This is the time of year when personal finances are always top of mind. Whether that be spending or saving… many of us are looking to make improvements to our personal finances.
Often spending and saving go hand in hand. A reduction in spending can mean more money for savings each month. A new savings method can mean it’s easier to avoid excess spending.
It doesn’t matter what age you are, or what stage of your personal finance journey you’re in, it’s often helpful to review spending and saving on a regular basis. Even for those of us who are natural budgeters, it can still be helpful to review spending and saving from time to time to ensure we stay on track. This type of regular “check in” can be very beneficial over the long-term.
There are some common saving methods that we feel are best practices. They make saving money easier to do. These strategies may not work for everyone but they are some of the best saving methods we’ve come across.
In this post we’ll cover a few of the best methods for saving money on a regular basis.
Starting a family is expensive. Estimates are thrown around that it costs in the low six figures to raise each child. Amounts like $100,000 or $200,000 per child are often quoted. While these are probably a bit dramatic, and include the opportunity cost of one parent staying at home, the fact is that starting a family can cause a number of changes to your personal finances.
Anticipating these expenses can ease the financial cost of starting a family (or at least make it a bit less stressful). If you know what’s coming, you can plan accordingly.
When you’re starting a family it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. There are lots of new things that need to be purchased and there’s a strong desire to do the best for your future family. All these emotions can mean that things sometimes get a bit out of control (I speak from personal experience!) Purchases for beds, strollers, car seats, clothing etc. etc. can quickly add up to thousands of dollars.
In addition to new purchases, families often go through major cash flow changes when starting a family.
On the income side, parental leaves from work can significantly reduce income when starting a family. Of course there are sometimes “top ups” from employers, but those only last for weeks or a few months at best, and employment insurance is only 55% to 33% of your pay up to the max (depending on if you choose the 12-month or 18-month option). Even with these programs there is often a large decrease in income when starting a family.
One the expenses side, the big one is of course daycare expenses. Daycare expenses last for a few years but for most families this expense will go away once kids start school. But even when daycare expenses disappear there are still ongoing expenses for things like food, clothing, activities etc. etc., and these can add up over time.
And if all of that wasn’t challenging enough, starting a family also comes with new tax advantaged accounts like the RESP and new government benefits like the Canada Child Benefit (CCB).
To avoid being too overwhelming let’s look at the six major ways that your finances can change when you’re starting a family and how you might go about making the best decisions for your financial future.
Everyone is talking about investment fees these days. There are ads on the radio, television, and online… there are podcasts, websites, blogs dedicated to low-fee investing… there are also books, magazines and research studies… all focused on one thing… how much the average investor pays in fees while saving for retirement.
But very few people are talking about the effect investment fees have on retirement itself. Mostly they talk about how fees impact you as you save for retirement, but very few mentions what happens if you continue to pay high fees as you enter retirement.
Fees definitely have an enormous impact on how much you can save for retirement. The average mutual fund fee is 2.35% in Canada, and that’s the average, there are lots of situations where the fee is even higher. The effect of this fee on a lifetime of savings and investments is enormous!
But what if you’re close to retirement? What is the impact then? Arguably the effect of investment fees on retirement planning is even greater than any other period.
Fees have an enormous effect on retirement planning because by the time we’ve reached retirement we’ve already saved up a huge nest egg. Unlike the accumulation phase, where you have limited assets in the beginning, when it comes to retirement, you’re starting with a huge amount of investment assets. This makes the impact of fees enormous, especially in early retirement.
The problem for retirees is that investment fees are hard to spot, hard to find, they’re almost hidden by investment providers, whether that is intentional or not. I’ve seen this on countless investment statements I receive from clients. Based on the statement alone you would NEVER know how much they’re paying in investment fees each year.
This isn’t an isolated issue, it’s a problem that many, many retirees face. Low-fee investing is a relatively new option in Canada. If you were investing 10-20+ years ago there just weren’t as many options to reduce your investment fees.
Many retirees who have high-priced investments are shocked (and somewhat saddened) to learn exactly how much they’re paying each year. It’s not their fault, this information is hard to find and not readily available to investors.
