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Pack Wisely

2 July 2023

Moving through life, from our childhood and school-age years, through our working life, and finally into retirement, has sometimes been described as a journey.  I’ve heard financial advisors use analogies of a car trip, an airplane flight, or sailing on the ocean to relate life’s “journey”.

I was hiking the other day on a very familiar trail.  Although I wasn’t going out for very long, I was reminded of an acronym the hiking community uses if they should ever become lost or find themselves off-course: STOP.

Stop moving and don’t panic.  It’s important to relax and keep your composure.  Panicking can worsen your situation.   

Think about which direction you came from.  Did you pass any landmarks?  When was the last time you saw a trail marker?  If you’re traveling with someone, calmly share your thoughts and come to an agreement on your next move. 

Observe your surroundings.  Look and listen for anything around you, such as identifiable or familiar features or sounds.  Also, take an inventory of what supplies or resources you brought with you.

Plan your next moves.  This is the step that will put you on the path to safety. When you are confident of where you are, where you need to get to, and that you have adequate resources, bravely begin the trek again on your newly determined path.  If you feel there might not be enough time left in the day, find some shelter, and stay warm.  Don’t rush into the darkness.  Wait until you know you’ll have enough light.  

What if you could have minimized the chances of getting lost or off-course in the first place by having not only a detailed map and GPS but also a trusted guide?  Imagine your guide knows almost every trail because they’ve not only studied the maps extensively beforehand, but they’ve also guided hundreds of other families on their unique journeys.  

You take comfort knowing your trusted guide is unbiased as they are not being paid by any tour operator to sell you a generic, packaged product that you don’t want or need.  Your guide’s only job is to understand where you are, where you want to go, and to get you there safely.  



No matter how much you financially prepare for life’s journey, “stuff” happens, and you might get knocked off course.  Borrow the hiker’s STOP acronym when you find yourself in uncomfortable or unknown financial positions, such as:

  • The markets correct, and you suddenly understand you didn’t have an investment portfolio that was built to manage risk when you look at your next portfolio statement and it shows you’re down $50k or $100k.  Does this mean you’ll have to work for a few more years? 
  • You realize that there was no thought put into portfolio construction when you suddenly need access funds from your portfolio and CRA is telling you to take out more than you need because they want their taxes.  Do you just not take that vacation or send the kids to university?
  • You’re paying more tax in retirement than when you were working, or you’re getting your OAS clawed back because no one has explained to you the most efficient way to withdraw from your portfolio to fund the retirement lifestyle you deserve.  Will you be forced to downsize your home? 

If you feel off-course and are unable to answer these or other financial questions for yourself, there are guides who have helped others travel these trails many times before and they will be able to help you with your journey.  We’re just a phone call or email away.


Safe travels.

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