Leave your RRSP savings alone, and watch them grow, urges author Robert R. BrownApril 30, 2020
If a farmer brought 64 rabbits to a deserted island, and left them alone to multiply, 60 years later there would be an astonishing 10 billion rabbits living on the island.
That example is how Ajax author Robert R. Brown explains the need for all of us to save early in our RRSPs, and then leave the money alone to grow.
Brown’s book, Wealthing Like Rabbits, uses lots of great metaphors and examples to drive home key points about not only saving, but avoiding debt and overspending.
Retirement savings grow in importance as you age, he writes. Given that the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security deliver only a modest benefit, “it is better to be 65 years old with $750,000 saved than it is to be 65 years old with $750 saved.”
Canadians have two great options for retirement savings, “the RRSP – don’t pay tax now, grows tax-free inside, pay taxes later,” or the TFSA, “pay taxes now, grows tax-free inside, don’t pay tax later.” Either vehicle, he writes, “is an excellent way to save for your long-term future,” and ideally we should all contribute the maximum every year.
Yet, he writes, just as his beloved Maple Leafs “swear that next year they will do better,” Canadians all swear they will put more money away for retirement, yet don’t.
If you do save, explains Brown, pay attention to the cost of investing. Many mutual funds have high management expense ratios, or MERs, that “range from around two per cent to three per cent. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is,” he warns. It’s like the power of compound interest, but in reverse, Brown notes. Index funds and ETFs have far lower fees, allowing more of your money to grow, he points out.
Brown’s key takeaway with retirement saving is “start your RRSP early. Contribute to it regularly. Leave it alone.”
The book takes a look at the ins and outs of mortgages, and why it isn’t always the best idea to get the biggest house you possibly can. Watch out, he warns, when you go for a pre-approved mortgage at the bank – they may offer you an amount that is more than you want to afford. “You shouldn’t ask the bank to establish the amount you’ll be approved for. That needs to be your decision. After all, McDonald’s sells salads too. It’s up to you to order one,” he explains.
Credit cards are another way to pile up debt, he says. Not only are the posted interest rates high, “as much as 29.99 per cent,” but there are late payment fees, higher interest rates and extra fees for cash advances, annual fees just to have certain cards, and more. “Credit card companies are always looking for some sort of new and innovative way to jam you with a fee,” he advises. The 64 per cent of Canadians who pay off their credit cards in full each month enjoy an interest rate of zero, he writes – “think about that.”
He provides some great strategies for the 36 per cent of us who carry a balance on their cards, including leaving the cards at home, locking them up or freezing them to cut back on use, and cutting back on the overall number of cards.
Home equity lines of credit, which are easy to get, can backfire “if you have to sell your house during a soft market,” he warns.
Finally, Brown offers some sensible advice on spending – don’t eat out as often, and avoid alcohol when you’re out. Consider buying a used car over a brand new one. “If spending cuts alone won’t provide you with the cash flow you need to pay off your debt, you’re going to have to make more money,” he says. Get a raise, or get a little part-time job like dog walking, lawn mowing, or washing cars.
This is a great read – the analogies and stories help make the message much easier to understand. Once you’ve set the book down, you feel ready and energized to cure some of your worst financial habits.
If you are looking for a retirement savings vehicle that offers professional investing at a low MER, consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP has a long track record of solid investment returns, and the fee is typically around one per cent. That means more of the money you contribute to SPP can be grown into future retirement income.
|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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22|
BOOK REVIEW: More money for beer and textbooksSeptember 4, 2014
By Sheryl Smolkin
“More Money for Beer and Textbooks” by Kyle Prevost and Justin Bouchard is 200 easy-to-read and digest pages of down-to-earth advice about how to finance a post-secondary education without going into massive debt. And the authors do not advocate living an austere party-free existence.
Both are in their mid-twenties and graduated from the University of Manitoba. Kyle is a high school teacher and Justin is the Dean of Residence at St. John’s College on the University of Manitoba Campus. They also blog at myuniversitymoney.com and youngandthrifty.ca.
They recognize how difficult it is to get a high school or university student to sit down and read a book that won’t be on a final exam — particularly a personal finance book!
That’s why instead of counselling extreme frugality, they look at post-secondary education from the perspective of two guys who wish they knew then, what they know now. They figure they would each be at least $5,000 richer if they had taken their own advice.
They start off by comparing the cost of four years of school living away from home (about $80,000) to living at home (about $34,000). They also run the numbers for a two year college degree ($30,000 vs. $11,000). Nevertheless, they conclude that higher education is and will continue to be an excellent investment in an information-based economy.
When evaluating whether going away to school is a worthwhile investment, they weigh the pros and cons of on and off campus living for students.
One interesting living option proposed is for parents with more than one child attending the same school to consider buying a house with additional bedrooms for renters to help defray the mortgage costs. Prohibitive housing costs in cities like Vancouver or Toronto may make this idea impractical, but it could be a workable solution in smaller college towns.
For kids or their parents who think Canada and provincial student loans are the answer, the comprehensive section on applying and qualifying for student loans and paying them back is an eye opener.
The application process is so complex, the book gives a checklist of 16 types of information to have available before even beginning to complete the online form. And depending on parental income, it is assumed that the Bank of Mom & Dad will make a major contribution to school costs.
Repayment of student loans doesn’t start until six months after the end of university, but interest starts accruing at the end of the final semester. Former students can opt for a variable interest rate of prime plus 2.5% or a fixed interest rate of prime plus 5%. A bankruptcy will not wipe the slate clean but a Repayment Assistance Plan is available in limited circumstances.
The chapter on scholarships and bursaries reveals the surprising fact that every year in Canada about $7-million in free money earmarked for post-secondary education goes unclaimed. There are lots of great suggestions about where to find scholarships and12 scholarship tips anyone can use.
For example, the authors say don’t just Google “scholarships” and apply for the top three like everyone else. The people who really succeed in the realm of scholarships are those who apply EVERYWHERE.
Too much trouble?
Most scholarship applications are similar and once a student has applied to several, he/she can cut and paste the rest with a little creative tweaking. And if the application process is really complicated, the odds are the applicant won’t have much competition.
There are also lots of good illustrations of how scholarship applicants can market themselves. For example, a former McDonald’s employee can emphasize the positive by describing the experience as “building practical business and communications skills in an entry-level position while learning how to contribute positively to building a team atmosphere.”
Providing references with a summary of activities and attributes they may not be fully aware of is another great suggestion that could result in detailed and glowing letters of support for scholarship applications.
Trying to keep costs down while still having a good time?
Kyle and Justin suggest students drink at home instead of in a bar to improve their “booze-to-dollar” ratio. They can also score free soft drinks and save money each time they offer to be the designated driver. For those with the space and inclination, they even suggest making homemade beer or wine can as another way to minimize cash spent on alcohol!
Other chapters deal with summer jobs, student tax returns, credit cards, budgeting basics and the importance of choosing an “in demand” career.
As both educators and recent graduates, the authors are able to strike the right balance between a breezy presentation and delivering lots of useful information. This book can be the catalyst for important discussions between parents and their college-bound offspring.
More Money for Beer and Textbooks can be purchased for $14.40 online at Chapters.