You can start planning and saving for your retirement at any age. Many of us know we should start early so our money has a longer time to grow. With the costs of buying a home, raising kids (and paying for their education), it may be hard to get going, let alone know where to begin.
Here are six steps that will help you get started:
1. Find a financial advisor that you trust.
Not sure how to find an advisor or financial planner? Read Choosing a Financial Planner. This article offers some tips about what to look for and includes a list of questions to ask when you meet with a planner. You can also visit the Canadian Securities Administrators webpage for some additional tips.
2. Visualize your dream retirement.
Before you dive into how you’ll save enough money for retirement, take some time to think about what you want to be doing. What does your retirement look like? How will you be spending your time? Think about the lifestyle you’d like and where you want to be living. Are you dreaming of living on a body of water, in a downtown condo or travelling the world?
3. Calculate how much you will need.
Visualizing your dream retirement helps define what you're working towards. After you've thought about your dream retirement, the next step is to consider how much money you’ll need to fund it. The Government of Canada provides a great tool for this - Canadian Retirement Income Calculator.
To help with your calculations, here’s something else to consider: The typical middle-class Canadian couple can live comfortably on $42,000 to $72,000 a year ($30,000 to $50,000 for singles), assuming no mortgage or child costs. That’s according to MoneySense columnist, David Aston’s article How much you really need to retire.
4. Calculate what you need to save each month.
Once you know how much you’ll need, you can work backwards to determine how much you should be saving each month. By starting early, you have time on your side. For example, if you start by saving $100 per month at age 25, by the time you retire, your savings will have grown to $199,149.
Saving $100 per month beginning at age 25, by retirement the money you have invested will grow to $199,149. Assuming 6% rate of return compounded annually to age 65.
There are plenty of investment solutions available to you if you’re starting to save later in life, too.
When you’re calculating your income, there are some other things to consider including Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, inflation, the future value of money, and rate of return.
It can get complicated. A financial advisor can help you sort through what you’re going to need.
5. Determine your tolerance for risk.
When you’re making decisions about investments for retirement, it’s important to understand your personal tolerance for risk. Equitable Life has an online interactive tool that will help. The results will identify your Investment Profile Category. This will look at a number of things including the number of years until retirement, age, investment knowledge and your personal financial situation. Overall, if your investment timeframe is short, it may be important to preserve capital so you may be more suited to a conservative portfolio. If you have several years until retirement, you may be suited to a more aggressive equity-based portfolio. Most investors will find they fall somewhere in between.
6. Put your plan into action.
Once you’ve solidified your plan, you're ready to start putting it into action. This will mean saving money, living within your means and regularly checking with your advisor to ensure you’re on track. If you’re not, your advisor can help you re-assess your plan and make adjustments.
Now you know the steps to planning a comfortable retirement. These steps do require time and thought. There are many options and variables to consider. Working with the right financial advisor – someone who can help you navigate any uncertainty – may be the most important step you’ll take.