ConEd instructor finds the fun in financial planning
Profile by Sherry Kaniuga (Creative Communications, 1998)
Talking about taxes isn’t exactly “fun” for most people.
But that’s exactly the F-word Chris Douglas uses – over and over again – when explaining why he keeps returning to Red River College to instruct on the topic, while also running his own successful financial planning company.
“I have great fun in my class, and the students tell me they do, too,” says Douglas, an instructor in RRC’s Financial Planning Continuing Education program, where students work towards a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation.
“It’s not the typical scenario where ‘I’m going to lecture and you’re going to listen’. I hate that!” he says. “If you work in a bank environment, you might only do a certain thing a certain way. I help open their eyes to other ways they can direct the conversations with their clients. Also, it keeps me on my game: If I say something for effect, someone might challenge me on it. That’s what I want – let’s have a discussion, let’s talk about it.”
In addition to Income Tax Planning (his favourite subject), Douglas teaches the Retirement Planning course, as well as Risk Management and Estate Planning. The owner of Douglas Financial, he is a Certified Financial Planner himself with Manulife Securities Incorporated (as well as a Chartered Life Underwriter and a Chartered Financial Consultant).
While Douglas is taking the current semester off from teaching to do some travelling, he is looking forward to getting back in the classroom in February, which he has been doing for two decades.
The real-world experience Douglas brings to the classroom is invaluable to students in the Continuing Education program.
“That’s what I think RRC is so good at. They look for people who have industry experience to instruct courses, and that’s where there’s value – actual hands-on knowledge as opposed to just textbook knowledge,” he says. “The four areas we cover in the program – tax planning, retirement planning, risk management and strategic investing – that’s what a financial planner does; that’s what I have been doing for 30 years. It’s not just selling RRSPs or TFSAs.”
There are only about 300 people working in financial services in Manitoba who can say they are a CFP, Douglas says. In his tax planning classes, half the students are usually bankers who are trying to upgrade their proficiency.
“Then there are always a few people who I think are a bit strange, who are taking tax planning for fun,” he laughs. “I always tell them all, ‘at the end of the semester, you’re going to learn something, whether you are taking this for fun or for work.’”
While financial planning can be a competitive business, Douglas enjoys sharing his knowledge with others in the industry, because he knows it will benefit the clients in the end.
“It’s fun to show people in my business how much more they can be. When I teach tax planning, I find that there are a handful of really common tax deductions that many people miss. It gives me the chance to spread the word slowly,” he says.
“Like with legal fees: when a marriage breaks down, most people don’t realize that their legal fees may be tax deductible related to child custody issues. Or that their travel health insurance is a qualified medical expense, or that what people pay for group insurance through work can be a tax deduction.”
Another tax tip that can benefit both students and their clients, Douglas says, has do with post-secondary education fees. Many students don’t know they can get a five per cent advance on Manitoba’s Tuition Fee Income Tax Rebate, which some national tax return software doesn’t flag, he says.
“It’s a Manitoba credit that can add a couple hundred dollars a year, which may not sound like much, but it’s a lot to a student.”
“After university, I needed something to do but I had no idea what. I got hired to sell insurance, and they let me do my client’s income taxes. I worked a year at H&R Block and also sold RRSPs. At that point I knew: this makes sense to me, I like doing this.”
As an instructor, he says the rewards are many, even if not immediate.
“I have had students who were in my class 10 years ago phone me out of the blue and ask me questions. And I bump into these people in the industry. When I’m at a conference and some guy pulls me aside and he’s working at a credit union now and he says ‘What were you saying about this again?’ I think it’s phenomenal. It’s just a lot of fun.”
There’s that F-word again.
Our experience with Chris and the team at Douglas Financial has far exceeded our expectations. We are impressed at their ability to take complex tax/financial matters and put them in terms we could easily understand. Tax preparation is only one of the many services they provide. They prepare our annual tax returns, discuss the results and handle communications with the tax authorities on our behalf.
Douglas Financial has consistently provided us with sound financial advice, follow-up calls, and guidance in the ever changing financial world. They even make sure we follow through on our financial decisions!
We highly recommend the team at Douglas Financial.
I went to this course thinking it was for soon-to-retire seniors. In fact, the students were mostly young investment advisors from large institutions, and the instructor was a high-powered financial planner. The evening’s topic was income tax for seniors. Chris likes to challenge students. He’s always walking around, occasionally going to the whiteboard or pulling up a PowerPoint slide. His primary technique is to ask questions of particular students, often asking the same question to two or more students until he gets he answer he wants or one he can use to make a point. He makes certain that every student gets a share of the action, and because he knows where they work and what they do, he’ll often phrase a question within the context of a student’s job. Or he’ll draw on a student’s professional expertise to provide or confirm factual information in support of a statement or question. Chris’s pace is intense. But because he’s always smiling and handles wrong or incomplete answers with humor and follow up questions, his technique is not intimidating, it’s stimulating. The students learn a lot of material, but the extra value is leaning how to think and relate to customers. He stresses: Know the Revenue Canada jargon but don’t use it on clients.
As a client of Douglas Financial since the late 1990's we have benefitted greatly from the financial planning strategies of Chris Douglas. Chris is a rare "two way player" in the financial services sector in that he combines money saving tax planning advice with a balanced investing strategy. It is through his two-ended approach, involving both tax planning and investing, that we have gained results over time.
Beyond the financial results, we have found the Douglas Financial team very accommodating and a pleasure to work with.
If you are looking to gain both insight and results through financial planning, I highly recommend working with Chris and the Douglas Financial team.
Chris Douglas provides us with a complete array of financial services. Whether it be tax preparation services, insurance, or investment products the advice we have received has been solid. Chris takes the time to listen to our needs and explain his recommendations in everyday language. We have never been reluctant to recommend him to friends and family alike.