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Saving for retirement is not exactly a sexy subject to discuss. People of all ages don’t tend to get excited or worked up about how much they’re putting aside each month for their future. Honestly, if I were to ask random people on the street right now, they could probably easily tell me the details of Brangelina’s divorce, yet they might have no idea how their retirement portfolio is doing.

Sounds a bit crazy, but the truth is most of us aren’t paying much attention to our savings. But what we have to remember is the lifestyle we have during our golden years will depend greatly on how much money we’re putting away now.

If you don’t have enough saved, you might have to rely on your family or even the government to get through retirement. Or you may decide to continue working past the age of 65. I’m not sure if those are the best plans, so here are some tips to help ensure that you won’t be working until the end of your life.

Start to Save Now

In an ideal situation, you start saving money steadily from a young age all the way until you retire. While that isn’t possible for a lot of individuals, the earlier you save, the more money you’ll have in the future due to the power of compound interest. You can aim to make up for it later in life by putting aside more money, but the person who started saving earlier will almost always come out on top. And while you could continue to invest while retired if you so desired, you can’t count on it.

Money might be tight at the current time, so start by aiming to save small amount – such as $25 per paycheque. You can set up a pre-authorized withdrawal into your RRSP so you won’t even notice the money is missing at first glance. This small amount will do wonders in the long run. Don’t forget to increase the amount whenever you can.

Have a Realistic Budget

Having a budget is the foundation of financial success, but is yours realistic? You may think you’re spending $200 a month for entertainment but the real figure could be much higher. Alternatively, putting aside $800 a month for groceries may be too high, and you may have to lower the threshold.

To make sure your budget is realistic, track your spending for a month or two. Once you know exactly where all your money is going, you can start making adjustments. Remember, budgets are always evolving so don’t be afraid to make changes, and also make sure you include those once a year expenses.

Avoid Debt

Saving is a lot easier when you don’t have any debt. Seems simple enough, yet many Canadians struggle with their debt loads. Recent figures from Statistics Canada show that Canadian household debt has hit an all-time record high, as we owe more than $1.67 for every dollar we earn. High-interest debt such as credit card debt is the worst offender; it’s impossible to save when you’re paying 19.99% interest. Do whatever it takes to eliminate your debt and then start saving.

Understandably, you can’t always avoid debt. Not many people have enough cash on hand to buy a house or car without taking out a mortgage or a loan. However, you can control how much debt you take on. Do you really need a 3,000 square foot home for two people? Is a sportscar entirely necessary? If you cut back on major purchases, those small treats you give yourself everyday – like your morning Tim’s run – won’t really won’t be a big deal anymore.

Start Investing

Even if you’re a great saver, you won’t get far if your money is just sitting in a savings account. Interest rates are incredibly low right now, and inflation will quickly eat up any of those returns, so you’ll need to invest your money.

Investing may be intimidating, but there are so many resources available to help you these days. Instead of jumping right in, take the time to read a book about personal finance so you can become familiar with how to make your money grow. Once you’re ready to invest, decide on what route is best for you. It could be through your bank, an investment adviser or a robo-adviser, or you can even manage your own investments.

The Final Word

Regardless of how much you might love your job, you cannot count on working until you die. You don’t know what curveballs life can throw at you or what your health will be like. Take the time to learn about your finances and start saving now.

And you never know: you could end up retiring early and doing the things you really enjoy instead.

Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a personal finance and budget travel expert at He has been quoted by media in Canada and the United States including The Financial Post, The Toronto Star, Business Insider, The Globe and Mail, and has appeared on HuffPost Live.

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