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DIY Personal Finance: Charting your own financial course

Take advantage of the best online resources in Canada
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It’s time to take a DIY approach to your personal finances.

Every one of us needs a good financial plan to follow, particularly if we hope to maintain a healthy financial life and reach our goals. Yet many Ottawa residents question whether we can do this on our own. We insist on paying for financial advice and prefer to leave the decision-making to the pros.

But now that there are so many wonderful online personal finance resources available, this really isn’t necessary. You don’t have to pay any fees for outside help; you can gain control of your finances all by yourself. 

Choose your own goals, select your own investments and go at a pace you feel comfortable with—it’s completely customizable. Designing your own financial roadmap can bring a huge sense of accomplishment.

The role financial literacy plays in personal finance

You want to make well-informed decisions with your money, and to do this you need to achieve a certain level of financial literacy. Understanding how money works will help you make better financial decisions in all three areas of personal finance: saving, spending and borrowing. 

“There are countless free online resources available to Canadians looking to improve their personal finances,” explains Caitlin Wood, Chief Content Officer for Loans Canada and Rate Genie. “Consumers should check out the Government of Canada’s website as it covers many money and finance topics. With both Loans Canada and Rate Genie, we are always publishing content to empower Canadians to improve their financial knowledge.”

McGill University is offering an online financial literacy course for Canadians. It’s open to all and available at no cost. It is taught by professors from the school’s Desautels Faculty of Management and takes a few hours to complete. When you’ve finished all of the course modules, you’ll receive a McGill Personal Finance Essentials attestation of completion. 

As Wood recommends, the Government of Canada website is another great resource for learning how to manage your money. It’s chock full of information on making a budget, banking, credit reports and credit scores, insurance, retirement and estate planning. 

Canada’s largest personal loan comparison website,, is another resource that can help you make sound financial decisions. It gathers quotes from a variety of lenders and suggests the best one for you, saving you time and money.

Steps to take to improve your financial health

All things financial start by creating a budget. A good budget shows you precisely where your money is going; it helps you not only track your spending but control it too. Budgeting also lets you build up emergency funds, which we’ve learned from the COVID-19 crisis is no longer a luxury. 

Several great resources can get you started. Try Mint, a free online budget tracker and planner, or YNAB (You Need A Budget), personal budgeting software based on The Four Rules principle

Next, you’ll want to start investing. Investing is an integral component of financial planning and it’s also an important habit to build. It will make reaching your financial goals possible—such as saving for your child’s education, retirement, etc.—and allows you to grow your wealth.

Everyone should have a tax-free savings account (TFSA). You can set one up either online or in-person at your local bank. You may also want to try using a robo advisor, especially if you are already comfortable with online banking. Online investment management services like Wealthsimple or WealthBar are straightforward and easy to use.

Finally, you need a plan for debt management. Begin paying down your debts and only take on new debt you can handle; keep in mind good debt can actually increase your credit score.

If you need advice, reach out to a credit counsellor. They can assist with basic budgeting, credit health, credit improvement and creating debt repayment plans. They can also help if a more drastic solution is required, such as debt consolidation, debt relief, consumer proposal or bankruptcy.

There’s no time like the present to grab hold of your financial future. Use the resources listed above and should you have any questions along the way, just ask.

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