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Retirement Planning: All the Fun of a Root Canal

This article was originally published February 9th, 2007 in the Guelph Mercury.  To download the PDF of this article click HERE.


Retirement Planning: All the Fun of a Root Canal

Friday February 9th, 2007

The Guelph Mercury



When you read the words "saving for retirement," what's the first thought that comes to mind?

How about, "Hmmm, I wonder what my horoscope says on page two?"

Or, "Gee, look at the time.  I'll get to this article later."

According to Guelph-based financial advisor Kevin Cahill, Saving for retirement ranks right up there with a trip to the dentist.  Have you ever had the urge, when the administrator at the dentist's office suggest a date for your next appointment, six or nine months in the future, to lie and say you have plans that day?  I have to stifle that urge at every single visit.

"Every day, people wake up on their 60th birthday to the realization that neither they nor the government are prepared for their retirement," Cahill says.

A survey last year by Ipsos Reid found that 46 per cent of Canadians aged 45 to 60 felt that they were not on track to save enough for retirement and an additional 24 per cent were not sure if they were saving enough.  Forty-four per cent of respondents felt that they had started saving too late.

To carry the dentist analogy a little further, Cahill says it's the lack of an instant, tangible outcome that makes both ventures tough to take.  The dentist goes into your mouth and pokes around while you lie there, unable to see or appreciate the work being done - and sometimes it hurts.  With retirement savings, you put aside money that you'd much rather spend on something pretty or yummy right now - that's the part that hurts - and, in return, you receive the monthly statements, without necessarily having a good sense of what they mean or whether they will provide for you when the time comes to enjoy your golden years.

"It's hard to convince people of what they need unless they see the value in it," Cahill says.

So, what is the value of a good retirement plan?

"It's being able to put your head on your pillow at night and being able to sleep," he says.  "It's knowing that whatever course you've charted, you'll be OK.  You'll have someone who knows your goals, your history and your financial position to help you through any bumps along the road."

Developing good retirement plans for clients is all in a day's work for financial advisors like Cahill.  His approach is to begin by asking a lot of questions and listening carefully to the answers.  If you're a regular reader of this column, you'll know that the experts I interview seem invariable to begin their client relationship this way.  So simple, yet so effective.

He asks clients about their priorities and devises a plan based on individual goals.   What do you want to do when you retire?  What does money mean to you?  What are your strengths, weaknesses and opportunities?

He also asks, what he calls, the disturbing questions.  What do you want to happen when you die?  What if you become disabled? What if you require nursing care?  These questions are intended to get people to think about the future, to remind them that there is a tomorrow.

Once clients are thinking, they can step back and start planning.  How can you begin to think about saving for retirement?  Here are Cahill's tips:

1.            Recognize that there are no quick fixes.  A good plan takes time.  Start now.

2.            Don't assume that financial advisers are only interested in wealthy clients.   Cahill's motto is "focused on your future."  Whether you are at the beginning, middle, or end of your journey toward retirement, "tell us what you want," he says, "and we'll do our best to help you get there."

3.            Think about the short- and long-term financial picture.  Where would  you like to be three years from now and what would you like to get from your retirement? 

4.            When you have a sense of what you'd like to accomplish, speak to a financial adviser about how to get there.  An adviser can help you to organize your thoughts and your finances and set you on a manageable plan for a bright future.

Wouldn't it be nice to wake up on your 60th birthday to the realization that you are entirely prepared for your retirement?

Christie Zimmer lives and writes in Guelph.  She can be reached at and via her blog, Timelines, at