Money talks to kick off the New Year

You might have a healthy bottom line, but how about the financial situation of those around you? Four experts offer up tips to help your nearest and dearest get a handle on their finances.

We’re back at work, attempting to fulfill the lofty New Year’s goals we set for ourselves. But how about using your CPA skills to boost the financial health of those around you?

Financial health can have serious repercussions on mental health. Your financial expertise could give the kids and seniors in your life the lift they need. We reached out to four experts – all involved with CPA Canada’s financial literacy program – to explain how to start the money talk. The CPAs offered up some tips to move forward in 2017.


CPA Canada has numerous resources — including a book, a blog and videos — for raising money-smart kids. But even CPAs find it hard to talk to kids about money. “I suspect part of the reason is that they assume their children understand money the way they do,” says Leigh Sindlinger, CPA, CGA and a senior business analyst at Kal Tire.

CPAs may not always realize that their children have to learn about money just like everyone else. CPAs also sometimes think at too high a level and have trouble keeping to very simple topics.

“The shoemaker’s kids go barefoot for a reason,” says Peter VanderHelm, CPA, CGA, founder of Helm Business Coaching. “They [CPAs] sometimes make it too technical. Kids aren’t accountants.”

What’s the best way to start the conversation?

Sindlinger: The next time your children ask you to buy something for them, ask them if they’re willing to pay for it themselves, and ask how much money they have. That can be a great lead-in to how much they’re earning (or being given for an allowance), how much they should be saving and how to keep track of what they have versus what they want to spend.

VanderHelm: Start with a relevant, practical topic that kids care about. Don’t explain the hydro bill. Rather, discuss car insurance or the cellphone bill. Is it a want or a need? Instead of saying no to something, say, “Let’s talk about it.” Frame it up, keep it at a high level, and then say, “How would you like to do it?” Get the kids involved.

3 New Year’s resolutions for kids

  1. Teach kids the golden rule of saving: put away 10 per cent of everything earned or received.
  2. Teach kids how to track money in and money out.
  3. Maintain your willpower. Parents too often give in to their children asking for money. Instead, help them understand whether and how they can afford something themselves.

Apps to help kids manage finances


Young adults setting out on their own and adults planning for retirement are not the only ones who need to talk about money. Seniors, a growing demographic with high debt loads, also need to talk.

“Many seniors are not very financially literate,” says David Trahair, CPA, CA, a personal finance trainer and author of The Procrastinator’s Guide to Retirement: How to Retire in 10 Years or Less. “I would strongly encourage CPAs to have a talk with any seniors they know to help them understand their finances.”

“The number of seniors retiring under the poverty line is very scary to me,” says Lisa Matthews, CPA, CGA. CPAs can help make seniors’ golden years truly golden by helping them open up and get a handle on their financial situations.

What’s the best way to start the conversation?

Matthews: Be humble, respectful and empathetic. If it’s not family, you have to build trust and get them to know you. Being a CPA gives a lot of credibility.

Trahair: Many seniors know they need help but are embarrassed to admit it. The best way is to ask open-ended questions such as “Have you decided when to start receiving your CPP?” or “Do you prepare your own tax return?” or “Does your adviser do a good job handling your RRSP?”

3 New Year’s resolutions for seniors

  1. Help them understand where their money’s going. Tracking expenses is the first step to controlling them.
  2. If they don’t fully understand what’s in their personal income tax return, have them resolve to have an experienced preparer go through it with them in detail.
  3. If they can’t afford to pay off their credit card each month, have them resolve to make paying it off the most important financial goal of 2017.

Websites to help seniors manage finances

January is traditionally the time to start all those New Year’s resolutions. See what happens this year when you pay it forward and give a helping financial hand to the kids and seniors in your life.


Editor’s note
The next issue of Member News will land in your inbox on Feb. 13, 2017.