Monday, January 4, 2010

Paying Down Debt vs. Savings

The great Canadian conundrum – live for today or tomorrow? In an era when money is tight and many families have to make tough financial decisions, the question of priorities arises. How much should one save for the future? How should one juggle his current needs with future needs?

Certainly, young couples face this dilemma. By trying to squirrel away retirement money and manage a young household, many couples begin to choke. Experts advise that the best strategy is to erase debts before saving money. Start by paying down credit card bills. The result is a guaranteed after-tax return of 18%. No RRSP will offer that rate of return! Try, as well, to whittle down the mortgage. Once these debts are out of the way, you can re-direct the money into your RRSP.

In addition to the debt-first strategy, the next step, once you're ready to invest, is to prepare yourself for the inevitable. Since you can't predict the future, try to be in control of your options as best as possible.

Plan your investments with some foresight. Rather than look for the best deal today, try and decide what your future needs will be and work backwards. Invest in ways that will best fit your needs. Try to find the best mix of stocks and bonds for you and stick to that mix. Markets shift but your long term consistency should work to your benefit. Also, try and limit your risk. Some is necessary but everything in moderation. Consider a 60-40 mix of stocks and bonds. Once a year, take some money from the more profitable side and bolster the lagging side. This way, you will always buy low and sell high.

Remember the sage advice – be in control of your money; don't let your money control you!

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