Tag Archives: pay yourself first

Three New Year’s Suggestions

Happy New Year! I’m not going to urge you to make a bunch of resolutions, because most of them go by the wayside in the first month. They’re just as valid when you make then in March. In fact, they’re more likely to be successful when they’re not made January 1st based on societal pressure. But do remember to never set any goals that have an expiry date!

There’s an older book called Simplify Your Life. I loved it, and still re-read it every couple of years. Keep an eye out for it in any Thrift store for a couple of bucks – it’s worth the read. In that same spirit, look around your place at all the stuff you’ve accumulated. In the Money Tools book (page 216) is our family story when we had to throw out 14,000 pounds of this stuff when our parents had to sell their family home. I’ve done this a number of times, and want you to think about this for January. Walk around your place a few times this month and throw out, give-away, or donate 100 things. Do you need 26 coffee mugs for the two of you? How many sweaters are in your closet you haven’t worn in years? It won’t take long to get 100 things out of your place and you’ll never miss them! It’ll remind you that all this stuff cost big money and may get you to slow down buying even more stuff this year that just gets stashed away somewhere!

Change your thinking about getting out of debt just as much as your savings.

“Only rich people can save enough money.” If that’s your thinking, you can spend a lifetime proving that you’re right, and staying broke, but it’s just not true. The Royal Gazette recently had a story of a 92-year-old man who died after having worked as a gas station attendant and janitor his entire life. He had a pretty modest lifestyle, so his friends were stunned to find out that his estate was worth over $8 million! He just paid himself first every month, invested a small amount of money each and every month, and reinvested the dividends (which mutual funds do automatically through additional shares). If a minimum wage earner did it – you can, too. But first you need to change your thinking.

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com

When You’re In Charge of Your Own Retirement Finances

We talk about finances all the time, and one of the biggest financial decisions is probably your retirement savings. That’s more critical when you’re older but way easier to accomplish when you’re younger. Now, this is not a shot against the current government, but a comment about government programs overall.

There are a few things the government does really well. Included in that list is the military, foreign affairs and the passport office which is just incredibly efficient and well-run. But generally, any government programs are not very effective, and you will always be able to do better, and do more on your own, without waiting or hoping the government will come to your rescue. They won’t – and by the time you’re done waiting for a bailout package, or meaningful help from the government – you’ll be dead, honestly.

There is no place where that is clearer than with our Canada Pension Plan: The CPP pays a maximum of $884 to you in retirement. Let’s use this $884 maximum, even though the average pension benefit recipient gets $481.

Let’s take the lowest working person in the country. We’ll take someone who works from age 18 to age 65 and makes $2,000 a month. So this is a person who never gets a promotion, never gets a raise, and never improves on that income – someone who literally makes a small $2,000 a month throughout their entire working life.

Until retirement, every month, this person has $42.28 deducted from their pay towards CPP. The employer portion is the same, because employers match the deduction. So, for this person, every pay period, $84.56 goes towards their CPP in order to get a maximum of $884 each month after retirement. Simple math so far?

Now, if this person took that same $84 a month and invested it, at a 10% return over their lifetime, they would have $1,084,000! That translates to a monthly pension of $9,033! Let me say that again: Taking the same CPP deduction of someone who makes $2,000 a month for life, and investing it on their own, would have a pension of over $9,000 a month, AND he or she would leave an inheritance of over $1 million to their family.

THAT is why I want you to pay yourself first every month, and have some savings deducted right off your pay where you won’t miss it. What would you rather have? The $884 CPP, or your own $9,000 each month?

My Grad Commencement Address: About Marshmallows

 

If I were doing a commencement address at some graduation this month, it’d be about marshmallows.

That was a Stanford experiment in the late ’60s, that’s been proven to be incredibly accurate, and replicated right up to a few years ago. Researchers gave four to six year olds a marshmallow, pretzel, cookie, or some treat the kids really wanted. They then told the kids they could eat it whenever they wanted. But if they waited 15 minutes, they would get another one to double their treat.

