In a tough year for personal finance, what’s normal for debt and saving? – The Globe and Mail

January 7, 2023 by No Comments

A lot of personal finance exists in an idealized world where people keep debt to a strict minimum and take a maximal approach to saving and investing.

We have just started a year where a lot of people will compare their own situations to the ideal and feel like they don’t measure up. Nothing good will come of this – just frustration, shame and disengagement.

What we need is a benchmark showing what’s normal in each age group for debt, savings and investments and net worth. Millennials could compare their mortgage balance to other millennials, Gen Xers in their 50s could compare their retirement savings with their peers and boomers could compare the value of their tax-free savings accounts.

We plan to build an online tool that will show you all of this in early 2023. To help us get started, please fill out the questionnaire that follows. It’s 100 per cent anonymous – we just want your age bracket and the specifics of what you owe and what you have in savings and investments.

With these numbers in hand, we will build a tool that invites people to compare their personal finances to their peers. Find out what’s normal for your age bracket and see how you compare.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list

Best in banking – credit cards, savings accounts and more

MoneyGenius announces its 2023 picks in seven different financial categories. Worth a look if you want to assess the products you already have, or if you’re looking for something new. Here’s a list of the best credit cards, as chosen by

High interest rates put a different spin on TFSAs

Before 2022, it was hip to scoff at the idea of keeping savings in a tax-free savings account as opposed to investments. High interest rates mean it’s time to reassess TFSAs for savings.

A letter to young investors

An investing blogger writes a note to young investors just starting out about the mistakes he made and the lesson he learned. His comments about getting rich quickly are particularly important. This blog post was inspired by a similar letter written by Globe contributor John Heinzl earlier this year.

Books for beginners

A list of the best investing books for beginners, as chosen by the Savvy New Canadians blog. The first two are a great place to start learning about investing. Now for a simple, practical guide for rookie investors.

Ask Rob

Q: When people talk about safe withdrawal rates in retirement and use, say, a figure of 3.8 per cent, does that mean only capital, or dividends plus capital? For example, my total portfolio throws off about 4 per cent in dividends, and I spend that. Does that count as the 3.8 per cent withdrawal?

A: This is a smart question because it asks for additional detail on a common theme of retirement planning, which is the percentage of your savings that can be withdrawn every year without having to worry about running out of money. I looked at a number of articles on this topic and they’re not precisely clear about where the 3.8 per cent, or whatever amount, is supposed to come from. My take is that you should consider the withdrawal on a total return basis, which means dividends, bond interest and capital combined. In this case, the 4 per cent dividend yield covers the withdrawals. A dividend yield of 2 per cent would mean that bond interest and the proceeds from selling assets are needed to make up the rest of the annual RRIF withdrawal.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Today’s financial tool

An introduction to investing from the B.C. Securities Commission, including a look at DIY investing, using an investment adviser and robo-advisers.

The Money-Free Zone

A Seinfeld scene set to music from the TV show Twin Peaks. Just as weird as you imagined. A tribute to the work of composer Angelo Badalamenti, who died recently.

Watch this

A set of videos covering personal finance and investing basics. The videos were developed by The Chang School at Ryerson University and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada with help from the Ontario Securities Commission.

In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance-related stories
  • Do retirees need to pay for private health insurance?
  • Your New Year’s resolutions should include the five pillars of tax planning
  • Living with roommates is no longer just for students or 20-somethings. Canadians’ strained finances are to blame

More Rob Carrick and money coverage

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