I’m certainly not complaining but I think this helps to devalue the effort involved in real financial planning services while overvaluing that of investment advisory services. Who knows? When fees become more transparent, people will better understand why/what they are paying for and the value inherent in those services.

3)  Assumptions Drive The Plan- Be Sure They’re Reasonable

After the meeting, I couldn’t wait to comb through the details like a true analytical-type would do. I have fun picking apart the assumptions and notice that changing any of them (investment returns, lifespan, inflation, spending etc) will have a big impact on our wealth over time. We MUST make sure they’re conservative if we don’t want to run out of money in retirement! And, don’t forget a “cushion” for the unexpected events.

4) What Now?

It would be very EASY to let this newly created plan collect dust and do nothing. In reality, it’s up to us to take action on the next steps presented in our plan. This takes effort and motivation (especially hard if you’re not financially inclined). I hope I/we can make it happen? Time flies and we’re not getting any younger!

5) Annual Reviews Are A MUST!

Life is full of surprises and the best laid plans may not transpire as we think. Our goals/needs could easily change. It’s critical to review our plan at least annually to see how we’re doing and how we might need to adjust (especially the “spending” part). The great thing is that the work effort will be less (as we’ve already got a good plan to start from). I’ve said it before- running out of money in retirement is NOT an option!

Related Posts:

Might Another Set Of Eyes Be Your Ticket To Financial Success?

Quiz #4- Do You Know What You Don’t Know About Planning For A Financially Healthy Retirement?

Proud founder of this blog Let’s Talk About Money, Patricia Gass, CPA, CA, provides personal finance coaching and education to improve your money skills. Follow her on linkedin, twitter or pinterest.

Photo courtesy of


How To Jump Start A Great Money Talk

Let’s face it; money talks with our families are never fun but always necessary.

kangaroos jumping

Unless, of course, your supply of cash is endless (in which case, I’d love to know your secret).

Talking about money DOES get easier with practice. And, there are tricks to make these conversations run even smoother and be more productive.

One simple strategy is to kick-off the conversation with your goals and dreams. Hard not to get excited when talking about the things we love and want for the future! Then (building on this excitement), segway into what needs to happen to achieve your goals. Money is just 1 tool (of many) to create the life we really want.

Below, are a few more tips that I’m sharing from a previous post on how to start a money conversation. Because, I’m a great believer in recycling timeless content (and reminders too)!

1) Tell Stories

Many of our attitudes and behaviours around money were learned as a child. Often, people aren’t aware of how different their experiences were growing up. Tell stories- they are enlightening and entertaining. Sharing your own story first is a great way to get your spouse to open up too. You might have a good laugh when you discover the impact today!

When I was growing up, my own parents were incredibly thrifty. Today, I still struggle with spending money on “fun stuff”. I remember being totally embarassed at Christmas each year when my mother would unwrap her gifts carefully and diligently fold/save the paper for next year! This was many years before environmental awareness became popular and my friends thought she was crazy! To this day, I catch myself being reluctant to throw things away (i.e. old clothes, university textbooks) that someday might be useful!

Have some fun replaying your background, family behaviour and what you learned about money as a kid. It’s a lot easier to appreciate your differences when you understand where they came from.

2) Introduce the need/desire

It may feel uncomfortable or awkward the first few times you initiate a money talk but DO IT ANYWAYS! Be calm, positive, non-judgemental and choose your language carefully. Below are two examples of tough subjects that married couples might procrastinate on and possible conversation starters.

Scenario #1- How much should we save for retirement if we’re not sure when to retire or how we’ll keep busy?

Conversation Starter- “After reading an article about retirement planning, it got me thinking about our own dreams for the future. We’ve never really talked about them before. What are your thoughts?”

Result- Working through options with your spouse will clarify what is doable and where you need to adjust today to make your dreams happen.

Scenario #2- Our debts are making me anxious and keeping me awake at night

Conversation Starter- “I really need to stop worrying about our debt. What can we do to accelerate the payments and still have some fun today?”

