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Breaking down my retirement portfolio

I’ve been asked to talk about my Retirement Portfolio and investments, so I’ll do my best. I’ve previously written a 3-part series on how I got started with investing (which you can read here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), but I’ve never really gone farther than that.

I explained in that 3-part series that for the first few years of investing, I was completely lost. Sure, I was saving a little bit of my money each month, but I really didn’t understand anything about what I was doing. 10 years later, I have just broken the $100,000 barrier to my Retirement Portfolio (yay!) and I feel like I have a good grasp on my goals and how to get myself there.

Breaking down the numbers

I’ve spoken a few times about how much I invest each month. I started off by putting away just $25/month into my RRSP while I was getting out of debt and working my first job out of college. Now, I’m investing about $1,760/month towards retirement.

It’s taken me a while to get up to that amount, but I’m really proud that over the past 10 years, saving for retirement has remained my biggest financial goal. And despite continuing to increase my contributions, I can still have a good life – which includes buying and (eventually) paying off our condo early, traveling multiple times a year, and never feeling deprived. Of course a lot of that has to do with the fact that I do make a comfortable income, but I didn’t always, and that has been a work in progress too.

So anyway let’s break down the money I’m saving:

  • TD Canada Trust RRSP ($650)
  • TD Canada Trust TFSA ($215)
  • Questrade TFSA ($270)
    • This account is made up of a couple of individual stocks I’m playing around with, but most of the account is in ETFs, following the Canadian Couch Potato ‘Assertive’ portfolio model for ETFs. I’m actually using only Vanguard ETFs as that is what he had listed a few years ago as his model portfolio, and am just going to keep going with that for now.
    • Contribute bi-weekly through auto-deduction, but only actually making purchases once every few months.
  • Corporate RRSP ($375)
    • This is my company’s retirement match program. I’ve chosen their ‘Aggressive’ portfolio model.
    • Contributions are automatically deducted from my bi-weekly pay cheques.
    • The amount listed above includes the corporate match amount.
  • Corporate SPP ($250)
    • This is my company’s Share Purchase Plan, where a % match is provided
    • Contributions are automatically deducted from my bi-weekly pay cheques.
    • The amount listed above includes the corporate match amount.

Basically I’m just doing whatever Dan Bortolotti tells me to do. :) Actually, while that really is true, I came to that conclusion after doing a lot of research on my own. Also, some of you know that I was lucky enough to get to work with a “fee only” financial advisor through my job with the Toronto Star, and after analyzing my finances, he offered up basically the same portfolio options. That gave me the confidence that I was on the right path.

Related: Is it possible to save too much for the future?

Taking advantage of opportunities

You can see that, while my work doesn’t provide me with a pension, they offer up a decent amount of free money to employees who want to take advantage of it. I’m currently maxing out the corporate match for both the RRSP and the share purchase plan, and will continue to do so because I thoroughly enjoy free money. :) Those contributions currently provide a really big chunk of my monthly retirement savings, which I’m extremely grateful for. And while I can’t really touch the RRSP, I’m basically free to sell my shares in the SPP.

Having fun

Having my Retirement Portfolio basically on auto-pilot might be a dream come true for some people, but I find it kind of boring. I love being active with my finances, and you can’t exactly do that with mutual funds and ETFs. :) So I give myself a (very) small allowance to play with buying stocks. Right now I’m only invested in two individual stocks for an amount totalling just over $2,000. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to keep things fun and interesting (without jeopardizing my future haha).

Related: Why 20-somethings might have difficulties retiring by 65

The goal

My goal has always been to retire early. I am three years younger than RD and I want to be able to retire by the time he hits his retirement age of 57. Right now I’m on pace to retire by 52, and I feel like it’s not out of reach to be able to retire by 50 since my salary will (presumably) keep increasing as I continue on with my career. I may not retire once I’m financially able to do so, but just knowing that I could is, to me, the definition of financial freedom. So that will continue to be my goal.

What are your retirement and investing goals?

Is it possible to save too much for the future?

DSC00843Back in December, I shared my panic about not saving enough for early retirement. I was putting away $950 each month back then, and once employer contributions kicked in, that increased to $1,200. Because of my little panic attack, I increased it again to $1,350/month for January, and then in another surge of panic in that same month, increased it yet again to where it currently sits at $1,685/month.

And even though I’m not stretching myself thin by contributing $1,685/month (which includes employer contribution), I couldn’t help but ask myself two important questions:

  1. Could I be saving less into retirement and more into my general savings? If I don’t actually need to be saving this much money to reach my goal of early retirement, would I be better off setting that money aside for a down payment on a future home? Or spending more of it on life (which basically means travel)?
  2. If I continue saving at this rate, could I potentially retire earlier than the 55-57 age that I’m currently targeted?

