The start of a new year is a great time to set goals especially around your personal finances. By setting financial resolutions, you can move forward into the coming year with added security and stability.
If you have overspent or strayed from your holiday budget, now is the time to get back on track. Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Mark Marshall, shares his experiences and talks about ways to set the course to improve your finances in the coming year.
Mark also discusses:
- Setting realistic goals
- Tips for making your financial plan
- Tracking expenses for an accurate assessment of your finances
- Short, medium and long term goals
- Accountability challenges with your friends
Licensed Insolvency Trustees can help you take control of your finances. From simple budgeting techniques to insolvency filings, they are considered some of the best financial advisors in the country, licensed by the federal government of Canada.
Read the Transcript
Wayne Kay 00:04
Welcome to another Debt Matters podcast, where we help Canadians find solutions to their debts with Licensed Insolvency Trustees from across Canada.
I’m Wayne kay. Today we’re going to be talking about how to prep for the year ahead 2023. Can you make some big financial changes so that you end your year better than you start it?
My guest today is Mark Marshall from Allan Marshall & Associates Licensed Insolvency Trustee with offices in Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Mark, thanks for being here.
Mark Marshall 00:40
Thanks for having me.
Wayne Kay 00:41
I’m excited. This is one of my favorite topics, by the way, how to prep ourselves for better success in 2023 than we have right now.
Mark Marshall 00:53
Yes, it’s a big topic. It’s not an easy thing to do. But I always say to people, the start of the new year is the time to kind of reevaluate. You reevaluate yourself, your personal goals, your family goals, and then really you should sit in and reevaluate what your financial goals are as well. It’s a perfect time to reset.
Sometimes not an easy time to reset, depending on how crazy your December was in terms of preparing for Christmas, because depending if you ran up all kinds of bills, you need to tackle and get those looked after. But yes, usually January 1 is the time that everybody’s kind of reflecting a little bit, and it’s a good time to kind of reflect on what your financial goals would be for the year as well.
Wayne Kay 01:39
I think December 25 could possibly be the worst time for Christmas really, throughout the year, because January hits all of a sudden, heating costs and all these other expenses are there. It’s just a terrible time of the year. So if we’re going to start our planning, we’re going to start new. What’s your advice for individuals and families to start planning financially for this next year?
Mark Marshall 02:05
The first thing they want to do is in my opinion, what you want to do is you’re going to start to get in January – you’re going to start to get into your regular monthly spend. So you’re going to start to see some bills coming in. Yes, the heating bills will be a little higher, the power bills will be a little higher, but the fun is over. In theory, you’re done with the Christmas parties and you’re done with the Christmas spending. So what you want to do is you want to do an assessment.
You have to kind of start to gauge how much is coming in and then what you’re doing with the money. And you want to start to kind of prep your notes.
My suggestion to most people as you go about your spend, like you normally would, keep in mind that you’re going to track what you’re doing. And what you do is you track. And at the end of the month, January 30 or 31st, you sit down and you go through and you start to see where your expenses are falling in terms of if you’re wasting any money or what you’re doing outside of the ordinary – because you’re going to have your fixed expenses.
But you’re going to want to do an assessment on yourself first. See how much is coming in and where the money is going. That’s step number one.
Wayne Kay 03:13
I remember for us as a family, one of the greatest decisions, and I wish we would have done this earlier, was we sat down and we wrote down all of those one time expenses that happened throughout the year. Garbage and sewer happens in February. There’s insurance – car insurance was at this time, house insurance was at this time, whatever it was.
We added it all up, and then we divided it by the 26 paychecks you get per year. And we started saying, okay, we need to set aside that $125. Every paycheque has to go into that fund so that for the first time ever, we would actually have the money before those bills came in.
Mark Marshall 03:59
And that’s smart, and that’s what you have to do. Most people don’t.
Those one time expenses are the things that elude people a lot because they sit down and they know my power bill, my phone bill. These things come in all the time. Well, your insurances sometimes come in once a month, or they will come in three times a year, right. So you want to know the frequency, and you want to know exactly what you said. You know how much you have to earn more on a month to month basis.
