Consider something other than dropping a few pounds or calling the kids and grandkids more often. Resolve to think money instead!
1. Pay Down Debt
Surveys indicate that our demographic is accumulating debt faster than any other age group. The Vanier Institute of the Family said in its 2013-14 report The Current State of Canadian Family Finances that the percentage of people age 65 and up who are carrying debt almost doubled from 27.4 per cent in 1999 to 42.5 per cent in 2012. For those aged 55 to 64, the percentage jumped from 60.9 to 70.2. This is a dangerous trend. Get ahead of the problem before it becomes acute. Resolve to put aside so much a month toward debt reduction, starting with the highest cost debt – credit cards.
2. Save More
Paying down debt is priority No. 1. But if you’re fortunate enough not to have any, resolve to save more money this year, especially if you are not yet retired. Although the Vanier Institute report found that retirement saving has become a top financial priority for Canadians, many people are saying they will have to keep working past 65. The 2014 Sun Life Canadian Unretirement Index Report found that only 28 per cent of respondents expected to be retired at age 66. Almost two-thirds said they would still be working because they need to, not because they want to. That’s scary. The best way for most people to save for retirement if they’re under 71 and don’t have a pension plan is with an RRSP. Resolve to set up an automatic monthly contribution plan at your bank or credit union. If you’re over 71 or already retired with no earned income, use a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). You can contribute up to $6,000 a year plus any carry-forward room you have since the plans were created in 2009.
4. Minimize Taxes
If you grumble about the amount of tax you pay each year, see what you can do to reduce it. Whole books have been written about ways to cut the tax bill. Buy one. Think of it as a New Year’s present to yourself.
5. Make Charitable Contributions
Ideally, this should be a pre-New Year’s resolution. You’ll save tax dollars while helping others at the same time. Every year I sit down at my computer during the week after Christmas and make online donations to worthy organizations. You’ll get a tax receipt by e-mail almost immediately. Just be sure to finish before midnight on Dec. 31 if you want to make the claim for the following tax year.
6. Don’t Invest in Anything You Don’t Understand
Every year people get scammed out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. We hear a lot of warnings about that. But we don’t hear as much about following bad investment advice and putting money in complicated securities that even an economist would have trouble deciphering. Usually, only the promoters and advisers end up making money. Keep it simple!
7. Use Technology
There are all kinds of electronic tools available to help you manage money better. You can download budget matrixes, calculators, apps, and tax software, in some cases free. There are great financial websites like getsmarteraboutmoney.ca. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to handle money successfully. Just use someone else’s brainpower.
With that, a happy and prosperous New Year to all!
Gordon Pape is the editor and publisher of The Income Investor and the Internet Wealth Builder. His website is www.buildingwealth.ca.