Financial Advice that No Longer Applies

A $1000 emergency fund is enough

There is tons of advice out there from money experts as to how much you should have in your emergency fund and it will vary on your ability to save based on your income as well as what you realistically need based on your expenses. Most experts recommend having 3-6 months of living expenses stockpiled away, while some more aggressively suggest having a full year’s worth of expenses saved.

One of Dave Ramsey’s well-known pieces of advice is to have an emergency account with $1000 in it before you start paying off any of your high interest debt. It’s not bad advice but it’s extremely arbitrary and very likely that it wouldn’t even come close to covering an emergency.

The goal of your emergency fund should be to minimize the long-term impact that an unexpected bill or job loss could make to your finances and while I believe that having 3-6 months of expenses saved up is the best route of action, I recognize that this isn’t possible for everyone and working towards having even a small emergency fund will help mitigate worst case scenarios like having to borrow money from a family member or take out a loan. 

If you’re looking to increase your emergency fund but don’t think you can increase your contributions, take a hard look at your income vs your expenses. Are there places you can trim, or things you can cut out entirely, even for a period of time to build up your emergency savings? Alternatively, could you increase your income through starting a side hustle or taking on a part-time job?

Save 10% of your paycheque

Again, this isn’t bad advice, but 10% should be considered your starting point.

Let’s say you’re 25 when you start saving for retirement in a TFSA or an RRSP, you earn $50,000 a year and plan to retire at the age of 65. You start saving 10% of your after tax income each month and end up with a sum of 390k at age 65 (taking into account a high investment growth rate of 6.26%) This sounds like a large sum but over a 30 year retirement, it may not be enough to sustain your lifestyle even with government benefits. Yes, this is not taking into account salary increases, bonuses or any other windfalls you may have, but it also isn’t taking into account other things that can happen like periods where you may not be working or years where expenses come up and you have less ability to save.

The most common guideline is to aim to replace 70%-90% of your pre-retirement income. This is personal based on your situation and what expenses you anticipate having in retirement. Will you still have car loan payments? Will your mortgage be paid off? It also begs the question, what KIND of a retirement do you want to have? Do you want to be able to take off at your leisure to sip mojitos in Cabo or visit the south of France? Or are you a happy homebody who plans on staying local and living a more minimalist or fixed lifestyle?

Talking about money is rude

Most of us grew up with the notion that talking about money is taboo, including myself. You don’t share good financial news (brag). You don’t share your salary with colleagues. You don’t ask how much your friend pays in rent even thought it might help you get perspective for your own search. WHY?

Here’s the thing: knowledge is power. When you collaborate, you are more likely to find resources and learn information that can help you become more financially savvy, get paid more or grow your wealth, just to name a few. People often feel a lot of discomfort around their relationship with money, sometimes feeling they don’t earn enough or are ashamed of their debt, but when you start having those conversations you’re more likely to find out that you’re not the only one struggling. And interestingly enough, not talking about money is the strongest amongst the middle class because they have the most anxiety over where they fall on the spectrum.

Not talking about money also has implications for your earning potential over your career. For example, equal pay for equal work. How do you know if you’re being paid fairly? How can you advocate for yourself effectively if you don’t even know where you stand? You don’t stand to benefit from not talking about money, but your company might (we all saw what happened with Conde Nast this year).

Remember that if you’ve ever had a question or a concern about money whether it be investing, saving or debt repayment, people in your life probably have too and they might stand to benefit from conversation as well.

Retire at 65

Technically speaking, the average retirement age across the public and private sectors in Canada is actually 63.6 but close enough.

With the gig economy and the FIRE movement amongst other things, retirement no longer looks the way that it used to and there is now more than one way to go about it. While there are still many folks who plan to retire at 65 (or are eyeing slightly earlier), there is also a growing population of people who plan on extending their working lives and never retiring, or conversely, those who have joined the FIRE movement and are aiming for an early retirement in their 30’s or 40’s through rigorous saving and investing habits.

There are also those who plan on taking mini retirements. Not to be confused with a vacation or a sabbatical, a mini retirement is taking time away from work for an extended period that is defined and clearly planned for to ensure your finances stay on track. Mini retirements can be as short as a few months or as long as a few years.

In short, we are redefining what we want out of retirement including when and how we get there. Those employed are also less likely to depend on their employer’s retirement accounts and lean more towards securing financial independence through their own actions.

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