I meet with people every day, and I go through their budgets, and I’ll ask them to say, what is your insurance? And I will do that divide by 26 or divide by twelve to kind of get a feel for what their monthly spend is. And then I’ll show them their budget. They’ll say, I don’t spend that on insurance. Yeah, you do spend that on insurance.
No, all my insurance comes in once a year in July, and it’s X amount of dollars. I’m like, yes, but this is what your monthly spend would be on it. And it surprises me that people, they don’t know kind of where their expenses are on a month to month basis because you’re paid either bi weekly or monthly, so you have to know where those expenses are to break them down.
So exactly what you said is, take those yearly expenses and earmark how much you need to set aside per paycheque for those things. So that, again, is a part of doing that assessment on yourself, and starting January is the time to do it.
Wayne Kay 05:15
Yes, well, January is just that. It’s just this new feeling. And literally, I love to do things on January 1. I’ll sit at the table, my wife and I will start discussing it, or I always write out my full fitness plan.
I don’t buy a fitness book. I literally write in all 30 days in a notebook for the whole year. And then I have my time, distance, all this stuff of what I’m going to be doing, and I plan it for right to the end of December 31.
That’s my January 1. You’re going to find me sitting at a table working on that because it puts me in the mindset that I know I’ve got a whole year of exercise.
Mark Marshall 05:55
And so have you found that you stick to that?
Wayne Kay 05:57
I do stick to it, because then I look at the book and if I go, oh, look at that, I missed six days of exercise or eight days of exercise. Well, I can’t be complaining if this roll gets bigger, right?
Mark Marshall 06:11
Or you’re not feeling well. Yes, it’s great.
Wayne Kay 06:14
And I’ll write down there, not feeling well – didn’t exercise, but it’s fine. So it’s just now become so ingrained that it’s something they always do.
So what’s the next thing that we can do for finances, for Canadians? And I like what you’re saying there. We got to track everything to find out where money goes. I would imagine in your industry, you’re quite surprised how many people don’t know where their money goes.
Mark Marshall 06:39
It’s amazing. It’s amazing. People will get to the end of the month and they’ll say, I have no money left over, but they’re not really sure what they’ve done with it. And so if they take 30 or 31 days to track it, it’s a real eye opener because some people will go and get a coffee every day, two or three times a day, and there’s some huge savings to be found.
If you can eliminate doing that and they don’t realize it, they just do it. It’s part of their daily routine. And so you’ve got to adjust the routine, know where the money is going, and see if you can generate some savings. And then once you generate the savings, that’s when you start to kind of jot down, similar to what you were doing with your exercise on January 1. But you have got to start to make some goals for yourself.
What are my short term goals? What are my medium goals, what are my long term goals? And your short term goals probably would be within a year, and medium goals would be something you’re expecting to try and do within a five year spread, and long term goals could be ten to 15 years. But I think you got to know what you’re saving towards. Like some people simply want to save for an emergency fund, which is fine and everybody should do that.
But if you’re clear about what it is you want to accomplish, it’s easier for you to then apply yourself and apply the funds you’re saving towards – something specific rather than just kind of keep parking money into an account, because it’s always flashing in the face.
And it’s one of those things if you don’t have it earmarked for some kind of short term medium or long term goal, all of a sudden, spontaneously you need something or you want something, well, there’s some money and you’re just going to go to it. If you can clearly define what it is that you want to accomplish, then again, you’re setting some money towards some targeted outcome.
Wayne Kay 08:21
People often get frustrated, though, especially at the beginning of the year as we talked about all these different expenses. How do you go through the frustration that they may be feeling?
Because at that point when they’re feeling frustrated, the one thing they may want to do is go buy themselves something. Because we’ve heard that term, shopping therapy. How do you battle that psychology of I feel crappy anyway, I’m going to just go buy something to hopefully make myself feel a little better.
