Confronting the truth about your finances

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If you’re 40 and haven’t started your retirement planning, you’re not alone and you’re not too late.

When you talk to a financial planner, they’re likely to recommend you ask yourself some key questions:

  • How many years are left on your mortgage? The fewer the better, and a lot of diligent savers manage to be mortgage-free by 50. If you’re one of them, good for you. It means you can dedicate the coming 15 years to some serious retirement savings.
  • Do you have children who may attend university? After buying a house, contributing to kids’ educations is the second-largest expense for most Canadian parents. If your children are done with their schooling, allocating money that would have been spent for tuition, books and expenses to your retirement plans can help get your savings plan underway.

  • Will you need to care for aging parents? Those in the so-called sandwich generation are finding it difficult to balance the costs of caring for older children, contributing to healthcare costs for aging parents and finding enough money to save for their own futures.

  • Do you have a workplace pension? Fewer Canadians can rely on the kinds of robust employer-sponsored pension plans that were once common. Still, if your company offers a Defined Benefit or Defined Contribution plan that lets you set aside funds off your paycheque, it’s worth exploring. Employers that do still offer pensions often match a portion of the funds you choose to set aside, so it can go a long way to enhancing your savings.

  • Have you opened any tax-sheltered savings accounts? Canada offers two primary savings plans that let people shelter investment gains from tax – the Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA). Each has pros and cons depending on your personal circumstances, so consult an advisor and ask lots of questions to ensure the savings program suits your needs.

And, perhaps the most important:

  • What percentage of monthly income are you willing to set aside for retirement? Once you’ve paid off your home and your children have finished university, financial planners often suggest using the money you’d allocated for those expenses to fund savings. Considering you likely once spent 30% or more of your income to cover housing costs, think seriously about setting aside that much for your own future lifestyle.

While it is true that working Canadians outside Quebec are eligible for the Canada Pension Plan, it’s important to remember CPP won’t cover all your expenses.

Financial advisors will likely tell you a smart, and somewhat aggressive, personal savings program is necessary to ensure you’re able to maintain your lifestyle after retirement.

CPP Investment Board, Investing Today for Your Tomorrow.

The content on this site is provided for information purposes only. CPPIB is not a financial advisor, and the content on this site does not provide financial advice. Every person’s financial planning needs are different. For advice on how you should prepare financially for retirement, please consult a credentialed professional financial advisor.

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