Result- Confiding in your spouse might feel good and help you both create a more aggressive repayment plan.

3) Create the right environment for success

If you’ve had a bad night’s sleep and your kids are screaming in the background, its not the right time to talk about money. But, don’t give up on it being a priority. Put it in your schedule for another time (soon). Better yet, make it a regular event (like date night) to help you stay on track.

4) Seize opportunties when they arise

You’ve just finished watching a funny episode of Modern Family where Gloria and Jay have been disagreeing about money. Use this opportunity to lighten the mood and start a talk about your own money challenges.

When my daughter was a pre-teen, we watched many episodes of “The Shopping Bags” together. I remember having great debates on whether higher priced products outperform their lower priced equivalents. Now, as a young adult, I see this positive influence on her own shopping behaviour.

Do you like Dragon’s Den or Shark’s Tank? These shows can inspire a family chat about money and investing. My husband, kids and I love challenging each other’s ideas about what makes a great investment.

5) Ask a great question and keep it positive


i) “I’ve been thinking about some new ways to save money so that we can afford our trip to Florida next year. What are your thoughts?”

ii) “Before we decide to put Jamie in private school, let’s talk about how we can adjust our other priorities.”

iii) “I know you’ve got your heart set on the new flat screen TV. What can we do differently to be able to afford it sooner?”

6) Understand Each Other’s Expectations

Are your life/money goals similar to or different from your spouse’s? How can you create a plan to satisfy both of you? What compromises must you make?


What are your own tips for broaching the subject of money? Would love to hear them!


Proud founder of this blog Let’s Talk About Money, Patricia Gass, CPA, CA, provides personal finance coaching and education to improve your money skills. Follow her on linkedin, twitter or pinterest.

Might Another Set Of Eyes Be Your Ticket To Financial Success?

I have a little voice in my head sometimes that I wish would keep quiet!racoon eyes

It reminds me about the things I don’t know or I’m not very good at; cooking, fixing almost anything that’s broken around my house or navigating driving directions in a new city.

It’s hard to accept and admit what we don’t know (or aren’t good at). Especially when everyone else already knows what we don’t! Or we think they do so we feel even worse that this knowledge has somehow escaped us. Better to just keep quiet and carry on, right? WRONG – I know I don’t need to tell you that!

Many people feel this way about their personal finances and I’d really like to change that. One family at a time. I get it; it’s not easy but I won’t stop trying.

I’m passionate and pretty good with personal finances (sorry for the bragging)! But I’m also the first to admit that there’s plenty I don’t know too. Learning about money is a lifelong job.

Isn’t it easier to give advice rather than take it? Have I really covered off my own “financial blind spots” (and managed my own emotions) as well as I could have? Just like the pieces of a puzzle, the components of my own plan (and your’s too) must fit together properly to be the best they can be.

I’m FINALLY taking my own advice to heart (that which I seem to give so easily to others).

I’m getting a second opinion on my own finances and I couldn’t be happier! I won’t lie- it’s also incredibly scary. What if I find out I’m not doing as well as I think I am? Will I need to change my lifestyle – the one I’ve become so accustomed to?

Stay tuned for an update. I promise to tell you the real bottom line (good, bad & ugly) and what I learn about my own finances during the process. Learning from others is the BEST– especially if you can avoid their expensive mistakes!

Special thanks to Amy Jo Lauber, a fellow finance professional, for the inspiration for today’s post. Her blog is fabulous- have a look whenever you have a chance; LIFE: Live Inspired, Financially Empowered

Related Posts:

How A Wave Of Emotions Can Derail The Best Laid Plans

Tackling Personal Finance- Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

Is Financial Advice What A Client Really Wants?

Proud founder of this blog Let’s Talk About Money, Patricia Gass, CPA, CA, provides personal finance coaching and education to improve your money skills. Follow her on linkedin, twitter or pinterest.

Get Organized And Feel BETTER About Your Money

OK, it’s time to get honest and I mean, REALLY honest!

How do you feel about the state of your finances?bandaid on child

Yes, it’s a loaded question but one worth thinking about.