It turns out that this delayed gratification was a powerful and accurate indicator of their marks, their education level, their weight, and their financial success as adults.

Maybe the marshmallow test for graduate age people is 15 days before making impulse decisions. Maybe it’s leaving the credit card at home during the week. Maybe it’s the most powerful financial tool of paying yourself first in savings before spending, or maybe it’s too late, and they’re doomed anyway.

Broke is the new rich. That was the T-shirt a 20-something guy wore at a festival. His age is certainly right in that thinking – even though it’s so wrong and so self-destructive. The millennial generation age 18 to 35 can be forgiven for wondering if they’re ever going to get any financial traction. There are over 85 million of them in North America who, on average have less than $1,000 saved.

There’s a great quote from Shaquille O’Neal: “It is not about how much money you make. The question is are you educated enough to KEEP IT?”

You may think that the average 20 something can’t get ahead. Yes you can! Get your debt under control, or have the delayed gratification to not get into debt in the first place. Start with your first paycheque, or starting this week, have two percent taken right out of your account and transferred into investments. There’s no chance you’ll miss that $60 or so. Then, every six months, up it by one percent. Again, you’ll never miss $20 or $30 until you’re saving 10 percent. Every hundred bucks saved is nearly $9,000 when you retire.

But that’s a BIG marshmallow test that only one or two people from a grad class will embrace. If you’re one of those few people, or want to be, read four short chapters in the Money Tools book and you can get really pretty quickly and easily. If not, remember me as you’ll want to email me in a decade when you’re broke and need help.

The mark you get on your lifetime financial learning isn’t an A to an F. It’s measured in your investment account balance and your debt, and you get a new mark every month for the rest of your life. It might be a mark of minus 30,000 in debt, or a mark of plus $45,000 in investments…

Canada Savings Bonds Are a Crappy Way to Save, But You Should Use Them

Breaking news alert!! Canada Savings Bonds are available again for payroll deduction purchases. Their sale is a fall-only option and available until November 1st.

They’re a really crappy rate and shouldn’t be used for investing but you don’t need to worry about your return until you get started in the first place. They’re great for getting started, for having them come off your cheque and for parking your money for a while.

If you work for an employer, go see your payroll department for five minutes today. Ask whether you can get them, or if your employer can do payroll deduction for RRSPs. If so, make it happen TODAY – if you don’t already. The only way most people save is by paying themselves first. If you wait until the end of the month to see if there’s any money left over, I can tell you right now: There won’t be. But you can’t spend what you don’t have, and that’s paying yourself first.

If that’s all new to you, it’s really easy to start. Just have 1% taken off your pay. You will never miss $20 or $30 a pay. It’s a tiny amount that won’t impact your life or your finances one bit. Then, every six months, increase it by another percent. You’ve lived just fine on a net cheque $20 less. Another $20 won’t make a difference…again,  you’ll never miss it. In another six months, add another one percent and so on until you are saving 10% of your pay.

It’s such a tiny change twice a year, you’d be amazed at how quickly your savings grow without any impact on your lifestyle or finances. Since it comes right off the top, there’s nothing for you to do. It’s on auto pilot and happening in good months or bad – in months where you’re behaving with your money, or spending it like you were a politician.

A few months ago, a relative received a letter from an ex employer he had been with for three years. They were asking where to send over $16,000 in RRSP money. When was the last time someone wanted to surprise you with an extra $16,000? You see, he had $70 or so deducted off every pay into RRSPs. After three years, with matching and growth, he had no idea what it all added up to and was sure surprised. It’s not like he missed the $70 a pay since he had it done on the first paycheque. But it sure added up…as can yours.

If you don’t have any savings options at work – shame on your employer – but you can also do it yourself. Go to your financial institution and ask to have a fixed amount transferred from your chequing to savings, a Tax Free Savings Account, or an RRSP every two weeks or every month.

