Five years ago, financial
blowhard advisor Kurt Rosentreter published a newsletter with the daunting title, “Canadian 30 Year Olds Are Screwed.”
The author displayed the kind of “get off my lawn” finger wagging attitude all too common in generational wars; using ridiculous and patronizing claims like, “people spend more time on the Internet than their finances,” all while being baffled that high school students aren’t being taught the ins and outs of disability insurance.
Apparently 25-year-olds didn’t get the message back in 2011 because Rosentreter is trotting out the exact same newsletter today, which includes the same scary message about our doomed generation (and a neat piece on interest rates being a ‘ticking time-bomb’).
Then he added this scorching hot take:
Sadly many people prefer to watch Dancing With the Stars than to tackle important money planning goals. #personalfinance
— Kurt Rosentreter, CA (@KurtRosentreter) March 28, 2016
Ugh. I can’t even.
I get it. The number of financial responsibilities facing this age group can seem overwhelming. Getting married, having kids, and raising a family is expensive enough. Now factor in building an emergency fund, paying down the mortgage, setting aside money for retirement, saving for your child’s education, and everything else that comes along with improving your finances. It’s a tall order – I’ve been there!
But let’s skip the scaremongering and over-generalizations and get to some common sense advice.
How do 30-somethings balance debt pay-down, saving, and investing with the everyday costs of supporting a family? Start by setting up a simple plan for each of these categories to ensure that you are on the right financial path.
Streamline Your Mortgage
Those at the tail end of Gen X and the beginning of Gen Y entered the housing market at the peak of the real estate boom with long amortization periods and little-to-no down payments.
Here are two quick fixes to help pay off your balance faster and save on interest.
The first is to switch your payments from monthly to bi-weekly. On a $300,000 mortgage at 5% interest amortized over 30 years, switching to bi-weekly payments costs just $133 more each month and saves thousands of dollars and more than five years off the life of the mortgage.
The second tip to help streamline your mortgage for the future is to switch to a variable interest rate, but maintain your payments at the fixed interest rate. Using this strategy while interest rates remain low will further reduce the principal on your mortgage while still giving you a cushion in case interest rates start to rise.
Utilize Your TFSA for Short Term Savings
A Tax Free Savings Account allows you to contribute up to $5,500 per year and withdraw from the account anytime without paying any taxes on your gains. For someone in their 30’s with many competing short term financial priorities, the TFSA is the perfect savings vehicle.
As a couple, make it a priority to contribute and fully fund at least one of your TFSA accounts each year. Create a list of short-term goals that need to be addressed in the next 1 – 3 years and use your TFSA stash to pay in cash.
Your list might include anything from buying a new car, to doing some minor renovations or repairs in the house, taking a family vacation or upgrading your furniture. You don’t want to go into debt for something you could have easily planned for a year or two in advance.
Contribute to an RESP
An RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan) is a great way to begin saving for your child’s education. The mistake many 30-somethings make is to try and maximize their RESP contributions before they get their own finances under control.
After your child is born, make sure you get the account open and take advantage of any initial grant money, but then simply contribute what you can afford in the beginning.
Use some of the money you receive from the Canada child tax benefit to start contributing to an RESP. Start with as little as $25 a month and increase the contributions as your budget allows.
Once you can comfortably afford it, bump your RESP contributions up to $2,500 per year. That will get you the maximum annual government grant (CESG) of $500.
Saving for Retirement
With so many competing financial priorities it’s easy to see why 30-somethings might put retirement savings on the back-burner. The good news is that you’ll have plenty of time to get your retirement on track once your short-to-medium term finances are in order.
Setting up an RRSP is simple and with low cost index funds like TD E-Series you can start contributing small frequent amounts to help build your retirement fund. Like with RESPs, start with what you can afford and then slowly increase the amount until you are contributing at least 10% of your income.
One thing to make sure you take full advantage of is an employer-matching savings program. Some employers match your RRSP contributions dollar-for dollar up to a certain percentage of your salary. Calculate that amount and make sure you can contribute at least that much in order to get the full match from your employer.
You can’t beat free money, or a 100% return on your investment.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
There are so many financial pressures facing 30-somethings today that it’s no wonder why the so-called experts question what the future holds for this generation.
Buying a home, maximizing every savings vehicle, and retiring by 50 is probably out of reach for most 30-somethings without making major sacrifices for the next few decades.
But that doesn’t mean 30-year-olds are screwed today.
The key to handling money in your 30s is striking the right balance – where every aspect of your finances can be set-up for small, continuous, measurable improvements.
If you can do this, while taking care of everything else that comes with raising a young family, you can help dispel the rumours of our doomed financial future. Heck, you might even have time to watch Dancing with the Stars 🙂