Tag Archives: RRSP

Just Do It (Some of it) NOW

Just Do It (Some Of It) Now

The Nike slogan is “Just Do It” and everybody aged 18 and up, the sooner the better, should take that to heart. Or at least do some of it. There’s a chapter in the Money Tools book entitled: Do You Have a Half Hour?

In life there are tons of things we just never get around to – for all of us at all ages. We’re too busy, maybe next week, it’s not a priority, or whatever the reason or excuse. If you don’t take the first step you’ll never take the second step – and that chapter has about a dozen things that take less than half an hour.

If you look at your bank account and have an extra $200 you might want to save it. But it’s likely you won’t – or at least if you’re in your 20s because you don’t have an investment or TFSA (tax free savings) account, or an RRSP set up. That’s just one no-brainer example. If you take less than half an hour to set up an investment account with just a $20 deposit you’ll have it if and when you have some extra money, a bonus, or maybe some cash for your birthday. But if you don’t even have an investment account, you’ll never detour the money to it. If you’ve done the half hour basics, it’s two clicks and you’ve added to your investments.

Just taking this one example at age 18 to 25 has a staggering impact down the road. Here is a chart of what just $1,000 savings gets you in compounded interest down the road if you set it and forget it (from taxtips.ca):

$1,000 in just GICs over 50 years turns to $16,000. If you’re already 25 or so, over 39 years it’ll be $7,700.

But you’re 18 to 25 so that’d be a total waste of investments. If you put it into a basket of the top 500 companies in the world (that’s called the S&P 500) the $1,000 turns into $135,000 over 50 years. If you’re already mid-20’s it’ll be $77,000.

That’s a lousy $1,000 saved – never mind if you read the teenage millionaire chapter and do it quicker for a return of $1.1 million. Or you can hope you’ll get your $900 Canada Pension – good luck with that.

So the half hour today pays off huge – but you need someone to print you off this returns chart for you to believe it. And then you have to get off your butt and make the half hour. If that’s not worth your time – I can’t help you!

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

Do You Have a 50% Credit Card Rate?

If that sounds insane, it really isn’t. Millions of Canadians have it – they just don’t know it!

Numerous surveys over the past few years show that one quarter of Canadians are cashing in some of their RRSPs before retirement. That’s more than 1.8 million people. Say it ain’t so as the old expression goes.

Two of the most common reasons for you to consider cashing in all or part of a retirement plan are to purchase a home or to pay off debts. Let’s assume you want to cash in $5,000 to pay off a credit card. The first thing you pay is a 10% penalty right off the top. So you’re actually getting $4,500. Then this amount is taxed, as if you made that money as income. In a 30% tax bracket, that’s another $1,350. So the bottom line is that the $5,000 you cashed in is really only $3,150 of net money going on your credit card. Sure, it’ll save you 20% interest on the card, but that’s not the whole story.

That money is no longer growing in your RRSP (or your Tax Free Savings Account). At a 10% return, that $5,000 would have doubled every seven years. If you’re in your 30s, you’re now missing around $160,000 at retirement. If you’re in your 50s, that $5,000 still would have doubled three more times, which is $40,000 now gone.

While you’ve now been able to pay just over $3,000 on your credit card, it likely didn’t pay off the balance. That’s bad enough with what it’s cost you in foregone investment income. Now to make things worse, the majority of people keep using that credit card again! Odds are, you’re in the majority where you’ll be back to an average $7,000 balance within two years.

That puts you back to paying 20% on your card while you’re out at least $40,000 in savings for the next 20 years. The bottom line: Your credit card is then costing you more than 48% interest. While you were hoping to make things better – they got worse – a lot worse.

On the plus side, how would you like a zero risk 28% return on your money? It’s easy: Just pay off your credit card. The 20% interest rate you pay is with after-tax money. So the real rate is over 28% if you carry a balance. That’s the biggest reason trying to save at the same time you’re trying to become debt free doesn’t work!

Graduating to Financial Adulthood

In most places, when you’re 18 you’re an adult. In BC, the age of majority is 19 and by 21 you can do anything anywhere. You’re done with high school and can drive, drink, vote, borrow or invest, and live on your own. However, for the majority of the population, that doesn’t make them a financial adult. That can happen soon after, or it might not happen until your 30s or 40s – if ever…

This week and next, I want to go through a list of what I believe makes you a financial adult. It doesn’t mean you have to be debt free or take a university course. The essence of it is that you need to be in control of your finances and money, instead of it being in control of you. You’re pro-active versus reactive and out of control. If you do these, or know how to do these, congratulations! You’ve graduated! Some are easier than others, but all are really important.

1..You have at least one-week of income as basic emergency fund and are working towards a full three to six months of all your expenses.

