“We are all investors; investing does not have to be risky or extremely sophisticated.”
Consultant Sara Halstead has been working as a Certified Financial Planner for 10 years. She began her career with London Life as a Financial Planner before making the switch to IG Wealth Management in September 2019. Sara is most excited about the technology, tools, and exposure that she can draw upon with IG Wealth to enhance client experiences.
“The journey to becoming a Financial Advisor can be challenging when starting out, as I’ve noticed over the past 10 years,” says Sara. “I feel this is just the beginning of my career and the industry has changed so much already. IG is an incredible company to partner with. When first starting out in the field of financial planning, I didn’t exactly see myself where I am today. I wasn’t interested in working with old technology or expensive proprietary-managed funds that came with a higher fee base for clients.
IG Wealth Management brought in a CEO who has taken the company into a new age of almost living in the future. Millions of dollars have been invested into technology and our structure has moved to third-party asset managed funds. Fees are much lower, and I know that my clients’ money is managed by the best managers in the world.”
Sara doesn’t do this alone, during the past 10 years of working with clients she has always had a strong team behind her.
“It’s important for people to know that at IG we have a big team behind us and a big company that doesn’t change when the market changes,” adds Sara. “Our philosophies don’t change; our service and our plan doesn’t change just because the market does – stability comes with the territory.”
Physical Fitness in Tandem with Financial Wellness
Working in the fitness community before becoming a Financial Advisor has given Sara unique insight into how connected all aspects of wellness can be. Sara graduated from the University of Manitoba in 2005 where she studied Kinesiology and Business Planning.
“I find the fitness world and the financial world to be very similar environments,” explains Sara. “In fitness you have clients seeking to improve their health. Every client has different ideas and goals as to how to achieve this. Multiple people might be engaged in the process, a personal trainer, strength coach or nutritionist. In the financial world things can be wildly similar in the sense that you meet clients seeking help with their financial needs who may also have different ideas and goals in mind and who may also require multiple professionals to help. For example, in addition to a Financial Advisor (coach) a client may also need a tax accountant, an estate planner, mortgage broker or lawyer. Success looks different to everyone, and a Financial Planner creates a plan that will achieve goals. IG gives us the ability to make this easy for our clients. We can map out why we are doing what we do, and we have a vast array of tools to do it.”
Growing in up in the Pembina Valley in Morden, Manitoba, Sara has always incorporated physical fitness into her own wellness plan and continues to lead an active lifestyle outside of the office.
“I was introduced to the financial planning world by a friend on my soccer team,” explains Sara. “I wasn’t seeking it out by any means, it started with a conversation and went from there. The fitness world is still a big part of my life today. My partner owns a gym in Winnipeg, and I see physical health, mental health and financial health as the different aspects of wellness – it’s actually a theme I use in my practice. I played soccer during university and still play today. I also run a strength and conditioning program for a women’s football team out of our gym – which is very rewarding.”
Your Financial Manual
Essential to any financial plan is what Sara refers to as the “financial manual.” A manual can be referred to at any time to help answer ongoing questions or client concerns. A manual makes realizing goals and staying on track much simpler, it is a big picture overview of a client’s long-term financial plan.
“When things happen or people have questions we can refer back to the manual and it will help us find answers,” explains Sara. “What should I do if I’m planning to buy a house or start a new business? It’s important to always refer to the big picture. How can I answer a question about an RRSP without knowing the details of a client’s financial plan? To help people really succeed in their financial goals, it’s our responsibility to ask the right questions and have ongoing conversations with our clients.”
Women and the Changing Landscape of Investing
One of the things that Sara is most passionate about is addressing the different needs, goals, and attitudes of women in the financial world.
“One of my biggest curiosities and focuses right now is that there’s a huge division of wealth happening in Canada and that by 2026 (which is not that far away) women will control over 50% of the wealth in this country,” says Sara. “The dynamics are really changing. We see the transition happening with our clients and within the industry – more women are starting out as Financial Advisors. I also think it’s important to address the fact that just over 60% of women aged 45 to 54 have no planner, and that’s trillions of dollars that we’re talking about. Many women feel their needs are not being met. We see clients who have had a spouse pass away or experienced a breakdown in a relationship seeking out a new Advisor for themselves because they never felt as if they were part of the conversation before. Financial planners should be speaking to both the men and women in a household, but it hasn’t always been that way.”
Whether traditional gender roles kept them out of the discussion, or they have always had a different way of looking at money, Sara thinks that women are seeking out advice today “in an effort to join the conversation”.
“I think it’s really important that women understand that the right advice matters and it’s ok to reach out to an advisor they have confidence in,” adds Sara. “We know women may have a different sort of emotional attachment to money. Money is a security concern, and they seek peace of mind knowing that they will be ok, cared for and their financial needs will be met as they age/retire. Women don’t necessarily want to discuss the rate of return so much as knowing that a financial plan will meet their needs and take care of their family. Women want to know that everything will be ok.”
Investing and the Pandemic
Another changing landscape in the investment world concerns the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on her clients. Sara believes communication is essential, including check-ins and an alignment of values between client and advisor.
“It’s our responsibility as advisors to be talking to our clients about what’s happening to their business and what’s happening with their families during this time,” says Sara. “How are they doing? Are their paycheques still coming in? We have to ask the important questions because we need to understand changing priorities. The Covid crisis brings a lot of important financial planning questions to light. I also feel good to be able to tell clients to stay the course because if we have done our jobs properly up to this point, a client should already be invested as per their goals and risk tolerance. Since it’s a partnership between an advisor and a client it’s also important to be aligned with values and goals to really achieve what someone is looking for.”
Sara sees a silver lining regarding physical distancing measures. Clients of all ages are embracing new technology and taking business online. For some clients, expansion that would have required more brick-and-mortar space they could not afford is now possible in an evolving work from home environment.
“It’s interesting how we’ve adopted this new way of communicating,” says Sara. “Clients are very open to virtual meetings; we can accomplish things very quickly without having to jump in the car and leave the house. I think it will make financial planning simpler for people and for business owners looking to expand, they realize that they can remotely run their businesses and double their workforce without needing a single extra desk.”
As the workforce evolves, so does how we view investing. Sara reminds clients that investing doesn’t have to be difficult, risky, or sophisticated.
“We forget that we’re already investors regardless of whether we have a liquid investing account of millions of dollars or if we’ve just started in this journey,” Sara explains. “We have paycheques that come into our accounts every two weeks, and we decide where to take those dollars. Investing is an extension of your purchasing power – whether it’s choosing a cell phone provider or an insurance policy. And it’s ok to think about holding onto money as well as growing money – both ways of thinking are good. It’s interesting that we’ve decided that investing looks like “this” or “that” when really, it looks like whatever you’re already doing – whatever you see when you look in the mirror.
April Potter is a veteran writer with expertise in financial services including nearly 15 years in debt restructuring. April has written for multiple online publications on a variety of subjects and offers a range of social media. Also a painter, her background in finance is balanced by her artistic endeavors.
SARA HALSTEAD, CFP®, CLU®, RRC®,
Senior Financial Consultant, IG Wealth Management
461 Sterling Lyon, Unit 2
Winnipeg, MB, R3P 2S8
204 - 333 - 7611