Banks are for parking money. They are not places where you should be doing your investing. But it’s a start in order to get some traction. And the hardest thing with many financial lessons is to get started. It’s the first step that’s the most challenging. After that – you’ll never do without it again, as it’ll be part of your routine.

I had another minor savings plan a few years ago. I decided to live without coins. Every time I got any change, it went into a bucket. So, essentially I used $5 bills a lot because coins were always re-directed into this bucket from nickels to toonies. In one year, that ended up being over $1,000! Other than the pain of rolling them, it was a totally painless savings plan.

When You’re In Charge of Your Own Retirement Finances

We talk about finances all the time, and one of the biggest financial decisions is probably your retirement savings. Now, this is not a shot against the current government, but a comment about government programs overall.

There are a few things the government does really well. Included in that list is the military, foreign affairs and the passport office which is just incredibly efficient and well-run. But generally, any government programs are not very effective, and you will always, always be able to do better, and do more on your own, without waiting or hoping the government will come to your rescue. They won’t – and by the time you’re done waiting for a bailout package, or meaningful help from the government – you’ll be dead, honestly.

There is no place where that is clearer than with our Canada Pension Plan: The CPP pays a maximum of $884 to you in retirement. Let’s use this $884 maximum, even though the average pension benefit recipient gets $481.

Let’s take the lowest working person in the country. We’ll take someone who works from age 18 to age 65 and makes $2,000 a month. So this is a person who never gets a promotion, never gets a raise, and never improves on that income – someone who literally makes a small $2,000 a month throughout their entire working life.

Until retirement, every month, this person has $42.28 deducted from their pay towards CPP. The employer portion is the same, because employers match the deduction. So, for this person, every pay period, $84.56 goes towards their CPP in order to get a maximum of $884 each month after retirement. Simple math so far?

Now, if this person took that same $84 a month and invested it, even at just a 10% return over their lifetime, they would have $1,084,000! That translates to a monthly pension of $9,033! Let me say that again: Taking the same CPP deduction of someone who makes $2,000 a month for life, and investing it on their own, would have a pension of over $9,000 a month, AND he or she would leave an inheritance of over $1 million to their family.

THAT is why I want you to pay yourself first every month, and have some savings deducted right off your pay where you won’t miss it. What would you rather have? The $884 CPP, or your own $9,000 each month?

Happy RRSP Deadline

So here we are just a few days from this years’ RRSP deadline. It’s the one time in the year when the no-service banks stay open forever in order to get our business. But most of us are still scrambling.

On average, our RRSP contribution is about $2,600. If we think about that, it’s a pretty puny amount to invest in ourselves and for our retirement, isn’t it. Sure, there are maybe 20 percent or so who max out. But for the rest of us it really doesn’t matter what the max is – we tend to think of what the minimum is, instead.

But why? It can’t be because we’re just really happy to pay a whole bunch of extra income tax! No, it’s because we don’t have the money! Yet the fundamental way rich people become rich is by paying themselves first. It really is that simple – yet also very hard.

Will bills and all those monthly payments, we are constantly paying for yesterday instead of investing in tomorrow. No that sounds simple, but it really isn’t. When all of our money goes to pay for yesterday’s stuff, there’s just nothing left over. It’s not like we can skip the car payments, not pay our credit cards or the mortgage for a while.

The trick, OK, it’s not really a trick, is to turn this ship around. When we don’t have all those payments, we have the money left over to invest proactively.

If you’re buried in debt and payments, I would never recommend figuring out how to save for an RRSP at the same time. You are way better off taking that money for a year or so and focusing every ounce of energy and every dollar you have to becoming debt free. I’m not saying never put money into your retirement savings but for a year or so you’ll have a way bigger return when you pay off your debts.