Judging from our high levels of debt, expensive housing, roller coaster stock markets and less than stellar job markets, it’s fair to say that many of us are having a rough time. And rightly so. Making ends meet today (let alone saving for the future) is tougher than it’s ever been!

Enough with the excuses, it’s time to make changes.

Avoidance, worry, fear, procrastination or mindless spending are normal emotions and reactions to anything “financial”. But they do NOT make things better! Left untreated, financial problems don’t heal themselves and can have a negative impact on how you live your life today and tomorrow.

So what can you do to get smarter and feel better?

Lot’s of things but let’s start small. Even baby steps accumulate and make a difference over time. Try cutting your spending or increasing your savings by $10/wk. Cancel the gym membership you never use and work out at home. Or the magazine subscriptions you never have time to read. Most importantly, if you don’t know where your finances stand (and many people don’t), get help to figure it out.

Have a look at this short article for added inspiration;

The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up Your Finances

It reveals some simple yet powerful ideas to apply smart organizing principles to your finances and life.

Organization isn’t about perfection; it’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money and improving your overall quality of life….Christina Scalise

Who doesn’t want that?!

Related Posts:

Work On Your Habits For Success With Money

Financial Choices- When More Can Mean Less

Tackling Personal Finance- Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

Proud founder of this blog Let’s Talk About Money, Patricia Gass, CPA, CA, provides personal finance coaching and education to improve your money skills. Follow her on linkedin, twitter or pinterest.

Health Trumps Money Every Time

I have a HERO and her name is Julie.IMG_3531

She’s my 23 year old daughter (and yes, I’m biased)! I’ve learned far more from her over the years than she could possibly have learned from me. Especially when it comes to living and dealing with health challenges.

Let me explain. Julie has an unusual, unpredictable bone condition that continues to challenge and baffle her super-smart specialists. Not something a mother wants to hear.

Diagnosed 13 years ago, she has experienced 3 surgeries, numerous tests and specialist appointments. Over the last few weeks during her most recent flare-up, she has endured multiple hospital visits and perplexed physicians. Julie’s intelligence, positive attitude and sense of humour in the face of uncertainty have been our saving grace. I can only hope that I would behave with her maturity if I was faced with a similar health challenge.

I would trade all the money in the world to make her better but that’s not how life works.

What DOES work (and which I’m incredibly thankful for) is financial freedom/independence. The ability to make important or life changing decisions without significant financial worries. Knowing that you can deal with your own or loved ones health issues in the best way possible without major money concerns. My husband and I are fortunate to be able to put our time and energy into helping our daughter navigate the health care system to get well. I feel for other families that cannot do the same.

Health is a funny thing. Sometimes we don’t appreciate it ’till it’s gone (just like the song says)! While it’s tough to predict when health problems will occur, it’s a huge comfort in having emergency funds (and/or health/disability insurance) at your disposal. Ready and waiting to kick in during your time of need.

If you’re looking for a new reason to save or get motivated to improve your finances, your loved one’s HEALTH is as good as it gets!


Related Posts:

Your Financial Health Matters Too

Take Control Of Your Money With A DIY Financial Plan

My Favourite Reasons To Get Smarter With Money


Proud founder of this blog Let’s Talk About Money, Patricia Gass, CPA, CA, provides personal finance coaching and education to improve your money skills. Follow her on linkedin, twitter or pinterest.

Photo: Julie and I, earlier this summer, enjoying time at the family cottage

The Summer Is Winding Down But The Money Talks Are Ramping Up!


This post is 2 years old but the message is NOT!

Back to school time has a way of encouraging even the most frugal parent to spend more than she wants.

Instead, use it as a learning opportunity to teach your kids (and yourself) to be smarter with money. Good luck!

I’ll admit it- I’ve been very lazy this summer with my blog posts (or lack thereof).  I won’t even try to make excuses for my behaviour… like the fact that I don’t have my regular computer at our family cottage,  I’ve been sleeping too late or spending too much time on the golf course!