2..You have two credit cards and a debit card. Your credit card balances are less than 30% of your limit (or are lowering your balances every month in order to get there) and you do not have or use an overdraft on your chequing account.

3.. In the last two years you have checked your credit report and credit score at least once and your credit report is accurate. In other words: You’ve disputed and had them fix any errors. (Go to Equifax.ca and purchase ‘score power’ which is your credit report and score.

4..You have opened an RRSP account and/or Tax Free Savings Account and make a regular monthly contribution. No matter how small – at least you’ve started and have traction.

5..You have basic insurance. Car and home coverage is obvious. But if you’re a renter, you have a tenant fire insurance policy and if you have a child, or a partner, you have a term life insurance policy.

6..Whether you’re single or married, rich or broke, you have a properly completed will. It can be a $20 do it yourself kit if you’re single, or a lawyer-prepared one if it’s more complex and you have kids. But you (or you and your partner) do have a will.

7..You know the actual amount of your net take-home pay every month. You can’t control your money if you don’t even know the exact amount you net and keep talking about your gross pay as if that were what you could spend each month.

8..You have done at least a one-time budget, or have a system of tracking your spending.

9..Your monthly spending is less than your monthly take-home pay. You may have ten cents left or $1,000 – but you’re not spending more than you earn. Financial adults figure out how to pay for something and then buy it. Others buy it and then figure out how to pay for it later.

10..You know your net worth. At least once a year you figure out what your total assets are (what you own) less your total debts (what you owe) and whether you’re growing it by savings, or whether it’s shrinking by going into debt.

11..You have a system for paying your bills every month. Waiting for the mail is not a system! Whether it’s an app on your phone, setting up automatic payments, a calendar, an on-line program or a simple check list you look at every month – it needs to be a specific system.

Waiting for the bill in the mail isn’t a plan. If the statement doesn’t come and you forget, your credit rating plummets. Blaming the post office won’t work. It’s your fault that you don’t have a system for staying ahead of the game and on top of your bills.

12..You have a proper filing system for your financial stuff. It can be six large envelopes for each of the last six years, or a ton of file folders, if you’re an organizational nerd. Kids get to say ‘I lost it.’ Financial adults don’t have that option. The graduating test will be whether you can find your tax return from 2011, or a bank statement from February within 10 minutes.

13..You are taking specific steps every month to pay off your existing debt, excluding your mortgage. You are paying more than minimum payments and your total debt is shrinking each month. You have a specific month and year that you’re working towards when you will be debt free except your home.

14..In the past year you have made at least one call to dispute a charge, ask for a lower rate, or comparison shop. If you don’t know how to stand up for your money – others will gladly keep taking it from you.

15..If you’re in a committed relationship, you and your partner spend at least an hour each month without the TV or kids discussing your money, savings, bills, purchases and budget. Kids spend – financial adults have a plan and communicate.

16..You have at least two specific and measurable financial goals. Saving more in my RRSPs, or paying off my credit card isn’t a financial goal – it’s a dream. It needs to be specific: Saving $150 a month in RRSPs is specific and measurable. Reducing my credit card balance by $200 or more every month until it’s paid off is a measurable and specific goal.

17..At least once each month you have the self-confidence to say no to an expense. It may be at work, to your kid, or to yourself. If you don’t know (or don’t want to) say no or say that you can’t afford it, or don’t need it you’re doomed to have your money continue to control your life, instead of the other way around. Setting boundaries is what financial adults do.

18..On anything expensive you shop around before committing to a debt or a bill. That includes interest rate shopping, your insurance, cell phone contract, and your credit card interest rate if you always carry a balance. Kids impulse buy until they’re out of money – financial adults don’t spend until they’re broke. If you do – you can skip the other items and save a bunch of time and effort – you’re doomed to be broke for years to come.

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.

It’s RRSP Deadline This Week

Ah, the annual week of feeling the pressure to contribute to your RRSP with the hundreds of TV and radio ads is upon us. But stop a second and think:

Last week the National Post/BMO survey came out showing where we put our money once we’ve invested in an RRSP or a Tax Free Savings Account and 57% of all the money is in cash and 23% is in GICs. WHAT?

The no-service banks have spent millions of dollars this month to guilt you into contributing to your RRSP and you probably fell for it. But 80% of the money stays there and makes you no return? That’s crazy! At half a percent interest, your money will double in 140 years! Even if you’re getting a 1% GIC return, it doubles in 70 years. Is that when you’re retiring?

Banks are like airports. You go to the airport in order to get someplace. You don’t go there just to hang around for a few weeks. Banks are the place to park your money for a bit, to have a chequing account, and your emergency savings account. Banks are not the place to do investments.

Think of it this way: You donate your $5,000 RRSP money to a teller or someone in a fancy office that’s on commission. But banks keep less than 10% of it in cash. More than 90% is lend right back out on a 4% mortgage, a 6% car loan, or 20% credit card. THEY sure know what to do to make the money grow and it’s almost all free money.

