2023 Financial Goals
“I think goals should never be easy, they should force you to work, even if they are uncomfortable at the time.” – Michael Phelps.
Ya, I’ve used this quote before and it’s a great one!
I’m never going to reach the swimming heights that Phelps did, but that doesn’t mean I/we cannot realize some objectives that are important to me/us which can be uncomfortable at times. Welcome to our 2023 financial goals. Read on!
Typical financial goals may lead to typcial results…
Some annual goals that I’ve seen on social media look like the following:
- Build an emergency fund.
- Save for retirement.
- Get out of debt.
I’ve always found that generic goals lead to generic results.
Over the years, we try and avoid general stuff – we like specifics!
Here are those details including a recap over the years about what we’ve tried to build to date and why.
Pre-2023 Financial Goals
In the early days of this site as we chronicled our financial independence journey, I was/we were striving to build an emergency fund. That was like our financial foundation.
Our reasons then, to build an emergency fund, still stick years later:
- It provides us with financial flexibility. For example, if something goes wrong with our 10-year+ old car, we can afford to fix without financial stress or incurring more borrowing costs.
- It keeps us out of debt. See point #1. A line of credit is a liability. If or rather when an emergency situation strikes, the last thing my wife and I want to do is to add-on more debt. In an emergency I’d rather focus on the emergency and get out of it.
- It keeps us in control. Further to using a LOC as an emergency fund, while not a bad idea, our bank determines our borrowing rates and payback criteria. Borrowing policies and procedures change. Crises can and will happen. I don’t want to be left holding any more bank debt than necessary.
- We will never be immune to those “what ifs” in life. $hit happens. No matter how stable things seem or how good our health may feel, we’re not immune to the realities of life. When the stuff hits the fan I know I have no predictive power in knowing how long we’ll be stuck in that crisis. Any crisis or emergency could last days, weeks or even months. Who knows what the future might bring. Having an emergency fund, in cold, hard cash, ready to use as needed, is a decent security blanket for us that will cover some expenses for a short period of time if something pops up.
We keep our emergency fund at $10k.
Your mileage may vary.
In more recent years, we’ve been re-assessing how much cash we should really keep assuming full-time work might stop in the coming years and part-time work will begin, with less income coming in.
Mind you, we believe we can start part-time work with less income coming in sooner than later once:
- All debt is gone – the mortgage is paid off in 18 more months (at the time of this post), and
- All saving for retirement is largely done. (I’ll come back to this point).
With #1 and #2 nearly done, work optional isn’t quite an option yet but part-time work absolutely is given we would be close to financial independence and can reasonably considering scaling back more – and intend to.
In a recent webinar with my partners at TD, I revisited our portfolio bucket approach for income generation while being defensive in semi-retirement including how much cash we intend to keep starting sometime in 2024:
Quick notes: The best approach for any one person or couple will depend on a host of factors that one My Own Advisor blogpost cannot include nor standardize.
Check out my webinar on TD’s YouTube here!
Here is our thinking:
Bucket 1 is cash savings. It’s simply a large emergency fund we don’t have to use but it’s there if we need it.
Bucket 2 is earning income from dividend paying stocks. Income will be earned inside some key investment accounts (such as our non-registered account(s), TFSA(s), and RRSPs) to pay for semi-retirement living expenses. We will need to decide on the order of which we access these funds, and when, and how much!
Bucket 3 is earning income from equity ETFs. This income will come from mainly our RRSPs, as we intend to “live off dividends and distributions” and withdraw capital from our RRSPs/RRIFs as needed over time as we work part-time.
The purpose of having buckets is simple IMO but effective:
The Immediate (Short-Term) Bucket #1
Cash and other liquid investments are in the immediate, or short-term, bucket. These investments include cash or GICs or similar assets. You’ll fill this bucket with investments that are liquid – easy to access for spending without much tax complications. The goal of this bucket is not income – rather – to reduce investment risk.
