There has been a lot of talk recently about the financial state of 30-somethings. Apparently the future does not look very bright for those of us caught at the tail end of Generation X and the beginning of Generation Y.
The amount of financial responsibilities facing this age group can seem daunting. Raising a family is expensive enough without having to worry about setting up an emergency fund, paying down the mortgage, putting away money for retirement, saving for your child’s education and everything else that comes along with improving your financial situation.
So how do you balance your savings and investments with the everyday costs of raising a growing family? You can start by setting up a simple plan for each of these categories to ensure that you are on the right financial path.
Streamline Your Mortgage
Many 30-somethings entered the housing market during the peak of the housing boom with long amortization periods and little –to-no down payments. Luckily there are two quick fixes you can make to your mortgage immediately to pay off your balance faster and save on interest.
The first is to switch your payments from monthly to bi-weekly. On a $300,000 mortgage at 5% interest amortized over 30 years, switching to bi-weekly payments would only cost you $133 more each month and would save thousands of dollars and over 5 years off the life of the mortgage.
The second way to help streamline your mortgage for the future is to switch to a variable interest rate, but maintain your payments at the fixed interest rate. Using this technique while interest rates remain low will further reduce the principal on your mortgage while still giving you a cushion for when interest rates start to rise again.
Utilize Your TFSA for Short Term Savings
The Tax Free Savings Account allows you to contribute up to $5,000 per year and withdraw that money anytime without paying any taxes on your gains. This is a perfect savings vehicle for someone in their 30’s who has many short term savings goals.
As a couple, make it a priority to contribute and fully fund at least one of your TFSA accounts each year. Create a list of short term goals that need to be looked after in the next 1 – 3 years and use this money to pay for these items in cash.
Your list might include anything from buying a new car to doing some minor renovations or repairs in the house, taking a family vacation or upgrading your furniture. You don’t want to go into debt for something you could have easily planned for a year or two in advance.
Contributing to an RESP
An RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan) is a great way to start saving for your child’s education. The mistake a lot of 30-somethings make is to try and maximize their RESP contributions before they even have their own finances under control.
After your child is born, make sure you get the account open and take advantage of the initial grant money, but then just contribute what you can afford in the beginning. If you are eligible for the Child Tax Benefit you can start an RESP with the Canada Learning Bond of $500 to begin with and contribute $100 a year until your child turns 15 years of age, without even putting a penny of your own money towards it.
Once you are comfortable increasing contributions to your child’s RESP you can maximize the account by contributing $2,500 per year, which will get you the maximum annual CESG of $500 in free money from the government.
Saving for Retirement
Retirement savings is the most common thing put on hold by most 30-somethings until they have a firm grip on everything else that comes with raising a family. There is still plenty of time to focus on saving for retirement once the rest of your finances are in order.
Setting up an RRSP is simple and with a low cost index fund like TD E-Series you can contribute as little as $25 per month towards your retirement account. Again start small with what you can afford and then slowly increase the amount until you are contributing about 10% of your income.
One thing to take full advantage of is an employer matching program. Some employers will match your RRSP contribution dollar-for dollar up to a certain percentage of your salary. Calculate that amount and make sure you are contributing at least that much in order to receive the full amount from your employer. You can’t beat 100% returns on your investment.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
There are so many financial pressures facing 30-somethings today that it’s no wonder the so-called experts doubt what the future holds for this generation. We can’t possibly maximize every savings vehicle and make extra mortgage payments without sacrificing the joy of creating memorable experiences and spending quality time with our families.
The key is to strike a balance in your 30’s where each aspect of your finances can be set-up for continuous improvement, all while taking care of everything that comes with raising a young family. It’s not an easy task, but if done properly you can help dispel the rumours of our doomed financial future.