Mark Marshall 08:55
Yes, it’s hard. You have to have self discipline. You have self discipline and you have financial discipline. And so in January, when maybe you’re sitting down and you’re earmarking your goals and you’re putting your money, you’re saying, this is what I’m going to do, so I’m going to put the money through. And all of a sudden the credit card statement for Christmas comes in. And then there’s that level of frustration because you’re saying to yourself, jeez, I’m getting thrown off my target here already.
I haven’t even started. I’m not going to get anywhere. And that’s self defeat. And so you’ve got to break that mindset and say, you know what, I know what my goals are going to be and maybe I’m not going to be able to aim towards those goals until I get these credit cards paid off from Christmas or whatever is you need to do.
But maybe that’s now all of a sudden your short term goal, your short term goal is to make sure you’re covering all the basics, all the fixed expenses. But now your new short term goal is that you’re going to eliminate that credit card debt that you carry from Christmas so that you can then starting February or March, start to put money towards another new short term goal or potentially your medium goal.
Wayne Kay 09:55
Another idea, I was just thinking about this while you were talking was I’ll bet you anything that there are people on your Facebook who are in the exact same situation as you. And a lot of people think, oh no, I got it worse than they do. No, I bet you don’t. I bet you a lot of Canadians feel the same way.
They’re in the same struggles. They’re not able to save. They’ve got credit card debt. I’ll bet you if you put some kind of a challenge up with some of your friends that you would start a new Facebook group to inspire each other to do exactly what you’re just talking about.
Mark Marshall 10:29
Yes, it’s no different than like you say when you’re working out, is that generally people will when they go running together, they work out together, they have partners. That other partner will help you continue to be motivated and drive yourself to where you want to be, whether you’re going to run that five mile in the spring or whatever it might be.
So again, from a financial standpoint, if you set up a group or a targeted group of people that are going to kind of work with each other to help establish budgets and set goals, then they can rely on each other and encourage each other and motivate each other. That’s important in anything you do as humans is that we have to be motivated.
Wayne Kay 11:11
Yes. I did a very similar thing last I think it was March.
I couldn’t get motivated to exercise, and so I did a 30 day Wayne challenge where a bunch of people, I think 36 people joined me doing a daily challenge of having to do exercise every single day. And that helped me get back on track, and it helped them get on track.
Mark Marshall 11:32
A little bit of accountability, right.
Wayne Kay 11:33
Yes. Nobody wants to admit that they can’t do it, especially when you’re in this big Facebook group.
Mark Marshall 11:41
No, that’s right. Yeah. And again, I know talking about your finances is not an easy thing to do.
You maybe don’t want to get down to the nitty gritty in terms of what you’re spending, but if you can encourage each other in terms of what your goals would be and are you reaching your goals? Are you hitting your targets? Just general information or generalities in terms of what your expectations and your plans would be, again, joining up with like minded people will help you.
Wayne Kay 12:12
Yes. Well, even if you do, monthly goals of, okay, no coffees this month, or no going to a restaurant this month, or even anything like that.
And when it comes, little things like that, I think, would make all the difference in the world. I’m getting excited about planning.
Mark Marshall 12:29
That’s good. It’s funny, most people look at January 1 as their kick off date. For me, September 1 is my new year. I always look at September the first because you’re finished, you’re through the summer, all the funds out of the way. You’re either getting right back into work, your holidays are over, the kids are starting school again, and that’s when usually September 1 is what I kind of view in my mind’s eye as being my new Year.
But January 1 obviously, is the new year. Most people rely on that date.
Wayne Kay 12:59
But what do you do then for your September when you look ahead? What kind of things do you plan for?
Mark Marshall 13:05
Well, I start to plan for Christmas. I should be doing it earlier, but I start that plan and know with my kids kind of what they’re after, what goals or what gifts they want in terms of it could be anything. Like they’re looking for little things like Lego and that type of thing. Which again, I’m very fortunate because the kids are young so it’s not going to be super crazy.