It’s the best legal scam in the world: You get half a percent – they lend it out and make between 4 and 20 percent. That’s great if you‘re the bank – lousy if it’s you. If you own a clothing store, what’s your biggest expense? It’s getting clothes into inventory so you can sell them at retail. If you own a gas station, what’s your biggest expense? It’s getting the gas at wholesale into the tanks that you can then sell at a profit. But when 80% of the money isn’t making you a return, it’s as though you’ve given the banks free money to lend out, or the clothing store free inventory they can sell!

To add insult to injury, you probably have debts that you’re paying interest on. On one hand you’re locking up that $5,000 at no return while paying out that same 4 to 20% with the other hand. What’s the best way for lenders to make sure you never pay extra or pay off your debts? It’s by keeping you broke. When you pay money into your RRSP you have a lot less money to pay on your debts. That’s a no-brainer since you don’t have an unlimited income. So the banks not only get free money to re-lend, they’re also making sure you won’t become debt free for a long time to come – and that locks in the profits in interest you’ll pay for a lot more years.

Someone please tell me how it makes any sense to save while you’re in debt. When you retire you’ll have some savings and an equal or larger amount of debt – makes no sense. Get out of debt and then you can save some serious money and really quickly – money you used to send to everybody else at 4 to 20% interest.

Since we’re going to run out of time, next week I’ll give you some investment tips, tricks, and alternatives to actually make your money grow instead of helping the banks to grow their $10 billion a year in profits.

It’s RRSP Time – But You Shouldn’t Contribute This Year

There’s a news story this week that most Canadians want to put some money into RRSPs but don’t have the cash. That’s great news!

If you want to be a doctor, you’re not doing surgeries today. You’re getting your MD, and then you’re ready to do surgeries. In the same way, it’s not the other way around with paying off your debts versus savings. It’s pointless to put some money into RRSPs while you’re in debt, or to send $200 to Visa and the next day put $200 into your savings account. Just send the $400 to Visa and get done with it. Then, and only then, can you focus 100% on getting wealthy and save the whole $400 a month.

If you have debts, forget savings and your RRSP for a year or two. Your tax deduction and interest aren’t going to equal the interest you’ll save by paying down your debts. But this is not about math – this is about behaviors and it’s 80% psychological. If it was about math, you wouldn’t sign up for a stupid 20% credit card or owe on your line of credit a decade later.

And if you think that borrowing to put money into your RRSP is a good idea, you’re doomed to be in debt for a very long time to come. You must be kidding? You’re broke, in debt, and your best thinking figures that the solution is MORE debt? Hello? If that’s what some financial person at the bank or wherever is telling you – run away fast! That person is on commission. They are making money from selling you to borrow. They’ll make money on the loan, on the RRSP, on commissions up front, and on trailer fees. THAT is the person you’re going to listen to? You have to be kidding me.

I’ve seen it hundreds and hundreds of times when people attempt to put a little into their RRSP, pay $20 extra on the credit card and juggle savings and debt. It won’t work – guaranteed. You save $50 in an RRSP and just think: That doesn’t add up to squat and you’re right. You pay $50 extra on your credit card and realize: That’s not worth the effort and I’m not getting anywhere so what’s the use – and you’re right. That shotgun approach won’t work. It takes 100% focus and commitment to one thing! Take a step back from savings and only focus on getting every debt paid off except your house. THEN you’ll have so much freed up money you’ll end up with five or 10 times as much into savings as trying to do everything off the bat.

Guaranteed, you’ll become debt free in a year or two, but only if you follow the steps one at a time:

Step one: 1 week of your net pay in an emergency savings account. It’s more than 60% of people have and turns your next emergency into an inconvenience.

Step two: Get debt free on everything but your mortgage. No more credit cards or borrowing – it hasn’t worked so far in your life. List your debts smallest to largest. Pay minimum payments on everything but the smallest.  That smallest bill gets every spare dollar you have. That’ll  pay it off in just a few months. Then onto the next smallest and you’re not looking up until all your debts are paid off.

Step three: 3 months of all your monthly expenses in the full emergency account

Step four: Save 10-20% in investment and retirement money

Step five: Now start paying extra on your mortgage.

If you want to reinvent the wheel and do it differently – good luck to you. E mail me in three or four years when you’re right back to where you were today – honest!

Dollar Cost Averaging Your Investments

As we head into year end, and the RRSP season, lots of people are going to make a one-time annual contribution. Others are scrambling to get an RRSP loan so they can have the tax receipt. Both of those give someone an instant pot of cash to invest. In the case of an RRSP loan it also makes sure that person really doesn’t have the money to contribute because they’re making payments on last years’ loan. Not a good idea. I’d rather have them not contribute for one year and start immediately on a monthly plan for next year, which is actual real money, and not borrowed.