So, entering part-time work, there is investment risk and income risk. We will hedge that risk by having our desired cash wedge in bucket #1 above in place before part-time work begins.
The Intermediate (Near-Term) Bucket #2
In a typical bucket strategy, this middle bucket is usually designed to cover expenses in the years 3-5 or maybe up to years 3-10 for your expenses. Money in the intermediate bucket should be expected to grow.
I intend to do that via owning dividend paying stocks.
Dedicated readers/subscribers will know (despite incurring the odd dividend cut in my/our portfolio over the years!) we follow predominantly a dividend income investing path for the better part of 15 years now – and there is no intention of stopping this approach as semi-retirement draws near.
I see tangible, overall, rising dividend and distribution income from our portfolio as a hedge to support some retirement income needs.
You can see a bit of our ongoing dividend income journey on this standing page here and I will be updating my reporting approach in 2023 to be more clear about how dividends/dividend income factor into our plan.
The Long-Term (Multi-Year) Bucket #3
Long-term investments are those that mimic historical stock market returns – ideally measured in decades to recover from any near-term storms. These assets are intended to grow your nest egg.
For any multi-year or ideally multi-decade investing time horizon, you might want to consider plain vanilla ETFs or a diversified portfolio of stocks from Canada and the U.S.
How does this relate to our 2023 Financial Goals??
Let’s find out!
- Save for our 2024 TFSAs. This implies we’re going to try and save $13,000 this year – assuming contribution room in 2024 is another $6,500 per person – since we’ve already contributed to our TFSAs for 2023. I will share what I bought, and why, soon as well!
- Reduce our mortgage by $30,000 by the end of this year. By continuing to make our bi-weekly accelerated mortgage payments, and by making the odd lump sum payment, we believe we’ll make a sizeable dent this year to be close to killing off our mortgage in early 2024.
- Complete the “cash wedge” for semi-retirement. Remember bucket #1? Well, we’re not quite there yet but between the existing emergency fund and cash savings inside the corporation, I hope to save another $10k to complete this goal and have 1-years’ worth in cash savings by January 2024.
- Max out contributions to our RRSPs. Remember bucket #3? Well, to lower our taxable income this year AND earn tax-deferred growth inside our RRSPs, we need to max out these accounts as well. We’ve already started our automatic bill payments to Us Inc. (ha.) to flow savings each week to our RRSPs to try and max out those accounts. We hope to accomplish this goal by summer 2023. This might be the final year we can/we will max contributions let alone make any contributions to our RRSPs with part-time work on the horizon…so might as well seize it.
These are, aggressive goals for 2023 with only so much income flowing in and so much designed for saving and investing and debt payments.
But, it’s necessary…
Once all debt is gone, I’ve heard from other early retirees that “life begins” from them! Without debt, you no longer pay other people first. All income you make is largely yours to keep and spend as you wish or need. You avoid paying lots of interest charges. You don’t have to worry about interest rates rising that could impact your mortgage payments. There are lots of positives with debt going to $0 and we hope to experience that, finally, in early 2024.
For the most part, beyond 2023, we believe most of our saving and investing for retirement income purposes is done.
My math tells me/us that with our existing assets, because we have largely lived below our means for so long, we have enough saved for full-on retirement at the basic-level: all income (dividends, distributions and some crystalizing some capital gains over the coming decades) is enough to cover our key expenses.
We will have reached our crossover point in early 2024.
We will continue to work however, part-time for sure, since that income is essential to fund some “extras” in life and discretionary wants like travel and other activities…but the days of purposely saving for investment purposes; the absolute need to max out various investment accounts will be over.
Again, we will need to work, to earn some income, to fund various wants and extras in life for sure, but the days of needing full-time employment in our current roles at our current income will come to an end. Things could change but that’s where things are trending and have been trending for a long time now!
(Sorry, employer, we enjoy working with you and we hope to continue in a part-time capacity indeed but our time, our energy, and our other passions in life are far more important than full-time work.)
