Pay yourself first
January 12, 2012
By Sheryl Smolkin
Saving for retirement is hard. You fully intend to put away a percentage of every paycheque but mortgage payments, car payments and new shoes for your children get in the way. When you have a few dollars in your pocket after paying the bills, travel and the latest tech toy are powerful magnets.
But you can make saving much easier, by adopting one simple financial planning principle: “Pay yourself first.”
“Pay yourself first” as a cornerstone of investment philosophy was popularized in this country by David Chilton, the renowned author of The Wealthy Barber. Simply put, it means that before you pay your bills, before you buy your groceries, before you do anything else, set aside a portion of your income to save. The first bill you pay each month should be to yourself.
Decide on the purposes for which you want to save and the amount you want to save each pay period. Then arrange for automatic withdrawals by your bank or other financial institution.
Here are three reasons why paying yourself first makes sense:
- You are making savings a priority. You are telling yourself that your future is just as important as all of the current expenses you are responsible for.
- You are developing sound financial habits. Most people spend money in the following order: bills, fun, savings. By putting savings first, you put the money aside before you find reasons to spend it.
- You are building a cash buffer. Regular cash contributions are an excellent way to build a retirement nest egg. You can also allocate a portion of your savings for an emergency fund or to purchase a home. Paying yourself first gives you the freedom to choose.
You can even use the tax system to “Pay yourself first” and get a raise. If you are saving regularly in the Saskatchewan Pension Plan or a registered retirement savings plan, you can complete a T1213 form and request permission for your employer to deduct a lower amount of taxes at source,
By reducing your withholdings at source, you are paying yourself and not the Canada Revenue Agency first, and increasing your net take home pay. You are effectively giving yourself a raise all year long, not just once at tax time.
You can contribute up to $2,500/year to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan and contribution options include directly contributing from your bank account on a pre-authorized contribution schedule.
Developing the “Pay yourself first” habit can help you build up a substantial retirement nest egg. For example, if you deposit $2,500/year in the SPP and earn five percent over a 40 year career (age 25 to 65) you will have a lump sum of about $317,000 in your account.
For additional retirement or other savings, you can also direct your financial institution to transfer regular amounts to savings vehicles like tax free savings accounts and registered retirement savings plans.
Sheryl Smolkin is a Toronto lawyer, writer and editor. She blogs for the Toronto star on moneyville.ca and can be contacted through her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @SherylSmolkin.financial planning, Save for retirement
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FAQ: Pension payments