But for both these examples, a ton of people will have one lump sum of money to invest.
While we normally do not talk about investments, there was a story a couple of weeks ago that was so powerful it is worth sharing and certainly timely. While I believe investing comes after becoming debt free, except the mortgage, many people are in that enviable position.

One of the Wall Street Journal writers recently went back to the great depression and figured out how an investor would have made out in a market that went down 89% from its peak.
He took an index fund of 500 companies and calculated the returns. Now the story we hear in the media is that an investor at the height of the market in 1929 would have taken until 1954 to get back to even. Sick story, and probably enough to keep most people out of investing.

But someone who dollar cost averaged did incredibly well in a bad market. Dollar cost averaging is taking the same amount of money and investing it each and every month. The months the market is up, that money just buys less shares. The months the market is down, it buys more shares. So over time, it rides the peaks and valleys of the market.
Now, someone who started investing $100 a month at the absolute height of the market in September 1929 would probably be a huge loser, right? Wrong. Starting the worst week in the stock market with the same investment every month, that person was already even again in 1933. Now remember, those who dumped their money in all at once took until 1954 to break even. By 1936, still in the depression, the dollar cost averaging person had doubled their money. And by 1954 when everyone else was just back to even, they were up ten fold!

The difference is that you either pick the 5th horse in the 7th race or you are betting every horse in every race. Which one do you think is the guaranteed winner?

Want To Invest or Need to Cash Your RRSP?

Last week, the home improvement giant Lowe’s made a $1.7 billion offer to buy Rona. If you owned the stock, it immediately went up to around the offer price of $14.50 a share. Nice deal – but it doesn’t change what we’ve always talked about: Buying an individual stock is gambling and not investing. You’re betting on the 5th horse in the 7th race! Don’t do it.

Good growth mutual funds with a long-term track record are investing, as is a five year or longer time horizon. If you’re buying one stock, it’s gambling. If you know that – do it. But don’t do it with your RRSP money. Do you need a reminder about the Facebook stock offering now down about 40% or the Zynga hot stock down 70%, and not done dropping yet, or a bunch of others?

I do have to confess that Monday I had hoped Rona would just close their doors. Four people in the North East Calgary store wouldn’t do a thing to help my brother and myself. In my experience, Home Depot’s slogan should change to: You can do it and…well, good luck.” But Rona? When my kind and patient brother, who’s a Pastor, walks out, that’s a real problem. That kind of customer no-service is on par with the no service banks and cell carriers!

Fortunately, the fourth Rona store later, I ended up on MacLeod Trail in Calgary and met Angie and Dana. Over one hour these two ladies helped me locate a large amount of shelving AND found it in stock about a mile up and eight isles over. Part of my life is teaching seminars on customer service all over the world. Now I have two Rona stories, but if you’re in and around Calgary – make the drive to the McLeod Trail store, even if you’re in the North East!

Step Away From That RRSP!

According to a recent survey from Scotiabank, a quarter of all Canadians are actually cashing in some of their RRSPs before retirement. Say it ain’t so as the old expression goes.

The three main reasons given are to purchase a home, which is the homebuyer plan, under which you are essentially borrowing the money from your own RRSP and using it for the down payment of your principal residence. Then each tax year, you’re required to pay one-fifteeth of it back until it’s all back in your RRSP. That might be fine – it’s kind of like borrowing from yourself, even though you’re out the interest accumulated.

The other two main reasons are for daily living expenses and to pay off debt. THAT is a problem. Here’s why:

Let’s assume you want to cash $4,000 to pay off some old bills. The first thing that happens is that 10% is deducted as withholding off the top. Because you received a tax deduction when you made the contribution, you now have to pay tax to get it out again. In a 30% tax bracket, $1,200 comes right off the top as withholding. So the bottom line is that this $4,000 you wanted is really $2,800 in your pocket. With me so far?

It gets worse. So it’s saved you some interest and financial pressure to pay off these bills. But you no longer have these savings growing and compounding and here’s what you’re really out:

This $4,000 left alone would double every 7 years at just a 10% return. So today’s $4,000 is $8,000 in 7 years, which is $16,000 in 14 years and $32,000 in 21 years. Nothing for you to do but sit back and watch it grow! That is if you hadn’t cashed it.

The bottom line? You got your hands on $2,800 and it’s cost you $32,000 just 21 years from now. It’s one of the most expensive ways to get your hands on some cash.

Yes, people do it – but there are lots of ways to relieve the financial pressure and NOT cash the RRSPs. After all, knowing is always better than hoping and a $20 investment in the It’s Your Money book to get the tools and insights has to be better than being out $32,000.

You are robbing a lot of tomorrows to pay for yesterday – don’t do it.