It’s a new year, a time of renewal, a time when many of us make resolutions and set fresh goals. Whether your new year’s resolution involves losing weight, paying down or paying off debt, quitting smoking, or saving for retirement, resolutions not backed by solid plans of action are merely pipe dreams.

I encourage everyone to make a commitment in 2015 to Financial Fitness, and while financial fitness will mean different things to different people, we can all agree that savings or the absence thereof, will impact our financial fitness both today and in the future. The first step toward financial fitness is to take a look at your current financial situation, decide where you’d like to be, and then commit to a plan of action to get you there. This plan of action starts with a budget, and a recognition that creating a budget and committing to a budget are two different things.

Recently, I had dinner with two of my good friends who shared a little bit regarding how they arranged their financial affairs, and it is amazing what you can learn over a meal. First off, they treat savings as a bill they must pay every month and as such, savings is a top priority on their household budget. In fact, they pay themselves every month even before paying their mortgage. I found it interesting that not only do they contribute to RRSPs every year, but the money they get back when they do their taxe – instead of using it to go shopping in Buffalo – they use it to max out the contribution to their Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA). If you are getting back money from the Government, why not use some of that money to earn money that can never be taxed?

Two of the greatest features of your paycheque are reliability and predictability -you know how much money you are getting and when you will get it. This is something that anyone who has a defined pension plan through work will tell you that they really look forward to when they retire. The great thing about a pension is that it is guaranteed for life. My friends have no defined pension through work, and their bank cannot guarantee that their RRSPs and other investments will grow, let alone guarantee them income for life, so they transformed their retirement savings into a guaranteed pension for life by holding their RRSPs in a Guaranteed Minimum Withdrawal Benefit (GMWB) product. A GWMB is a unique product offered by a few insurance companies that guarantees you income for life, and takes a lot of the uncertainty out of retirement planning because you know how much money you will receive every year during retirement.

Achieving financial fitness is easier than you think, and if you are self-employed, or employed but have no pension plan at work, don’t want to worry about the ups and downs of the markets, and have accepted the reality that CPP and OAS will not provide enough income to sustain your lifestyle during retirement, then it is time to deflate the elephant in the room and commit to your financial fitness plan today.


About the Author

Karl Marshall is President of Marmac Financial Services Limited, an independent insurance and investment brokerage. He lives in the Durham Region and on Saturday nights he hosts The Party Mix on G98.7 FM in Toronto. You may contact him via email @marmacinsurance on Twitter or on Facebook.