2023 Financial Goals Summary
I have no idea what companies will thrive or suffer in the years ahead but we do believe our collection of stocks, and low-cost ETFs, as a whole, will continue to generate meaningful and higher income over time to fund some life-changing stuff sometime in 2024.
We’re just not there – yet!
That said, it’s amazing what some long-term discipline via goal setting has done to date including opportunities that may be ahead.
There are other goals we have (including saving for some trips), and there are some personal fitness goals I’m trying to work through as well but I can save those updates for another day or some random thoughts over the coming year.
For the purposes of this post, we have four (4) key financial goals to accomplish for 2023. I hope we nail them. I will keep you updated if or when we do.
Have you set any goals for 2023 yet? If so, what are they? Share in a comment on the site. I read everything I get!
I’ll continue to focus on maxing out our TFSAs over the RRSPs, first, because…
Assuming your expenses might be ~ $5,000 per month in retirmement, how much do you need?
Three cups of coffee into this so it might be a bit incoherent.
Instead of “Financial Goals” we ought to be thinking in terms of “Financial Plays” for this kind of time period. I’m thinking in terms of football. What play should I be running to get to the next position on the field?
This puts everything into context of where they may be in the “game”. Early in the first quarter? Late in the third? Minutes left? Everyone ought to be thinking of where they are in their game and how much time is left on the clock.
Then one has to consider what the current score is. If I’m up by 20 points with a minute left in the game, do I need to attempt to score *another* TD? Do I risk my starters or put in the back-ups?
If the score is close and I need yardage, do I pass or run? Passing has the greater potential for yardage, but the ball is no longer in the control of my team whilst in the air. Running keeps it in our hands. Is it second and fifteen, or third and one? All of these need to be taken into consideration to make a decision on what to do.
There are dozens of other football analogies but I hope people get the drift. 🙂
Mark, your TD presentation came across very well. It’s always good to see the people behind the blogs we follow.
Great stuff, Bob. I am a very real person 🙂
Thanks for the kind words.
I am the investor that has never believed in emergency funds. We paid of the house loan by the time I was 40 but never got out of debt. Only at retirement. With the low interest rates that we enjoyed for so long it was easy to make the case to invest in dividend paying stocks. Dividends = 5%, loan interest at 3%, plus you could write of the interest against other income. Now in retirement we have to figure out the best withdrawal method. I just took an additional amount out of our RIFFs to fund the TFSAs. We have more dividends then we spend so this strategy makes sense to pay more tax now and leave a greater inheritance for our son. Dividends were starting to build and we don’t need to invest more so I dipped into our emergency fund (LOC) to buy a very nice SUV. Will pay that of in the next 2 months with dividend income. Then I have promised my wife to build a small cash amount so she will feel better. I have never been able to look at cash and just let it sit there, but must try.
“I have never been able to look at cash and just let it sit there”
It’s easier than one might believe. Especially if it helps the better half feel better. Over five years into it now and I have not one regret for parking a bunch of funds into various fixed income spots (registered and non-registered).
I second what Lloyd says, and especially now that we’re earning 5% on some of that cash.
Seems very smart to me.
I understand that when you retire it is reasonable to have cash. My point is that during the accumulation stage it makes no sense to have cash sitting on the sidelines when you are still earning a living. Specially for those that already own their home and could use a line of credit if an emergency should arise. Things are starting to be different again now that you can earn 5% on a GIC, granted. It worked for us for the last 20 years but things are changing and everyone has a different comfort level. Hope everyone has a great year.
That’s a fair comment, there is an opportunity cost with too much cash on the sidelines while still working. I think once we have no mortgage in another year or so, we’ll feel better overall.
Thanks for your comments as always.
BTW – did you buy anything inside your TFSA this year? Anything on your radar DivInvestor?
I just bought some more FC and BCE. We already have them in these accounts. Not really looking for new companies anymore, just topping up when cash is available. But hoping to spend more this year on travel.
Smart. I got some BCE too but I will update everyone in a few weeks what we bought! Readers subscribing to this thread get the insights. Ha.