To figure out how much an investor is paying each year usually requires some digging. Mutual fund codes vary by fund and fund class. Sometimes fees can vary by 1% or more for the same mutual fund depending on the class.
But once you know how much you’re truly paying you can start to see the impact it will have on your retirement plans. There are two main effects that high fees can have on retirement, and the impact can be substantial.
Managing finances in a relationship is hard isn’t it? Financial issues are one of the most common factors leading to divorce. Two different people can have very unique views on money and partners in a relationship are no exception.
Everyone values money a little bit differently. We all spend money in different ways. You might prioritize good food while I might prioritize expensive clothes. Couples have different priorities when it comes to money and if those aren’t communicated then its easy for this to cause resentment, anger and frustration between partners.
My wife Sue and I have been managing our money together for 10+ years and I feel we’re pretty successful at it. We still have disagreements, and we each manage our money completely differently, but we have a good system in place to ensure we’re communicating regularly about our finances.
Recently Sue and I were on the Because Money podcast talking about how we manage money as a couple. Sue and I talked to Sandi Martin and John Robertson about a few of the things we do on a regular basis to make money less stressful for us as a couple. You can listen to the whole podcast, but I’ve summarized a few of the main things below.
It’s the new year! Time to kick start your finances!
This ten day routine will help you shift your finances into high gear. This routine is aggressive, ambitious, and a bit challenging. This routine will cover all the basics of a good financial routine. Having a routine for your money is one of the best ways to improve your finances this year.
If ten days seems like too much (and it probably is!) then consider spreading these steps over ten weeks or even ten months to make things a bit easier. The key is to find a pace that works for you. It’s better to take a bit more time if it means you’ll stick to your new routine.
If it seems daunting then consider pairing up with a friend, co-worker, or getting the help of a financial coach. At PlanEasy we offer custom financial coaching & advice for our clients. As a new client, we’ll create a 12-month program tailored specifically to you and your goals. If you struggle with your financial routine then a bit of coaching & advice might be exactly what you need to improve your finances this year.
You may have noticed a new term starting to creep into the mainstream financial media, that term is FIRE, and you might be wondering, “What the heck is FIRE? And how is it related to personal finances?”.
FIRE is an acronym that stands for Financial Independence/Retire Early. The basic idea is that if you pursue FIRE you can eventually stop working for money. You can be financially independent. You can do anything, retire early, keep working, volunteer, basically you can have more freedom.
The idea is that with enough savings/investments you’ll eventually reach the point where you can live off your investment income indefinitely. Once you reach this point you’re considered financially independent, you no longer NEED to work for an income, and can retire to a life of leisure (although you may choose to continue to work, change roles/professions, start a business, or volunteer).
While the concept of early retirement sounds amazing, it does take quite a bit of focus and determination to get there. To reach FIRE it requires a high savings rate, very high. The typical financial advice given to the public is to save and investment approximately 20% of your net income (part of the simple 50/30/20 budget). But to reach financial independence retire early you need to save more, much more. To reach FIRE you need to have a savings rate somewhere in the 30%-70%+ range. The higher your savings rate the faster you can stop working for money.
FIRE is made easier with an above average income. With a high-income basic expenses are covered and it becomes more about managing lifestyle inflation. People who pursue FIRE limit their lifestyle inflation to maintain a high savings rate.
FIRE is also possible with a below average income, but requires a lot of creativity to reduce basic expenses. This may include house hacking, avoiding car ownership, and more extreme lifestyles. To reach financial independence retire early with a low-income you need to live an alternative lifestyle.
Reaching FIRE is one of those extreme personal finance goals, it’s a goal that isn’t for everyone.
Even though the end goal sounds appealing it requires a lot of hard work and dedication along the way. Reaching financial independence retire early means living way below your means for the rest of your life. It’s a lifestyle more than it is an end goal. It’s a lifestyle with a lot of freedom, but it’s also a lifestyle that requires a lot of control.
If you’re able to control your spending, and save a large % of your income, then reaching financial independence might only be a few years away.
To find out roughly how far away from FIRE you are you can download our FIRE calculator. It’ll help you estimate how many years from FIRE you are based on your net-income, current expenses, and existing savings.
We’ve used our FIRE calculator to create four examples of how to reach FIRE.