If you ask yourself that question your answer should have been as much as possible, of course. But with so many debits coming out of your bank account saving up for your future is a daunting task. How can you prioritize your options, without knowing the importance of saving and investing your pay check or any extra cash, as you work towards reaching your financial goals.

As we have discussed in previous articles the answer to the question above is only a simple one if you implement and follow a strategic plan… Here is a look at things you should be doing when you start thinking about saving.

Pay down your credit card and other high-interest debt first

The average Canadian household carries a credit card balance of nearly $8,600 with interest rates that can be as high as 21 percent. Be sure to make minimum payments on all accounts to avoid accumulating more fees. The next step is to work on paying down your consumer debt from the highest-interest accounts to the lowest. Use any extra cash to pay down your credit card balances or any other loans, prioritizing those with high interest rates. Paying down high interest consumer debt will allow you to start saving for the future as the interest on this debt is lost potential.

Employer matching on your RRSP

When it comes to finances, there is nothing worse than leaving free money on the table. That’s why getting the most out of your employer’s RRSP match program is one of the most important “must do” strategies for your financial planning. Many employers will match your contributions up to a certain pre determined percentage of your gross pay dollar-for-dollar. Therefore you should be contributing up to the amount your employer matches because this is easy money and a winning strategy you will never regret.

Did you know that 85% of Canadians do not max their RRSP contribution…

Contribute to your RRSP

We’ve already covered how important it is to make the most of your employer’s RRSP matching program, but it’s also important to max out your tax-deferred RRSP contributions. For the tax year 2020, you can contribute up to $27, 230 in pre-tax dollars which will defer paying taxes on that money until you withdraw funds during retirement. That means you’ll pay less in taxes today, and depending on when you plan to retire, allow the money you invested in yourself this year time to grow. The advantages of paying yourself first have been covered in previous articles.

Contribute to your TFSA

Maxing your TFSA yearly can help save you money from taxation in the future. Your 2021 max limit is now $75,500 the benefits of a TFSA can be substantial: Your contributions grow as they would in an RRSP but the withdrawals you make in the future are tax-free. You have the same flexibility to invest in a range of investments, such as individual stocks or active management. Be careful not become a day trader on the stock market with a TFSA account as the government can change the status of your TFSA if they deem it to be a trading account. This account was set in place to be a buy and hold type of stock account – buy stocks that pay dividends and have the dividends reinvested into your portfolio. That is free money that will help you grow your portfolio.

Build up an emergency fund

2020 was a strange year that no one saw coming years earlier. You never know if or when you’ll experience a job loss, a major medical procedure, a housing emergency or other challenging life event. That’s why you should be establishing a “rainy day” fund to get you through until your next pay check. No amount of money could have been saved for what happened in 2020, but keeping cash for three months’ worth of expenses would go along way if needed.

The most efficient way to meet your long-term financial goals – retirement, university/college for your kids, or emergency fund. – is to take the short-term view of paying yourself first. Automatically funding your financial goals before your other expenses will help you adjust daily and monthly spending habits.

  • Setting up RRSP or TFSA auto deposits
  • Monthly RESP auto deposits
  • Setting up a regular monthly transfer from your checking account, to a high interest savings account

After paying yourself first, you may find that you don’t notice the difference in income, but your investments and nest egg will be steadily growing all the while. All of which means you’ll be saving for the long term, and seeing your financial security become more stable.

A smart approach is to think of your savings plan as consisting of two separate figures: one for things you must have, the other for things it would be nice to have. The first and most important part of financial savings is taking care of things you must have. You want to ensure you have enough to live on without feeling deprived of anything vital during your retirement years.

So how much should you be saving? As much as you can afford!

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