But I start to kind of look around for those types of things. I start my exercise in September, usually after the summer is over, just like anyone else on January the first is I generally try to set my goals and start to kind of activate them. September the first, no big secrets, just your regular routine items.
Wayne Kay 13:56
But those routine items, when you put them into practice, they become habits. And that’s the trick right there, is to be able to make them into doing them over and over and over again in order to be successful with them.
Mark Marshall 14:08
That’s right. It’s like going to get a cup of coffee every day, we used that example earlier. If you’re getting two or three coffees a day and you’re putting the money out, well, you know, what I say to people is continue to do that, but pay yourself.
So, yes, continue with the habit of going to get a coffee, but start to make your own in the morning in the thermos and then put the money aside every time that you think you’re going to get a coffee. And you are amazed at the end of that 30 days how much money you actually have.
Wayne Kay 14:34
Wow, that’s a great idea. Because if you save it by not touching it, you will use it for something else.
Mark Marshall 14:40
That’s right, yeah.
Wayne Kay 14:42
Makes it all worth it.
Mark Marshall 14:44
And the other thing, too, that I say this to all my clients, is to get a little notepad and put that notepad in the glove box of your car because it’s hard to spend money at home. You can do it online, but it’s hard to spend what I call petty cash at home.
It’s easy to spend petty cash when you’re out and whether you’re getting a coffee or a sandwich or something, and you just start to jot those things down. And again, part of your assessment is knowing what you’re doing and if you’re wasting so that at the end of the month, you’re not saying, I have no money left, or if I have no idea where it’s going. You can look at your little notepad and you can say, wow, I just spent $250 in petty cash on basically nothing. And that $250. Maybe set that aside per month, you get some cash.
Wayne Kay 15:27
Well, Netflix and all these other companies are very smart because they charge monthly, because they know Canadians can afford $20 a month or $6 or $8 a month. Whereas if they were to just do it at one time, shot, hey, you owe us $240. Well, that might be a little more difficult for people.
Mark Marshall 15:47
That’s right. People would back off.
Wayne Kay 15:49
We’ll do the reverse version of that. And instead of trying to save big lumps of some a little bit every single day. We’ll make a difference.
Mark Marshall 15:56
Yes, that’s right, it will. It’s one of those things that people don’t recognize, but again, if you’re in the habit so whether it’s a bad habit, you’re trying to turn that same bad habit into a good habit, is that okay, everyone’s getting cookies or whatever and I’m in whatever.
You set that money aside and you’re not in, but you set it aside and you say, look, I was going to activate, I was going to spend that money. And now I’m setting it aside and again, it’s an eye opener. And it will start to generate a good habit, a savings habit that will reward you at the end of every month.
Wayne Kay 16:27
All right, we’ve run out of time. This has been fun. I’m smiling a lot because you’re giving me all kinds of great motivation to make 2023 even better. Final words of advice from you, Mark?
Mark Marshall 16:40
Well, no, I don’t really have any final words. I mean, I know I want everybody to if they’re having concerns, any issues financially, they need to speak to somebody, they want to chat.
Generally, if you reach out to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee, it’s free to do. Trustee will give you some advice in terms of handling any issues you have financially. You’re not committed one way or the other. You’re just gaining insight and advice for yourself.
But start your new habit on January the first. Start that new habit and try to generate some savings for yourself or eliminate some debt or do something positive and try to keep yourself motivated.
Wayne Kay 17:15
I love it. Mark, thank you very much. Always a pleasure to chat with you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with the team at Allan Marshall & Associates Licensed Insolvency Trustee, you can go to their website wecanhelp.ca
And that is it for another edition of the Debt Matters podcast. Make sure you subscribe wherever you get your favorite podcast from. And of course, for more information, you can always check out debtmatters.ca. Thanks for listening.
About Mark Marshall
Mark Marshall has been working in the insolvency field for 20 years. He received his Licensed Insolvency Trustee accreditation in 2012 and has also been an active board member with Music NB. He endeavors to give each client he meets advice on all of their available options so they can proceed with the knowledge they need to make an informed decision.