Nice call on travel.
I plan to do some too – stay tuned for those updates as well.
“My point is that during the accumulation stage”
Sorry, my bad. I assumed since you said you were retired, it was about during retirement.
You have a great problem to have 🙂
re: “Now in retirement we have to figure out the best withdrawal method. I just took an additional amount out of our RIFFs to fund the TFSAs. We have more dividends then we spend so this strategy makes sense to pay more tax now and leave a greater inheritance for our son.”
Inspiration for me!
I prefer to keep some cash, helps me sleep at night.
Hi Mark: The reality is you may not need to but it makes a great hobby. Your mortgage will be paid up and so that will allow you to save more cash. As mentioned stopping saving when you had saved all those years is like an addict coming off drugs cold turkey. I have had experience with the addict as for years I was on heavy depressants and in ’79 the doctor took me off the drugs I was on cold turkey and put me on the ones I am now on. It took a year before the shaking subsided completely. It was very embarrassing as when I went back to work we would stop in the morning to have a coffee break and when I filled the mug I couldn’t lift it as my hand was shaking so much. As mentioned stocks and business and the stories behind them I find fascinating and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. Take BN for instance. I bought 800 shares of Great Lakes Power and the company split the shares which gave me 1600 shares. In ’99 Brascan bought out the shareholders. At the time I didn’t realize that Great Lakes was a subsidiary of Brascan. Brascan then changed its name to Brookfield Asset Management and split the shares 3/2 three times in the next six years. I thought this was a bi-yearly thing so I bought another 500 shares but the stock just sat there and moved slowly, but it spun off BIP.UN and BPY.UN to the shareholders and than split 3/2 again. They then spun off BBU.UN to the shareholders and then finding that these entities were not palatable to US mutual fund holders they spun off part of the partnerships to their unit holders as corporate entities They then took BPY.UN private and shareholders received some more BAM shares and some BPYP.UN PRE. A shares. In ’20 they split the shares again. When I first took the shares it was a $14BL company and now it has $761 BL. of AUM. Now they have spun off 25% of the Manager to its shareholders. There are other stories such as this out there which makes boring dividend investing a little bit more exciting. People like to see people suffer and during the great recession or ’20 they would joke that I had lost a lot of money but what they don’t realize is that you don’t loose anything until you sell. Sure your net worth has dropped but you realize that it will come back and in the meantime you are still cashing dividend checks. It is depressed times like this that are good buying times for people who have money so even in retirement Mark it pays to keep on investing in a non registered account or in your TFSA. As mentioned my cash wedge is 80 times your projection of $10000.00. My brother thinks it is crazy to have that much in a cash account earning no interest but when I see an opportunity I will have the cash to act on it.
Entering the eighteenth year of retirement and the only financial goal I have for 2023 is the same as last year and umpteen years before that. To increase our dividend income in the taxable account higher than the year before in order to keep ahead of inflation, by adding more money to our companies from whatever we can save along with any cash received from dividends.
AQN didn’t help much in our compounding machine by lowering our income from this company alone by 40%, so I decided to sell it for a tax loss while at the same time selling SAP for a capital gain. The reason I sold SAP was because I’d put it on the sidelines for the last few years (very slow dividend growth) with no dividend increase in 2022 and a low dividend yield. Already replaced SAP in the account with NWC in the same sector. NWC has been another slow dividend grower this past year but at least it has a higher yield at 4% and hopefully dividend growth will pick up moving forward. Not a popular stock with most other dividend investors, but I’ll take it. Still own shares in around 30 other Canadian dividend paying companies in the taxable account diversified by sector.
In the TFSA, sold all ZBAL and will use the cash along with the max, contribution allowed for 2023 to purchase XDG to replace it.
The RRIF’s will remain the same with ZBAL the only asset we have in there.
Three totally different portfolios for diversification purposes.
That’s about the extent of my financial planning.
Easy, is right.
