A Guide to Retirement Planning Whether You’re 30, 40, 50 or Beyond

Planning for retirement at any age

Experts agree it’s best to start retirement planning – or at least saving for retirement – as early as possible. And although it’s tough to even imagine retiring when you’re in your twenties and thirties, starting to save as soon as you have an income gives you the best runway to grow your nestegg. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get started on your retirement plan in your thirties, forties or fifties. It’s really never too late to plan for the future!

We asked two Genus client relationship managers – Jill Bester and Thomas Irwin – for their best strategies on preparing for retirement in every decade. Here’s what they said. 

Retirement Planning Tips for 30-somethings

Both Bester and Irwin agreed that in your thirties, creating a budget – and sticking to it – is key. By this age, you’re likely established in your career, have paid off student debt, and may be starting a family and purchasing a home. Expenses are high at this time of life, and so is the temptation to spend. “In a world that revolves around the use of debit and credit cards, many are not mindful about their monthly spending habits,” Bester says. “The latte a day habit can drastically impact your monthly budget.” Bester suggests paying for daily purchases in cash. “The physical transaction of paying in cash makes some reconsider their spending.”

Saving is the other half of this equation. Irwin says this is a good time to start contributing to retirement savings plans, and take advantage of employer savings programs. “Save as much as you can balanced with your other priorities as the power of compounding interest will have its greatest effects the longer you have to invest.” He also suggests building an emergency fund so you don’t have to dip into your retirement fund should major expenses occur. 

Takeaways: Create a budget, stick to it and save what you can in a retirement savings plan.

Retirement Planning Tips for 40-somethings

In the throes of home ownership and family life, 40-somethings should do what they can to maximize RRSP contributions – ideally 10-20% of your income. If you have kids, you may also want to establish an RESP for their education.

Bester suggests paying your mortgage on an accelerated bi-weekly amortization schedule, as the cost savings can increase your ability to save for retirement. 

Irwin recommends ensuring you don’t spend more if you start earning more. “The more you can save early means the more it will grow and the earlier you can retire.” He adds that working with a trusted financial advisor can help you understand how much you’ll need to save to live your desired lifestyle in retirement. “Understanding how long you plan on working and how much you’ll need to be saving will provide you with perspective and show where there are shortfalls. Review this annually to see how you are tracking.” 

Takeaways: Pay down debt, maximize RRSPs and stick to your budget – even when earnings increase.

Couple in their 40s doing their retirement planning

Retirement Planning Tips for 50-somethings

You may find yourself with more disposable income in your 50s, especially if your kids have left the nest and your mortgage is paid off. These are likely your highest earning years, so Bester suggests taking advantage of the opportunity to maximize your savings and put whatever you were paying toward your mortgage into your RRSP and TFSA contributions – aim to max them out if you can.

Irwin adds that now is also a good time to start thinking about how your retirement paycheques will look, including when you plan to take your pensions. Make a plan with a trusted advisor, review it annually and adjust your savings, spending and investment portfolio as needed. And while you’re in planning mode, it’s also a good time to review your will and create an estate plan.

Takeaways: Maximize your savings, max out retirement savings contributions and map out your retirement income streams.

Couple in their 50s doing their retirement planning

Retirement Planning Tips for 60-somethings

This is the decade when all the planning and saving starts to pay off. But you’re not done yet! Make sure you continue to max out your retirement savings contribution space in your last remaining earning years. 

As you prepare to enter your retirement, be sure to meet with your financial advisor to ensure you’ve got all the right pieces in place, including an income plan that details when you’ll convert your savings into income (you’re required to convert your RRSP into a Retirement Income Fund (RIF) at age 71 but you can do so sooner). You may also wish to reconsider your investment asset mix to protect your portfolio against inflation and provide a stable income. If you’re selling a home or a business, this can help to fill in any remaining gaps in your savings.

Bester advises her clients to start living as though they were retired (financially) at least a year before they actually do retire, as preparation. Irwin adds that if you’re looking to become a snowbird, you’ll also want to meet with an accountant to discuss the tax implications of foreign home ownership. 

Finally, consider your healthcare needs and longer term care planning, as well as make sure your estate planning documents and beneficiaries are up to date. 

Takeaways: Create an income plan, consider your optimal asset mix, consult your financial and tax advisors and take all of your retirement living needs into account.

Couple in their 60s doing their retirement planning

10 Ways to Optimize Your Retirement Savings

No matter your age and life stage, here are the top 10 retirement planning tips from Bester and Irwin to help ensure you have a well-funded retirement:


  1. Spend less: Don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses. Spend less on lifestyle and maximize your savings
  2. Make a budget: And try to stick to it
  3. Pay down debt: Accelerate your mortgage payments and minimize or repay other debts as quickly as possible
  4. Create an emergency fund: In the event of emergency expenses, you won’t have to touch your retirement savings 
  5. Invest in yourself: Develop your skills to maximize your earning potential
  6. Be conservative with your savings: Don’t take risks with money you can’t afford to lose
  7. Increase your savings as you age: Save more as earnings increase
  8. Take advantage of employer matching programs: Get all the “free” money you can
  9. Work with a trusted financial advisor: They can help you create the best investment strategy for you – and adapt it as you age
  10. Consult a tax planner: Minimize the tax impacts of your investments and retirement income


Ready to start or enhance your retirement savings plan? Get in touch with a Genus Advisor to discuss a customized investing plan that addresses your needs.


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