Talbot Boggs, The Canadian Press - October 4, 2010

It's one of those feel-good stories, literally.

If you want to feel better about the future, you should get a financial plan.

That's the main message from a recent study conducted by The Strategic Counsel for the Financial Planning Standards Council. The first phase of the five-year study was conducted between Aug. 7, 2009 and Jan. 21, 2010, one of the most difficult economic periods in Canada's history.

"Never before has there been such concrete, empirical evidence confirming the value proposition of comprehensive, integrated financial planning and its impact on people's confidence in achieving life goals and managing through difficult times," says Cary List, FPSC President and CEO. "These results further underscore how comprehensive, integrated financial planning is salient for one's financial and emotional wellbeing, not just in good times, but particularly through the tougher times."

Canadians who have engaged in comprehensive, integrated financial planning are significantly more optimistic about their personal wellbeing than those who haven't.

Individuals with comprehensive, integrated plans feel better prepared to deal with financial emergencies and manage through difficult economic times, and more confident about reaching a broad spectrum of life's goals.

For example, 72 per cent of the survey respondents said they felt the people they cared about would be financially looked after while 64 per cent said they felt prepared to manage through tough economic times with a comprehensive integrated financial plan.

Sixty one per cent said a financial plan gave them peace of mind, 57 per cent it has improved their ability to save over the last five years while 54 per cent said they felt prepared in the event of an unexpected financial emergency. A little over half (51) per cent said they felt on track to reach their financial goals.

Emotional wellbeing also improved with having a financial plan.

Sixty per cent of respondents who had no financial planning said they worry a lot about their financial situation compared to only 44 per cent who have a financial plan. Only 30 per cent said they feel they barely get by every month compared to 57 per cent of people with no plan.

The most important goal of people with a financial plan was to be able to take the vacation they want every year followed by having enough discretionary income to lead the life they want, making sure there is enough money to pay for their children's post secondary education, helping out their children with a major purchase and retiring in the lifestyle they want.

"Financial planning is about putting financial strategies in place to help you manage your finances to achieve a wide spectrum of life goals in both the near- and long-term," says List. "Undertaking ad hoc, or limited financial advice, is better than nothing but doesn't have the same impact as taking a comprehensive view of how to best manage one's finances to meet one's goals."

The study also found that 61 per cent of those with a comprehensive plan felt confident of their financial situation in retirement compared to only 27 per cent with no financial plan and 46 per cent who only had limited financial advice.

"The research proves that those engaged in comprehensive planning have a far more positive outlook regarding their financial affairs, especially with regards to their longer-term financial wellbeing," List said.

Talbot Boggs is a Toronto-based business communications professional who has worked with national news organizations, magazines and corporations in the finance, retail, manufacturing and other industrial sectors. (  Copyright 2010 Talbot Boggs