How to save for retirement (Part 3)
August 28, 2014
By Sheryl Smolkin
In the first two parts of this series on how to save money for retirement we focused on how to get started and some of the registered and unregistered savings plans available to Canadians.
This final segment looks at some other ways (in no particular order) you can both grow and preserve your retirement savings. And making sure your children are educated to effectively manage their finances is a big part of this discussion.
- Keep fees low: You ignore investment fees at your peril, says Toronto Star personal finance editor Adam Mayers in a recent article. The simple chart below illustrates what happens if you invest $6,000 a year for 40 years in a registered retirement savings plan. It assumes your RRSP earns a little over 5% a year and ignores taxes.
- In a utopian fee-free world, your money is worth $785,000 in 40 years.
- In a 1-per-cent fee world, you’ll have $606,000 (23% less).
- In a 2-per-cent fee world, you’ll have $435,000 (45% less).
- Annual fees in the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) average 1%.
- Understand your risk tolerance: You should have a realistic understanding of your ability and willingness to stomach large swings in the value of your investments. Investors who take on too much risk may panic and sell at the wrong time. Other factors affecting your risk tolerance are the time horizon that you have to invest, future earning capacity, and the presence of other assets such as a home, pension, government benefits or an inheritance. In general, you can take greater risk with investable assets when you have other, more stable sources of funds available.
- Develop an asset allocation plan: Once you understand your risk tolerance, you can develop an asset allocation strategy that determines what portion of your retirement account will be held in equities (stocks) and fixed income (bonds, cash). The investment allocation in the SPP balanced fund is illustrated below.
- Rebalance: The asset allocation in your portfolio will change over time as dividends are paid into the account and the value of the securities you hold goes up or down. Rebalancing helps you reap the full rewards of diversification. Trimming back on a winner allows you to buy a laggard, protect your gains, and position your portfolio to benefit from a change in the market’s favorites.
- Auto-pilot solutions: Balanced funds including the SPP balanced fund are automatically rebalanced. In your RRSP or company pension plan Target Date Funds (TDFs) are another way to ensure your investments reflect your changing risk profile. Developed by the financial industry to automatically rebalance as you get closer to retirement. TDFs are typically identified by the year you will need to access the money in five year age bands, i.e. 2025, 2030 etc. They are available in most individual registered retired savings plans and in your employer-sponsored group RRSP or pension. However, all TDFs are not alike so consider the investment fees as compared to the expected return before jumping in.
- Educate yourself: Personal finance blogs contain a wealth of information about everything from frugal living to tax issues to how to save and invest your money. You can find out about some of them by listening to our podcast series of interviews on savewithspp.com or reading the weekly Best from the Blogosphere posts. Some posts are better than others so caveat emptor. But blogs like Retirehappy and Boomer & Echo have huge archives so you can find answers to virtually any virtually personal finance question.
- Choose your retirement date carefully: We are living longer so your money has to last longer. And starting in April 2023, the age of eligibility will gradually increase: from 65 to 67 for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension. Even if you are among the minority who have a defined benefit pension, retiring early means you will get a reduced amount. Whether you keep working because you need the money or you love your job, you will have a more affluent retirement if you work full or part-time until age 65 or longer.
- Develop other income streams: One of the things that stayed with me after reading Jonathan Chevreau’s book Findependence Day is the importance of having multiple income streams in retirement. So even if you are saving at work or in an individual RRSP, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. While you may not want to work at your current job indefinitely, you may be able to use your skills or hobbies to do something different after retirement. For example before I retired I was a pension and benefits lawyer. Now I augment my retirement income by writing about workplace issues.
- Start RESPs for your kids: The following two Globe and Mail articles by financial columnist Rob Carrick brought home to me the impact that your children’s debt and failure to launch can have on your retirement.
Registered educational savings plans allow you to accumulate money for your children’s education tax free and receive government grants that add to your savings. When the money is paid out, your child pays taxes, typically at a lower rate. Saving for your kids’ education now so they can minimize student loans down the road is one of the best investments you can make in your future ability to retire sooner rather than later.
- Raise financially literate children: And last but not least, educate your children about money so they grow into financially responsible adults. Every event from the first allowance you give your kids to buying Christmas gifts to planning for college is a teachable moment. Someday your offspring may be managing your money and ensuring you are properly taken care of. That’s when all of your great parenting skills will definitely come home to roost!