I recall we have a very similar mix but that’s not surprising amongst Canadian DIY/dividend investors.
You own some/still:
-Energy – re: Pipelines = the usual 3?
-Financials – we know the names but likely SLF too?
I recall you owned ZBAL? before?
“To increase our dividend income in the taxable account higher than the year before in order to keep ahead of inflation, by adding more money to our companies from whatever we can save along with any cash received from dividends.”
Ya, AQN…but you know, it should come back at some point but it might take some time to get back to $20 (a few years…).
Smart call on SAP for NWC.
XDG seems like a good, global ETF for dividend income albeit semi-annual distributions but you also have lots of taxable income from your juicy dividends I recall:
You have it made 🙂
You own some/still:
-Energy – re: Pipelines = the usual 3?
-Financials – we know the names but likely SLF too?
Yes, plus one other Canadian sector. Consumer Staples.
Actually only pipelines in the Energy Sector. ENB, TRP, PPL and KEY. Dove in when they were on sale (with some around 10% dividend yields). Even more so, after I heard Warren Buffett was buying pipeline assets from Dominion Energy in the U.S. that year. Get them when other investors are selling.
Nothing wrong with SLF, but I bought into MFC and POW in 2020 when they were on sale as well with dividend yields around 6.5% and dividend growth at the time of near 10% a year. I got blindsided with the tech stocks of the late 1990’s but this time around in 2020 I concentrated on good dividend paying companies that other investors were dumping. I’ve learned my lessons on contrarian investing well. Thank you Benjamin Graham and David Dreman. The rest of the Financials are invested in the five largest Canadian banks.
The other sectors you’ve named, we own. Good call, Mark.
Own ENB, TRP, PPL as well – also have CNQ, SU and WCP of late. WCP I got in mid-summer 2022.
Yes, most DIY investors own a mix of SLF, MFC, GWO and/or POW. All seem very bond-like for income.
“I’ve learned my lessons on contrarian investing well.”
I have no doubt. You’ve done very well from what I know 🙂
Keep me posted!
We have had XDG for several years in a spousal RSP account. It’s pretty steady and we are happy with its returns over the time we have held it Hoping the same for you. I have XEI in my corp account and its doing great, just bought more yesterday.
Hi Mark: Always a great post, but I think you are missing the point. A lot of economists have this same point that you should save for retirement and then once reached than stop and spend what you saved. I say if it worked all those years why stop now. Stopping saving in retirement is like an addict coming off drugs cold turkey. He will have the DT’s and you will be worrying if you will have enough in the future. If you keep investing in retirement than you will have a large wedge amount that you can hold or invest in more stocks. This is how you turn $30000.00 into $35000.00 and then $40000.00 and soon you can go on any trip you so desire and cost is immaterial. Yesterday (Tuesday) marked my 31 ST year out of the workforce and I have travelled to Sydney on Vancouver Island, Mexico, Jamaica, Hawaii, Aruba and Cuba many times. The cost of these trips was immaterial. I do not know if you have a family but if so it would be nice to leave something in the end. To put a stamp on what I have said above consider my dad. Here is a man who retired at 60 and was worth $11000.00. Mom worried how would we put my brother through university but he had it figured out. When he died 35 1/2 years later he was worth $908000.00 and when the estate was finalized it was worth $1.2 million. This was one person who didn’t stop investing in retirement. He enjoyed it as do I. It is nice to have a large cushion so money in the future is no problem.
The reality is, I will remain invested and remain an investor long after semi-retirement begins. The reality is, I will likely invest a bit but I won’t have to…as much.
So, I probably won’t stop investing in reality but I won’t have the income to save as much as I do now, but I won’t need to.
Nice story about your hard-working dad! 🙂
Hey Mark , I have been trying semi retirement this winter for first time . We got a place in Arizona for the winter with our 5th wheel , 6 months rent driving home for Xmas ( have dog no flying ) semi retirement is fun and be prepared to spend more than before retirement but a great time . I’m going to use my tfsa dividends to pay for my winters and use my retirement money for regular expenses.
