Seeing the trees for the forest – developing your financial plan

February 15, 2023 / Insight from Elena Babin, MBA, CPA, CFP®

A magnifying glass with a forest of trees in the background.

As we reach that yearly time when information related to taxes, RRSP contributions, and investment options increases, there is so much data bombarding our eyes and ears it is often difficult to digest which advice to take. For some, this makes it feel like they are stuck in the middle of a forest with no clear way out. Because of this information overload, some people might be confused about what financial planning is and who it is for.

In reality, a financial plan is a holistic analysis of a person’s current financial situation and their short- and long-term goals – with strategies and an action plan to achieve them.  That is where a financial planner can be your guide through the forest of options to help create a realistic understanding of where you are at, where you want to go, and how to get there.

A financial planner does not replace your other trusted advisors, like your accountant and lawyer. On the contrary, a financial planner is another part of your team to ensure you can achieve your goals.

To start, a financial planner would usually schedule a discovery meeting to get to know you while reviewing the following information:

  • Family structure and dynamics, areas of concern with family members, and identifying important people in your life to include in the financial plan.
  • Short- and long-term goals and dreams you want to achieve.
  • Current issues and problems that need solving.
  • Bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate, and other personal assets.
  • Existing retirement savings, pensions, employment benefits, and life insurance policies.
  • Sources of current and future income.
  • Recent tax filings.
  • Liabilities, including mortgage, vehicle or other loans, lines of credit, and credit cards.
  • Current monthly/annual budget vs. income to understand your current situation and to identify potential cash surpluses.
  • Personal and family health history and whether strategies need to be put in place to support health costs or obligations.
  • Wills, powers of attorney, personal directives, and estate planning wishes.
  • Business growth and succession planning, if applicable
  • Corporate financial statements, corporate tax returns, and unanimous shareholder agreements, if applicable.

In planning for your aspirational future, key areas of a financial plan include:

  • Retirement and cash flow planning
  • Savings for children or family
  • Tax planning
  • Risk management
  • Philanthropy, and
  • Estate planning.

Taken together this becomes your map of where you are and how to get to where you want to be.  The next step is to work through options and strategies to create a realistic, achievable plan for your future – to protect yourself and the significant people in your life, and to achieve your goals.

As your life situation changes, so should your financial plan. A financial planning update is like checking a compass to make sure you are still heading where you want to go. It is recommended that you review and update your plan whenever you have a major life event, or about every three years, to test assumptions and results, and revise as needed. Another key time is when you begin to contemplate retirement.

Having a financial plan and reviewing it regularly enhances the probability you will achieve your financial goals at all stages of your life. Clarity on a course of action and peace of mind knowing you are doing the right things are some of the advantages of working with a financial planner.

This blog provides some basic information to help you prepare for your planned financial future. Contact us to develop your own financial plan and help you reach your financial potential. 

Elena Babin, MBA, CPA, CFP®

Senior Advisor in Financial Planning & Business Development

Phone : 780-412-6624

Email :



National Bank Financial - Wealth Management (NBFWM) is a division of National Bank Financial Inc. (NBF), as well as a trademark owned by National Bank of Canada (NBC) that is used under license by NBF. NBF is a member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF), and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of NBC, a public company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: NA).

Contact us

Get contact information for our team members and find out where our offices are.