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Investing over the years 6 min read

How to invest in your financial future at every age

Saving and growing funds takes time. Learn how to invest your years (and money) wisely.

They say change is the only constant in life. With this in mind, as you grow and evolve personally over time, so too should your savings goals, habits, and risk tolerance.


“I don't think you should ever really stop saving,” says Brian Shinmar, a Personal Banking Account Manager based in CWB’s Vancouver Banking Centre. “Rather, as you get older, your risk tolerance pulls back and you start focusing more on the income component of investing.”


Here, Shinmar shares how aligning your investment approach to your life stages can pay dividends when it comes to setting yourself up for long-term financial stability.


Build a life-long savings mindset


Starting out

Begin developing healthy financial habits early – like striking a balance between paying off your debts with saving for your future, and setting goals with a plan for how you’ll achieve them.


You’ll also want to get into the practice of saving a portion of your monthly income. This will stick with you as you move through different stages in life and provide a safety net so you’re prepared to act on an emergency or a good opportunity.


But don’t just invest it and forget it, advises Shinmar.

“Connect with a financial advisor and talk to them at least once a year – January or February is a good time to do that,” he says. “Together you’ll go over your savings goals, current investments and what the rest of the year looks like for you. It’s also RRSP season, making it a prime opportunity to put away additional funds.”


Middle age

Have a solid financial plan in place that’ll allow you to retire at the age you want, with the income you want. You should also regularly talk to your banker about any big expenses coming up – like a new car, helping your children with their education costs, or buying a home – that will impact your retirement plan.


“Look at the next five to seven years and ask, what am I going to do financially that will affect my investing and the money I need to access? Work with your banker to determine the best strategy for investing your money so you can balance these priorities and be able to pull out your funds when you need to.”


Near retirement

Connect with a financial planner if you haven’t already. Review your investment mix with them and ensure your portfolio still matches your risk tolerance. Are you on track to retire when you want to, or do you need to adjust your savings or expectations?


The older you get, you want to preserve your capital and any investment gains. So, you might see a shift in the portfolio of someone entering their late 50s or early 60s. For example, they might move funds over to GICs or income-producing investments that pay dividends to supplement their income,” says Shinmar. “This too is when your strategy starts shifting from putting money away to how you’ll be able to draw from it without paying a big chunk in taxes.”


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If all went according to plan – enjoy the results of your hard work! Ensure you have a trusted financial planner looking out for your best interests and your nest egg.


“Keep informed and on top of your financial standing, but don’t react too quickly to what you read in the news or what your friend’s brother thinks,” says Shinmar. “Continue to stay the course and consult regularly with the financial experts in your corner.” 


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Four foundational tips for financial investing

Now that you’re primed to keep investing top of mind as you rack up the birthday candles, pair it with these insights to help cross confidently into your financial future.


1. Align your investing to your risk tolerance

Your approach to investing should always match your risk tolerance, says Shinmar. “Typically, an investor in their 20s will have a higher risk tolerance, but they’ll have fewer funds available to invest,” he says. “In contrast, someone later in life may have more funds to invest, but they’ll have a lower risk tolerance. That’s because, as you get older, you have less time to make up for any losses or fluctuations in the market before you need to rely on your investments for retirement income.”


2. Strike a balance between your risk tolerance and your financial goals

Not confident in your investment knowledge? That’s where your personal banker comes in – they can help guide you through the different investment types available to you, and explain the risks and rewards associated with each.

“You want to achieve a balance between how much risk you’re comfortable with and what you aim to achieve,” says Shinmar. “Age alone doesn’t dictate how you should invest. You need to consider your whole financial picture and goals when making an investment decision.”

He adds that if you’re invested in the market and have a financial plan in place, it’s important not to panic if the economy goes sideways because knee-jerk reactions tend to result in significant losses.


3. Learn to surf the economic ups and downs

Shinmar explains the goal is typically to invest at a higher rate of return than the inflation rate so the buying power of your money doesn’t go down every year. That said, economic conditions, like periods of higher inflation, can cause people to pull back on non-essentials to offset the squeeze on their household cash flow – and for some, that may include curbing their savings plan contributions.


Your banker can help you navigate these kinds of economic waves, so you’re not sacrificing on saving, says Shinmar. “I’d encourage people to examine their budget and make an appointment with their banker to discuss how to proceed. They may be able to offer advice on other ways to save money – like reducing interest payments on debt – that still allow you to save for the long term.”


4. Advice for entrepreneurs: Approach personal investing like a business decision

“Business owners often have a very high tolerance for risk – they bank their livelihood on growing and making a business profitable,” says Shinmar. “So, when attractive personal investment opportunities come along, they may be tempted to put their hard-earned cash into something that promises an astronomical rate of return. Don’t fall for it. Approach investments with a high level of scrutiny, just like you would with any business decision. Dig deep and understand what you’re getting into before writing that cheque.”


Shinmar adds entrepreneurs are also familiar with the importance of diversifying in business – and the same holds true for how they should approach their savings. “Business owners need retirement plans and strategies, too. And most don’t have a pension plan. Putting all your eggs in the business basket could lead to disappointment when it’s time to sell or transition the business and retire, so you need to have a mix of other savings approaches and future income sources in place,” he says.


A wealth management or succession planning partner can provide peace of mind that your family will be taken care of – and your retirement will be enjoyable – when it comes time to hang up your hat as a business owner.

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