Debt and Retirement

Hi all,

Today I woke up thinking about the future. The Canadian dollar keeps falling, my debt is going down but is still massive and I have not saved anything for retirement.

Ok, that last part is not entirely true. I have around $30K in assets. This contains cash, savings, TFSA savings and a $1,150 TFSA investment fund which I was proud to finally open a couple months ago. However, because of my current income situation, I am basically disregarding most of the amount I have saved, because I can easily see myself depleting the saved amount by a monthly average of $4K in the next 6 months, if things continue as is cash flow-wise.

Sad eeyore
Anyways, as I was saying, I have been thinking about my future. More specifically, I have been thinking about my lack of retirement savings.

Every time I think about retirement I think about finally starting to invest, to start that retirement savings train up. However, the thing that has always stopped me from turning the ignition is my debt. Even now, any gains made from my beginner investing in stocks and/or ETFs are likely to be less than the 8.13% interest rate on my high 5-figure US$ b-school loan. Also, the fees for a small-time novice investor like me are terrible.

However, I am 31 years old and self-employed. So, besides actually saving for a rainy month or few, I need to start saving for retirement. Properly. And that means dipping my toes in the investing water, in order to possibly pay off debt faster and mostly save more quickly for the future.

Unfortunately for me, one of the things business school confirmed was how much I dislike finance. I like accounting but hate finance. So my efforts in core finance classes were the bare minimum and I avoided finance electives like the plague. Well, unless they concerned venture capital and related topics. That I love! I am a techie after all so it would be bad to not care about venture capital. But besides VC stuff, most of what I learnt in finance classes has long since left my brain. Thus, whenever the thought strikes me to turn to investing to increase my net worth, I start regretting the fact that I don’t like finance at all. I usually then spend a ton of time reading investing sites and personal finance blogs to get tips for first time investors. This was the case today, and a couple months ago.

A couple months ago, I woke up with the same things on my mind as I did today. Two months ago, I decided to finally take the plunge. Or more like a little dip. I plopped $1,000 in a Tangerine TFSA Balanced Growth investment fund. The 3-year annualized return from it is 12.97%. I hope to pay off the remainder of my debt in 3 and a half years. If the fund continues as is or does better then I will come out ahead, even considering that investment money diverts from the b-school loan payments. If things end up a bit worse, I’m hoping it won’t be much worse than the 5-year fund return rate of 8.71%, which is still higher than my loan interest. And if things end up dismal, well you will understand my line of thinking about that in a couple sentences.

I also set up automatic monthly payments of $75 to the fund (today increased to $100).

In my mind, I could afford to risk losing the entire $1000 initial deposit and $100/mth is an amount I could also afford to lose if it ever came to it that I lost everything (Queen of Positive Thinking here, remember?). Today’s mind wandering into worrying-about-the-future got me thinking though that, instead of dumping 98% of my savings into savings accounts with no more than 1% interest, I should be putting more money in investing options. Even if I stick with a fund instead of doing my own thing, I am more likely to get a return greater than 1%.

At least 10% of my savings should go to investing!

So as a start, this upcoming year, if I ever start getting income again, I plan to put 10% of my savings into investing. I will start with the Tangerine Balanced Growth investment fund now and the Equity Growth one sometime in 2015, because they are tailor-built for lazy investors like me with assets under $50K. Then, maybe one day I will enter the world of self-managed investment portfolios.

EDIT: Thanks to reader ricodilello, I realized that it is better to put my money first into an RRSP, at least as it concerns paying off debt more quickly. As he highlighted in his comment on this post, if I put $5,500 in a TFSA fund and got a 10% return, I’d be looking at an extra $550/yr to pay down debt. However, if I put that same $5,500 in an RRSP savings account I would lower my taxes by over $1,500, which is basically the same as saying I’d get an extra $1,500 to pay toward debt. And if I went a step further and put that $5,500 in an RRSP investment fund then not only would I lower my taxes by $1,500 but I would also likely have a return, hopefully of at least $550 (10%).

Whatever the case though, all money invested will be untouchable. Separate and apart from an emergency fund. Once my money goes towards investing I will consider it dead to me, until retirement :).

sheepish smiling eeyore

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November Monthly Report – What’s Going On?

Hi all,

The news coming out of the US the past couple weeks have been depressing, especially as it concerns the Brown and Garner cases. Added to that is the fact that, after October, November was the month I took in the least amount of money since last year when I first started working for myself. So money is tight going into the holiday season. Also, the Canadian dollar is still struggling against the US. For these reasons, my mood going into the holidays is a bit somber.

With November being the second straight month of barely any incoming funds I was unable to put as much money towards debt. I cut down my expenses a little more too, as I am now on the path of spending as though I expect no income for 6 more months.

In fact, if I discount the money I gave my Mum and loan interest payments, in November I only spent $458 in total. Most of it was on health and dining out.

DINING EXPENSES

SEPTEMBER OCTOBER NOVEMBER
$440 $172 $133

I reduced my dining out by a bit. A good chunk of the dining spending above was work-related. The only non-work-related dining expense was treating my family to Popeye’s takeout one Saturday night ($55 fed close to ten people – there is a reason poor people eat a lot of fast food). I was lucky in that often my clients paid for lunch if we had a lunch meeting. However, sometimes I ended up buying my own lunch when my meeting was just before lunch time. A few other times I was good and packed my lunch with me when I knew my work meetings downtown were scheduled to be done at lunch time and I wanted to go work at the library afterwards. I may have to go back to packing my lunch more frequently if my situation continues as is.

ENTERTAINMENT EXPENSES (TRAVEL, DRINKING/PARTYING, RECREATION)

AUG SEP OCT NOV
$68 $0 $30 $13

That $13 was for a movie ticket.

If things continue as is I will have to suspend giving my Mum money and cut down further on dining as well as miscellaneous expenses, until I start receiving income again. For instance, no more delicious lattes every now and then at Starbucks – it will be all about the cheaper tea/bottled water during my meetings. Every little adds up when trying to cut down on spending! I had also been hoping to do a holiday trip (or rather, a January trip) somewhere but that doesn’t look possible at the moment.

On the bright side, since I am in the suburbs with my fam again, far away from the temptations of downtown living, and since it is cold again here in Canada, my desire to go out and spend money is much lower. So I am not yet really feeling the crunch.

Anyway, here is where things stood at the end of November:

NAME JULY 31, 2013 NOVEMBER 30, 2014
Mastercard $6,123 CAD $0 CAD
Visa $8,653 CAD $0 CAD
B-school loan $96,800 USD
($109,142 CAD)
$81,802 USD
($92,346 CAD)
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan $20,931 CAD $18,421 CAD
Student Line of Credit (LOC) $9,678 CAD $0
TOTAL $154,527 CAD $110,767 CAD

October’s balance was $112,940. So that means that in November I only paid off $2173, falling short of my minimum threshold of $2500/month. I am, nonetheless, thankful that I was still able to pay above the minimums for my loans (which combined currently equal around $1091), despite two low-to-no incoming cash flow months. And I’m very thankful that my situation is not so terrible yet.

In December, I hope I will be able to pay off enough to get to $45K paid off in 17 months.