If you’ve made it through our January money challenges, then you should take a moment to pat yourself on the back. But it’s no time to lose momentum. February is the time we put saving into high gear. TFSAs, RRSPs, RESPs and RDSPs are all gifts from the tax man to help you save for your financial goals. Let’s get started. Follow along with this online calendar and sign up for our weekly #MoneyFit newsletter.
Over a 30-year period, even an extra 1% return on your investment makes a huge difference to your bottom line—regardless of age or income level. To see what the numbers show, go here
What is an RRSP?
Of course you know what an RRSP is—it’s that thing you’re putting money into to save for retirement, right? Beyond that, many people’s understanding of RRSPs is pretty fuzzy. A common misconception is that the RRSP is a type of investment like a mutual fund, but it’s not. It’s simply a saving or investing account with certain tax-saving characteristics. When your bank sells you an RRSP, all they’re selling you is a prepackaged investment—usually a collection of mutual funds or a wrap program—that happens to be in an RRSP or registered account. But you can also open an empty RRSP account at your bank or discount brokerage and put whatever investments you want in it. You can even hold several different RRSP accounts with different institutions. “It’s really a personal pension plan,” says Peter Volpé, senior vice-president of the Toronto wealth management firm Integra. “For those of us who don’t have a pension plan to fall back on, it’s our best opportunity to build our own pension.”
There’s no hard and fast rule. The goal for most people is to contribute enough so that when you retire, you can maintain the same lifestyle you enjoyed while you were working. The maximum you can contribute each year is 18% of your income, and if you’re managing that, you’re good. Each year, roughly two-thirds of Canadians contribute nothing at all. We find that contributing about 12% of your pre-tax income each year should be fine for most people, as long as you contribute regularly, invest wisely and don’t take on a massive mortgage or large amounts of other debt. See more RRSP tips here
Get the right asset allocation
Conventional wisdom suggests the percentage of equities in a portfolio should equal 100 minus your age—so 40% stocks if you’re 60 years old. But in our low-rate. environment, coupled with the fact people are living longer, this outdated equation may not provide the returns needed for a comfortable retirement.A more aggressive guideline is to subtract your age from 120 for more stock growth that should make your money last longer—so 60% stocks if you’re 60 years old. Conservative investors can use 110. Get the right asset allocation.
Start an RESP for your kids
Ensuring our kids get a good post-secondary education these days isn’t easy. With four years of university costing up to $250,000, you need to use every tool in the savings tool box to help you build them a nest egg they can draw on when the time comes. See how they work here.
Your action plan
February is just about over and we don’t want you to leave without checking off a few things on your “Money To-Do List” this month.
1. If you don’t have enough money for either a TFSA or an RRSP contribution, make a pledge to cut back on some of your expenses this year to at least make a small contribution in the upcoming months. Better yet, set up a pre-authorized monthly prepayment plan. Once a month, simply have a set amount of money come out of your savings account and go directly into a TFSA, RRSP, RESP or emergency fund. Start with 10% to 15% of your salary annually. Top it up with some of your bonus money once a year and before you know it, you’ll have thousands of dollars growing in your plans.
2. Start reading up about investing. A good place to start is canadiancouchpotato.com. It will show you a simple plan for investing your money. And of course, start reading MoneySense this year if you don’t already. A few months from now, you’ll be ready to invest some of that growing wealth.