Even though I’ve been saving for retirement for 10 years already, and early retirement is my number one financial goal, I really don’t think I’ve ever grasped the actual reality of retirement. I’ve just kind of been wildly throwing money into my portfolio in the hope that it would fund whatever lifestyle I choose to have. But the thing is, I’ve always known what I want. Maybe I can’t picture the details exactly, but I know the feeling.

Related: What does retirement mean to you?

I wrote this back in 2013 and it still feels so true to me:

Retirement to me means having the freedom to do whatever I want to do, without the obligation to work for a living. I guess you could call it financial independence, rather than retirement. Who knows what I’ll be up to! But whatever it is, it’ll be my choice, and it won’t be based on the need to bring in an income.

Most experts say you want to replace 70% of your pre-retirement income in order to live comfortably. Which is what I’ve always been aiming for. 70% of my income right now would conservatively be about $55-60k. But the issue I’m having is, that number seems really, really high. And I’m beginning to realize that your retirement calculations should be based on your pre-retirement SPENDING, rather than your income. Right?

Because, come on. I’ve never in my life spent $55-60k in one year! I’m living quite comfortably right now on 35-40% of my income (and that includes paying rent) in Canada’s most expensive city. So if I have no rent/mortgage to pay during retirement, and I live a good life right now, why on earth would I ever need 70% of my current income during retirement?

Related: Why 20-somethings might have difficulties retiring by 65

Sure, unexpected costs will always creep up on you. So let’s say on the high end, I’ll want 50% of my income during retirement. I’m a cautious person, and there’s always a degree of uncertainty to life – so the extra padding would be nice. But that’s still a lot less than the 70% I’ve been stressing myself out to obtain.

My goal for this month is to take a really good look at my retirement plan, my current contribution rate, and what that means for my goal of early retirement. I don’t know if I’ll end up changing anything, but I do think it’s an important exercise. And if anything, it might calm me down a bit. :)

Do you have a favourite online retirement calculator?

The goal of early retirement

At least once a year I have bit of a breakdown about my early retirement plan. Even though I run the numbers every year to make sure I’m still on track, I somehow end up convincing myself that I’m not saving enough. This happened last week, and I promptly took an entire evening away from packing up my house to play in spreadsheets and run numbers through about a million online retirement calculators. I also tried to share my panic and frustration with RD, but because he’s got a nice government pension waiting for him when he retires, he didn’t really understand where I was coming from.

Early retirement is my number one financial goal. Right now my goal is 55-57. This has been what I’ve wanted since I started taking a keen interest in my finances back in 2006, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. But what does retirement actually look like? Taken from a 2013 post I wrote, retirement to me means having the freedom to do whatever I want to do, without the obligation to work for a living. I guess you could call it financial independence, rather than retirement.”

Freedom. It’s a word I’ve been using a lot lately. I recently freed myself from my mortgage, and the lifestyle I desire now (as well as in retirement) allows me the freedom to make whatever choices I want to make. I want my life to be open to all opportunities, and perhaps as I get older, those opportunities will become more defined.

Related: Why 20-somethings might have trouble retiring by 65

I may not know what retirement looks like for me from a day-to-day point of view just yet (because a lot can happen in the next 25 years), and that’s okay. Right now, I want to live in a small (tiny) home in (or near) my hometown. But just like in life, I don’t think retirement needs to look a certain way in order to be happy. I may have this exact lifestyle for the rest of my life until I die. Or maybe a family is in my future. Or maybe as soon as I retire, I’ll want to move somewhere exotic or travel the world with my husband. I guess the point is, it doesn’t matter what I want to do when I’m older, it just matters that I’m taking the steps now to allow me the freedom to make those choices later.

Back in 2006, I was saving $50/month towards retirement. I’ve come a long way since then, but the $950/month I’m currently saving is still not enough. Once employer contributions kick in, that amount will increase to $1,200. If my average annual salary is around $80k, and I want to be saving 20% of my gross income towards retirement, then I should be at about $1,350/month.

I’ve got some time to think about it before I set my 2016 goals, but I’m fairly confident that I can save that amount, as well as save for travel and any other savings goals that may come up (my total savings rate should be about 50-60%). I’m just not sure how to adjust my auto-debits, as my income can fluctuate quite a lot from month to month.

How much are you putting away towards retirement? 
Does the amount you’re saving align with your retirement goals?

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