Instead, I’m making a promise to my patient readers that I’ll do better, starting NOW! A blog post each week should be perfectly doable, I hope?!  So, there’s my goal and, now that I’ve told you all, I’d better deliver!  Funny how having a simple, achievable goal can refocus our attention and rejuvenate our mind.

Same can be true for our money.

The summer, for me, is a time when I can watch my bank account grow without too much effort. Wish I could say that for the rest of the year! Chalk it up to staying out of the stores, enjoying the nice weather and more home-cooked, barbecued dinners. The other day, after I paid my daughter’s final year of university tuition, I knew everything had changed! The bills are flowing in again and I need to refocus on my money.

As back to school time arrives and a multitude of new expenses, its time to pay attention again to our financial health. Do the children really need new outfits and school supplies if last year’s models are acceptable? Its a perfect time to engage the kids in a productive conversation around money and choices. And, most importantly, they MUST understand that everyones’ priorities are different.

When my daughter was young, one of her best friends had a beautiful and substantial wardrobe. This girl was the envy of her neighbourhood friends and always the first to buy the latest of everything. Was she popular because of her clothes? I remember my daughter continually nagging me for new clothes just like her friend.

Instead of giving in to her wishes,  I grabbed a learning opportunity to talk about the choices we all must make with our money.

Our family had chosen to make an annual ski vacation one of our important priorities. I reminded my daughter of this and mentioned that if I spent more money on clothes we would need to spend less on other things like skiing. The conversation continued about how families make choices and have different priorities for their money. While my daughter wasn’t necessarily happy with the outcome, I know she understood it.

Many years later, we still have these conversations. My daughter and I don’t always agree with each other’s money choices, but it’s the awareness around money and thought process that really matters.

Enjoy your final days of summer. And, once September hits (or even now), make a promise to yourself to get smarter with money!

Proud founder of this blog Let’s Talk About Money, Patricia Gass, CPA, CA, provides personal finance coaching and education to improve your money skills. Follow her on linkedin, twitter or pinterest

What’s More Valuable; Time or Money?

I’m a big believer in self reflection and what better time to do it than the sunny summer?

Here’s a post from last August that will get you started…

The more you know what’s important to you, the better you can set your life (and finances) up for success!

Go for it!

It’s human nature to want what we don’t have. And, it’s rare to feel like we have enough of both…maybe some of you do? Both are somewhat scarce and limited resources.time or money

My “very unscientific” survey of family, friends and clients suggests that people who feel they have more time would trade some for money. And vice versa.

How much time or money is enough? It’s like asking someone how much money they need to retire? The answers are all over the map.

Of course, there’s no right answer. It’s a personal decision that depends on many variables… life stage, circumstances, health, personality, goals, desires etc. What I’ve discovered, over the years, is that if my time/money balance is really out of whack, I’m very miserable. I can deal with short-term unhappiness (for a greater goal) but long term misery is not sustainable.

Looking back, one of my biggest challenges was being 100% available for my kids AND my career at the same time. Why was I having so much trouble when others I knew seemed so capable of managing it all? For 5 years, it was a continuous struggle and eventually, I knew something needed to change. Then, an ah ha moment; I realized that two of my most important values, namely financial security and family, were in conflict with each other. I was so busy trying to earn money and build wealth that I was missing out on memories with my kids that I could never get back. So, as I approached my mid-thirties, I opted for more time with my kids and less money/responsibility at work. Not an easy decision but the right one for me.

Many of you will have an immediate answer to the time vs. money equation. For those of you who don’t (or are interested in how others’ think), this article from Forbes entitled Would You Rather Have More Time Or More Money? will help you reflect on this question and hear more ideas.

Please send me your thoughts and let’s continue the discussion!


At this stage of your life, would you rather have more TIME or more MONEY?  Why?

Proud founder of this blog Let’s Talk About Money, Patricia Gass, CPA, CA, provides personal finance coaching and education to improve your money skills. Follow her on linkedin, twitter or pinterest

Photo courtesy of

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