Awesome, JP! I’ve been to Arizona a few times. Where, Tempe or Phoenix or Scottsdale area?
We are hopeful that part-time work + living off dividends should be fine for us throughout our 50s. No guarantees! Plans can and do change but it’s something we want to try and do.
We’ll also have TFSA dividend income if we need it but don’t intend to spend that until our 70s or 80s to be honest. We’ll see.
I’ll keep you and others posted!
Congrats on your semi-retirement 🙂 Love the idea, of course.
Great post. Gets the brain thinking about goal achievement.
I know I’m an outlier but I don’t believe in the standard emergency fund. I strongly believe in investing every dollar into our non-registered portfolio of dividend paying stocks (we have two; one funded by the Smith Maneuver and one funded from savings). If an emergency happens I’ll sell some shares (I might temporarily use the line of credit if the need is immediate). I will add to this that had some minor emergencies in the last 12-18 months but in both cases we had a few weeks to save for the expense, so yes, we temporarily stopped investing and set aside those funds for the emergency.
I believe it was a guest on your blog that promoted this idea (of investing the emergency fund) and his argument was very compelling. For 2023, we saved half of our TFSA contributions in our HISA in Q4 and the other half came from selling stock in our non-registered, non-Smith maneuver account. We triggered a small capital gain of around $500 but that is fine with me.
My 2023 goal is to save in our HISA for our summer vacation and half our TFSA for 2024 and try to put a minimum of $1,500 into our non registered account every month. I’ve ceased to accelerate paying down our mortgage as it’s only 2.37% until June of 2025 so I’d rather invest, especially at the current prices / yields. This also means no additional Smith Maneuver investing for the time being, but I have started to capitalize the interest instead of taking the payments from cash flow so the debt is rising but so is my interest write-off.
When the mortgage comes up for renewal in 2025 I will strongly consider an outsized payment funded from our non-registered account. Ideally I’d execute it such that the remaining mortgage could be amortized over 2.5 years – December 2027, my target retirement date. I consider this a BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It’ll depend on interest rates, how much full time work my wife will have done in the interim, how our investments have performed and what the capital gains hit will be. It’s doable as a stretch goal.
Either way, by 2025 I expect our mortgage will be less than 10% of the value of our home and that we will sell it by 2028 or 2029 at the latest, so paying it off might not be the best play. We’ll see.
In the meantime I’m looking to invest as much as possible this year. TFSA’s are already topped up, forward divvy income crossed 42.5k / year today and my preliminary tax calc says a refund, so I’m unlikely to put additional funds in our RSPs this year, preferring to wait to offset some future capital gains.
As far as the eye can see we’re on track!
Great stuff, James!
I wouldn’t say you’re an outlier…nothing wrong to have every dollar in your non-registered portfolio of dividend paying stocks (we have two; one funded by the Smith Maneuver and one funded from savings) invested. I know many investors that don’t believe in any cash savings but rather, would use an LOC for emergencies.
Personally, I like having some cash. I can use it as needed. I can deploy it as needed for investing, other without selling a cent.
That’s just me of course and your mileage as with others can vary. All good.
That’s an excellent goal.
I recall our mortgage is about 1.69% so it’s not worth accelerating too much and the debt should be done in 18 months at current pace. Killing the mortgage will however free-up cashflow of course. Tradeoffs!
I like your stretch goal too!
Keep me posted on your progress and kudos for the healthy forward portfolio dividend and distribution income, $42.5k is amazing.
“Have you set any goals for 2023 yet?”
Does seeing 2024 count? 😉
Perfect! Mine included!
Always a great read!
Just a quick thought: with the current inflation, I believe the 2014 TFSA limit will be $7000. I have budgeted accordingly for this year.
*2024 TFSA limit
It could be Karl, $7k in 2024 if inflation stays hot!
We’ll see but I’ll try and save my $6,500 for sure.
I hope you are doing well!