Retirement? In this economy? How young Canadians can save amid high inflation

There's no escaping the impacts of inflation. The current soaring cost of living can be seen at gas stations and at the grocery store. And now a new survey has found that more Canadians 55 years and older are considering delaying their plans to retire. Aaron McArthur reports.

Twenty-four-year-old Jason Francone has always been pretty good with his money.

“Coupons are my middle name; sales are in my DNA,” he says.

It’s not just the art of bargain-hunting that he’s mastered, though. Francone has also been saving in other ways and working to build wealth since he was a teenager.

But soaring inflation, a hot housing market, interest rate hikes, and a struggling stock market, in combination with his bouncing around from one landscaping job to the next for the last few years, have left Francone nervous about his long-term financial goals, like retirement.

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“Inflation and other economic pressures have definitely been a very big burden and a distraction to my savings,” he says.

Francone said his ability to save for retirement is going to be a significant concern until he finds a more stable job. In the meantime, he has stopped monthly deposits going into his savings and investment accounts to help ease some of his financial worries.

Even though it may seem years away, saving for retirement is a top priority among 26 per cent of Canadians aged 18 to 34, a recent survey from the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) found. However, 79 per cent of respondents in that age group say saving for retirement is prohibitively expensive, with 35 per cent yet to save anything for retirement and 37 per cent saying they haven’t saved anything for it in the past year.

Personal finance experts believe the current economic climate will likely cause many young adults financial pain regardless of how careful they’ve been with their money, but won’t necessarily derail their path to retirement altogether.

“I think it’s going to slow them down for sure, but it all depends on how long this economic cycle lasts,” says financial planner Jackie Porter.

She cites the impact the 2008 recession had on older millennials in the 35 to 42 age range and how some have only recently gotten on their feet financially. The 2008 recession lasted for about seven months in Canada and 18 months south of the border.

“Young Canadians will need to save between eight to 12 times their income if they want to retire by 65,” Porter says.

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Access to workplace pension and benefit programs is key to helping young adults get on the right track to a comfortable retirement, she adds. Statistics Canada says 35.7 per cent of primary household earners under 35 years of age have an employer-sponsored registered pension plan.

Francone hasn’t had access to those programs because he has only been offered short landscaping contracts and says it is very difficult to get on to the full-time roster where he would be able to participate in savings programs.

“While I’ve made good money, I was never really introduced to putting money away for retirement or a pension or even having benefits,” he says.

Home ownership is another part of the retirement equation, as it has often been a vehicle used to fund it. The HOOPP survey found that saving for a home or property purchase was top-ranked by 48 per cent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34, in terms of priority.

For Francone, who currently lives at home with his parents due to the high cost of rent, owning property is “extremely important.”

“Even though the goal and idea of it might be further away than expected at this age, it still hasn’t changed its importance level,” he says. “It’s important that I live somewhere that’s mine, that way I can have full control of my future.”

Money coach and TikToker Ellyce Fulmore has a bit of a different take on home ownership and doesn’t believe young adults need to be rushing into the market.

She argues that a house isn’t always the great investment everyone makes it out to be due to all of the expected and unexpected costs involved. There is also the risk of having to sell it at a loss.

“Your home shouldn’t be your retirement plan,” she says.

Fulmore has been getting a lot of questions from her largely Gen Z and young millennial audience about saving and investing for retirement.

“I think most people in my age group are feeling the pressure to start investing for retirement, putting away money, but also feeling like they don’t know where to start,” she says. “Finances being more tight right now is an extra burden of stress on top of figuring out what to even do.”

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To help navigate the current economic climate and keep retirement ambitions on the rails, especially as the possibility of a recession increases, Fulmore urges young adults to prioritize an emergency fund and bulk it up as much as they can. She suggests having nine to 12 months worth of expenses saved in a high-interest savings account as the cost of everything continues to rise.

She also believes young adults should keep their existing financial plan intact, despite all of the noise out there.

“What’s important is continuing to do what you can instead of stopping everything completely as your first instinct,” Fulmore says.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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