10 things millennials should (and should not) do now to save for retirement

Feb 5 2020, 7:01 am

Written for Daily Hive by Jordan Damiani, an IIROC Licensed Senior Wealth Advisor with Meridian Credit Union. He specializes in working with members to create peace of mind through holistic financial planning.


As someone in my early 30s, I know retirement is typically not top of mind for our generation. It’s a phase of life that seems light-years away.

For many of us, the focus is on the present. Collectively, we’re a demographic often labelled as entitled, impatient, and unwilling to work hard to achieve our goals. The reality is that student loans, credit card debt, and the scars of being introduced to investing during the financial crisis of 2008 shaped how we think about financial priorities.

It can be challenging, and even overwhelming, to think about the distant future before having achieved financial security in the present. But we need to start now.

Here are some DOs and DON’Ts focused on the groundwork that will help you be well-prepared for retirement planning when it does, eventually, become a bigger priority.

5 things not to do

1. Don’t make excuses that prevent you from being financially secure. Just like eating healthy or exercise we can create justifications to delay or defer doing what we know is important. There will always be a reason not to do something.

2. Don’t prioritize “stuff” over experiences. Research shows experiences are far more memorable than buying “stuff” you will likely forget about in the future.

3. Don’t be afraid of the stock markets. Increasingly, working millennials are without a workplace pension plan. Higher rates of return are needed, combined with time and compounding to ensure you can generate enough growth to retire comfortably.

4. Don’t confuse being a good saver with being a good investor. Millennials can often be very risk averse as a demographic. Being a good saver is fantastic but not if all of your savings earn 1-2% returns. That is not “risk free,” inflation and tax will erode away any real increase in purchasing power.

5. Don’t judge your financial success vs your peer group. Instagram or Facebook pictures of lavish trips, partying, and designer brands all come at a high cost. People are often ashamed or embarrassed about debt and will rarely be transparent about how they’ve been able to afford the lifestyle.

5 things to do

1. Educate yourself. Everyone’s financial situation is different. Contrary to traditional thinking there are no “one-sized fit’s all” recommendations. The Ontario Securities Commission has a fantastic free web site which covers an incredible number of topics. Including how the RRSP and TFSA work as well as mortgage and investment calculators.

2. Do pre-authorized withdrawal for your savings. Your mortgage, rent, utilities, insurance payments are likely all on automatic withdrawal. Automate your savings too and treat them like a bill that you can’t afford not to pay.

3. Do participate in any workplace pension plan. Pensions are designed to take the stress out of savings. Contributions are taken directly off your paycheque. Additionally, make sure you are taking advantage of the maximum “match” your employer is willing to offer. It’s “free” money!

4. Do set achievable financial goals. If you plan to have your credit card paid off in six months, do the calculations to determine how much you would actually need to make this a reality. Paying the minimum balance can be a perpetual debt trap.

5. Do a self-assessment of your financial health in the present. I recommend adding up and categorizing your last three to six months of credit, debit card, and cash spending to target areas where you can create savings. If you’re spending $500 monthly on eating out, cutting that in half would create the ability to save.