October 24, 2022

Carrying debt into retirement can “tarnish your golden years”

When our parents and grandparents happily rolled into full retirement years ago, it was a rare thing indeed for them to hit the golden years with mortgage or other debt.

It’s much more common today, and a recent article from the National Post warns that it’s non-mortgage debt that’s the thing you should avoid taking into retirement.

“Millions of Canadians spend their working days dreaming about retirement. Yet millions of Canadians also may not take into consideration the crucial financial steps they should take to become a retiree,” the article begins.

And while most of us get that retirement – a time when nearly all of us will have less income – is a bad time to have debt, we don’t always concentrate on paying down the right debts before we retire, the article continues.

“While many understand it’s important to pay down loans, they’re often focusing on the wrong ones — prioritizing their mortgages, which have lower interest rates, rather than expensive high-interest accounts,” the Post reports.

Your first goal should be paying off “personal loans and credit cards,” which carry the highest interest rates of all, the article advises. Credit cards currently carrying interest rates ranging from 19.9 to 22.99 per cent in Canada, the Post notes.

A lot of times, the article warns, we tend to put major expenses on credit cards – moving, wedding or funeral costs are cited – which can lead to large unpaid balances.

The article suggests “lowering your mortgage payments to use those funds to pay down other high-interest loans.”

“Mortgages,” the Post reports, “have lower interest, which will allow you to hold onto your savings and pay down debt. From there, start putting cash aside in an emergency fund with about three months of wages. That way, if unexpected expenses come your way, you’ll be ready.”

The other form of debt the Post urges us all not to take into retirement is loans for vehicle purchases.

“Auto loans are another area to pay off before retirement. As of July 2022, the average interest rate for a car loan was 6.62 per cent, according to Statistics Canada,” the article notes.

“But if you have bad credit, that soars up to 19 per cent. That’s about as much as the interest rate on a credit card,” the Post warns.

The article suggests that you might want to hold off on your retirement plans and address these types of debt first.

“If you hold off on retirement to pay off these loans, putting aside wages to pay them down, you could be saving yourself thousands in interest and creating a cushion to retire on,” the article concludes.

This is good advice. When you retire, you will almost always receive less income per month than you did from work. Lots of work-related expenses fall by the way – no Canada Pension Plan, company pension, or Employment Insurance premiums are deducted from pension or retirement savings income, and you may save on union dues (retiree dues are less), workplace parking, and so on. If your income is less than it was at work, your government income taxes will be lower also.

If, as the article says, you can also eliminate (or lower) monthly payments for a mortgage, car loan, credit cards or lines of credit, it will help your retirement cash flow immensely.

While paying down debt is always good advice, it’s also wise to direct at least some of your income towards retirement savings. If you don’t have a pension plan at work, and don’t really want to wade into the volatile waters of investing, consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Any Canadian with registered retirement savings plan room can join, and you can contribute any amount to your account, up to $7,000 per year. SPP will grow those savings into future retirement income.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


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