Award-winning advice

Local financial planner, recent winner of national prize offers straightforward counsel for dealing with uncertain times

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Doug Buss is a longtime financial adviser, having served clients in Winnipeg for more than three decades.

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Opinion

Doug Buss is a longtime financial adviser, having served clients in Winnipeg for more than three decades.

Then it might come as a surprise that the veteran has only recently received the Distinguished New Advisor of the Year Award, for 2022.

Certainly Buss isn’t a newbie.

Yet the recognition from the Knowledge Bureau — a Winnipeg-based provider of professional development for advisers across Canada — is given to a recent graduate from its Real Wealth Management program for outstanding achievement.

So while Buss may be an experienced certified financial planner, his most recent accomplishment and the accompanying award speak to the fact he never stops learning.

“It’s a program that takes certified financial planners to the next level,” says Buss, who started YourStyle Financial Planning in 2005 after working in past positions with Rice Financial Group and London Life for several years.

Rather than only retirement planning, the program’s focus is on total wealth planning.

And that’s notable given many graying Canadians have built enough wealth to fund their golden years and leave a legacy for family and their communities.

“The (Real Wealth Management) program trains us to work with clients through their life phases.” That includes the wealth transfer phase.

Individuals having a big picture of their wealth — including how to preserve and pass it onto the next generation — has likely never been more in focus, says Evelyn Jacks, president of the Knowledge Bureau.

“Providing financial advice is particularly challenging because it’s all about bringing more certainty to an uncertain future,” says Jacks, also author of several wealth management books.

“Working with skilled advisers like Doug is so important because we know 2023 is going to be financially challenging.”

Buss has seen a lot of ups and downs in markets in his career. Yet he also recognizes the financial landscape is constantly changing, particularly now amid high inflation and rising rates.

His advice to everyone is to plan. It sounds elementary, but few people do it.

And those who do often only do so partially.

Planning is really about “helping families keep more of their hard-earned money by offering tax-efficient strategies to make sure their wealth is protected for their own needs and those of future generations,” he adds.

Good plans involve plenty of details.

But Buss often finds, when first meeting with clients, that they have overlooked details with big long-term implications.

“For example, a lot of people first come to me and their company pension” does not name their spouse as the beneficiary.

That means if they die that their pension could flow to the estate, rather than the beneficiary — the spouse — potentially leading to several months of that important retirement income source tied up in probate.

And there are additional costs even if “here in Manitoba probate fees have been removed,” Buss adds.

Often estates still involve lawyers in the probate process, and “they’re going to charge fees based on those assets in the estate.”

That’s not to say Buss is advocating not to rely on the expertise of lawyers. Rather, he suggests working with professionals in advance, including lawyers specializing in estate planning, to avoid mistakes that can disrupt the smooth transfer of wealth.

Another way to do that is to include family in the planning process.

“I do a lot of family meetings with clients to bring the generations together to talk about it so they all know what the plan is.”

Buss adds bringing members on board — particularly once wealth has accumulated — is critical to avoid family disputes.

“I have seen some horrible situations where the claws come out.”

For example, an estate may be divided evenly among siblings. Yet one party may still be upset because they provided all the care for aging parents. Buss says he has seen situations where the money in question is not even significant, but lawyers still become involved as emotions run high and the wealth is whittled away by animosity.

Comprehensive wealth planning helps avoid these problems because it helps people have a big picture view, he adds.

Yet too often these days folks are myopically focused on investment losses.

Buss regularly reminds people declines in their stock holdings they’re seeing on statements are only losses on paper. That is unless they sell them, locking those losses, rather than waiting and letting their investments recover.

That urge to sell is often reduced when individuals are well invested in assets generating income, particularly dividends, he adds.

What’s more, unlike most other goods and services, stocks are not increasing in price right now. They’re deflating.

“It’s like they’re on sale,” Buss says.

It’s the same with bonds.

“Bonds are a great opportunity right at the moment,” he adds.

Sure, interest rates may increase more than they already have, which reduces the value of bonds in a portfolio. But those fluctuations in value do not matter if investors hold those bonds to maturity.

“What’s important is you’re getting paid, receiving that higher yield.”

GICs pay more too as do high-interest savings accounts.

Yet Buss notes not to get too enamoured with these conservative investments, referring to a recent comment by Jacks on inflation.

“She said, ‘If you’re not generating enough growth in their portfolios to outpace inflation, you will lose purchasing power,’” Buss says.

This speaks to the need for average people to get good advice during times like these, he adds.

More importantly, you need a good plan, which can serve as a balm for today’s market worries.

“A plan assures people so they know what will happen to their finances if they get sick or die; or that they’ll have enough income to retire and can ride out inflation,” Buss says.

“And having that confidence really does help them sleep better at night.”

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