If you have a $400 car payment and are putting $200 into an RRSP, you’re trying to do too many things at once. If the car is paid off, you’ll then have the whole $600 for your retirement savings and you’ll catch up way quicker and will have done it much smarter.

For someone who will do an RRSP, just make sure you take the tax return and either use it to pay off some debt or stick it right back into a 2009 RRSP. THAT is how you get ahead.

For someone who is going to get an RRSP loan, consider making it a little smaller this year and also instructing your investment advisor to automatically take some money out of your chequing account for this coming year. In that way, at the end of 2009 you’ll be ahead because you’ll already have the money saved!

When you run out of money you run out of peace of mind

Less than 45% of us have any kind of savings for retirement. The simple reason is that we don’t pay ourselves first. We pay ourselves last – but since there’s no money left over right now, last means…well never. To start saving, most of us need to make some payments go away first in order to free up some money.

When our debt and payments start getting carried away, we can do one of three things: We can stay in denial and continue our optimism that it will somehow take care of itself.

We can get frustrated, depressed and throw our hands up, or we can have the courage and discipline to view these payments and debts in realistic terms and make simple and fundamental changes to turn things around.
Yes, it takes courage and discipline – nothing is easy, but it’s well worth it. After all, those who understand interest want to collect it. Those who don’t are the ones paying it.

An easy place to start is in the debt chapter of the It’s Your Money book on the step-up debt payments. It walks you through a simple example of $25,000 of debts and pays it off in less than one-quarter of the time with just $100 more each month.

Even if becoming payment free seems impossible, two easy things are to take your smallest monthly payment and do whatever it takes to pay it off. That alone frees up a bunch of money.

The second one is to cut $200 of your expenses each month. If you make it a game and not a pain and honestly look at every dollar going out the door you’ll easily do it.

We may not want to face it today, but at some point we have to change from a consumer mindset to a savings mindset. At that point it shouldn’t take a decade just to get back to zero in paying off your bills.

To have some different results, we have to do some different things. We have to make some better choices which are not based on old patterns, fixed beliefs or previous habits.

Because you and I have experienced it: When you run out of money, you run out of peace of mind.

More and More Generation Y Continue to Live At Home

A recent survey conducted by Decima Research asked non-homeowners under age 34 for some savings and home purchase feedback.

Just like paying off our debts, the survey shows a real disconnect between the reality of what’s happening and the dreams of what the respondents would like. Here’s what I mean:

The survey involved over 1,200 people aged 21 to 34 who had aspirations to purchase a home in the near future. Of those, nearly a third still live at home to save for a down-payment. But even in the 31 to 34 year group, 22% in Toronto and 17% in Calgary and Halifax, are still living with their parents.

The response was that they’d likely be purchasing a home in the next few years – yet they’d only been saving for a down-payment for an average of 1.6 years. And what are they saving? Less than 13% of their income – even though they’re still living at home.

The respondents said they’d likely save more than 15% for a down payment and that it’ll take less than four more years to save all that. However, this shows a real disconnect between what they’d like to do and what they’re actually doing, in real terms, to save a ton of money.

The savings aren’t happening, even when this age group has a real focused and tangible goal. In a US survey released last week, the pollsters asked 18 to 21 year olds whether they’d start a savings plan of some kind in 2007. Over 90% of them said yes – but when that’s compared to the survey the year before – less than 20% actually did.

It’s not just Generation Y, but don’t all of us have real trouble finding a way to save? Why? Because for this group, it’s likely impossible due to student loans and their credit cards. But for the rest of us, isn’t it also our current debts that are killing our dreams for the future?

Actions speak louder than words and just having good intentions doesn’t make anything happen. It takes a big goal, a strong desire, a specific financial plan and payroll deduction or the savings coming right out of our bank account. It’s called paying ourselves first. But for many of us, just paying down our debts much faster is also a way to generate huge savings. Savings in interest and lots of payments that we now won’t have to pay to make someone else rich.