Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canadians need evangelists for financial-planning gospel

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Darn... another week and another poll showing Canadians are woefully under-saving toward retirement and appear to be in complete denial about the realities.

The latest is the annual RRSP survey by BMO Financial Group showing one-third of respondents will "rely heavily" on their monthly CPP benefits for their retirement. Average benefits are in the range of $600 a month, not much to live on.

Polls each year by each of the banks suggest sometimes 50 per cent of Canadians say they intend to contribute to an RRSP or that saving for retirement is their top priority, but only about 26 per cent actually make the contributions.

Last year, 31 per cent of respondents said they did not plan on contributing to either their RRSP or TFSA, and that number is likely higher this year.

As often as not, the excuse is the high cost of living and how it's impossible to save.

Well folks, I've got news for you. If you can't make ends meet with the income you've got while working, you are really going to have some trouble in retirement.

Even if you are blessed with a good pension plan, supplementing that with some TFSA and unregistered savings will make your retirement a lot more enjoyable.

For people with no pension, it's time to get serious about RRSP contributions and other forms of retirement savings, or get used to Kraft Dinner in retirement.

I realize I'm speaking to the converted with this newspaper column. Statistics (recently made up by yours truly) show people who read Dollars and Sense are much better prepared for retirement than the average Canadian and are far more successful with their financial planning.

Now I think it's time for you to help change the world. We need a widespread movement of straight-thinking consumers and investors to facilitate social change.

You can help spread the word, becoming an evangelist for responsible financial management and foresight.

Think of it: You could (gently, of course, without lecturing or proselytising) talk about how planning ahead and saving money instead of borrowing has made your life less stressful and more rewarding.

You could talk about how financial planning has helped you refine your goals and priorities and then reach those objectives.

You could even chat about the amazing, positive effects of delaying gratification -- waiting for something you want, building the anticipation until you can actually pay cash for it.

You might even muse about the incredible insight you had when you realized the thing the advertisers convinced you that you absolutely must have was something you didn't actually want or need, and then you can wax eloquent about the wonderful feeling that overcame you when you instead put those savings into a cash reserve, and how that feeling changed your life and behaviour forever.

Yes, that's what people need -- some motivation and insight from their friends, family and peers. That's what will change the world in a positive way.

If you're with me so far and don't think I'm off my rocker, I'll even throw in an incentive:

The first five people who email me with an authentic-sounding story about how they motivated someone to make a positive change in their financial life will receive a free copy of my book, Managing the Bull, a great read with insights about detecting and deflecting the crap in personal finance.

So don't wait for the warm weather, do it now!


Dollars and Sense is meant as an introduction to this topic and should not in any way be construed as a replacement for personalized professional advice.

David Christianson, BA, CFP, R.F.P., TEP, is a financial planner and advisor with Christianson Wealth Advisors, a vice-president with National Bank Financial Wealth Management, and author of the book Managing the Bull, A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2014 B8

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