Weekend Reading – Do you really need $1.7 million to retire?

Weekend Reading – Do you really need $1.7 million to retire?

Hey Everyone,

Welcome to a new Weekend Reading edition – the headline says it all – do you really need $1.7 million to retire?

Heck no.

Or, maybe very few might??

Well, I have a post exactly about that below.

First up, a few reminders and some recent publications:

I posted some pics from our recent Costa Rican trip here to check out. 

I also shared some changes you can expect with my monthly dividend income updates, and why. 

January 2023 Dividend Income Update

Weekend Reading – Do you really need $1.7 million to retire?

I highly doubt it.

Or, maybe.

I dunno.

“It depends”.

It depends on you. I mean that! 🙂

Headlining this Weekend Reading edition is this case study on Cashflows & Portfolios (CAP) whereby we blow apart the apparent need to retire with that much money, for most people retiring in their early 60s for sure, which is in conflict with a recent BMO study and its findings.

“BMO’s 13th annual Retirement Study reveals Canadians are prioritizing retirement savings as both contributions and account holdings have increased from the previous year. The study found that Canadians believe they will need $1.7 million to retire, up 20 per cent from 2020 ($1.4 million). However, fewer than half (44 per cent) of Canadians are confident they will have enough money to retire as planned, a 10 per cent decrease from 2020.”

Not faulting BMO nor the study, it is RRSP-season now, but for most Canadians, that means saving a colossal amount of money for retirement, which you may or may not need at all. 

Let me know your thoughts in a comment below or on CAP!

Reader Q&A

I’ve had a few specific questions in my inbox of late, so I thought I would answer those and publish a few replies to everyone. 

Q: Mark, did you sell all your AQN? I am up almost 15% now!

A: Nope. I did not.

I did sell some, though. 


Weekend Reading – Dividends can get cut edition

I dumped my small portion of AQN inside the TFSA after the dividend news broke but I kept remaining AQN shares inside my taxable account (where I started buying and holding most of the shares years ago, and recent additions) to potentially offset future capital gains. I continue to hold those shares.

Q: Mark, you only spend $800 per month (or so) on groceries? How?

A: Well, that’s on average, about $200 per week. There are only two of us as well, and the cats. We also have those kitty costs not in the table which is where the buffer comes in. 

Some weeks our grocery spend is higher than others. It’s variable and always has been. 


My Dividends

Recall I also have this disclaimer when it comes to our spending, to the effect of:

Add in other spending/miscellaneous spending/buffer to the tune of $1,000 per month and that’s our budget:

semi-retire to spend about $4,000-$4,500 per month without any travel or major capital expenses.

That extra $1,000 or so per month in buffer accounts for any higher expenses in that list, whether that is food, dining out, condo fee increases, higher property taxes this year over last year, larger utility bills in any given month, cat food or vet bills, etc. 

Your mileage may vary of course! 

Passionate readers might be expecting exact numbers. I could publish a more fixed budget/list of fixed expenses I guess and update any table. Maybe I will eventually to share those details with you in 2024 as I monitor semi-retirement expenses and income needs more closely.

I don’t track my spending in detail and never have but maybe that will need to change…

I/we pay ourselves first and live on money that is leftover. 

Honestly, $800 on average per month certainly isn’t that frugal. 

My friend Chrissy highlighted a long list of 36 ways to save more money on groceries – to fight higher food costs.

I recall her family of four (4), yes four people, often spend <$600 per month on groceries! 

Q: Mark, are you going to post more stocks you want to buy in 2023? I recall you did this in 2022 and 2021 and 2020. Tawcan just posted his following what you started!

A: Ha, well, I might!

Here is Tawcan’s post for reference as part of Weekend Reading.

I already own a good amount of WCN from his list so I won’t be buying more, I got that last year at a lower price in my portfolio assuming more defensive stocks were smart holds longer-term for capital gains.

I’m biased, but I like his call on low-cost ETF XAW, since I already bought some inside my TFSA last month. 

Canadian banks could do very well this year if trends continue, so either EQ Bank (EQB) or NA or TD would be my buys in that sector.

Related to EQB, another dividend increase for my portfolio too.

Another reason to own it beyond the growth story:

More Weekend Reading…

This Toronto Star article was interesting (paywall?) related to renewing a mortgage:

“Every day, mortgage broker Mary Sialtsis is hearing the same question from homeowners: will I be able to afford my mortgage when I need to renew?”

Well, not many options that I can see, here are my thoughts that align with the experts, including priority #1:

  1. Shop around for a better rate (fixed or variable, depending on your risk tolerance for interest rates).
  2. Do your own math. Meaning, figure out what you can or cannot afford based on higher rates.
  3. Cut back other spending, where needed, to keep your home…

I echo this: “But for many people it will be a tough year or two ahead, experts say.”

From Dividend Growth Investor a nice list of companies rewarding shareholders with dividend raises. I have a few in the list!

From the lack-of-any-taste and pure-stupidity file: Wall Street Journal:

WSJ - Personal Finance Hack

Right. So, now one of the best personal finance hacks is to not eat any breakfast. Sigh. 

As always, Save, Invest, Prosper!

Check out my Deals page for partnerships and discounts. 


Have a great weekend!


My name is Mark Seed - the founder, editor and owner of My Own Advisor. As my own DIY financial advisor, I'm looking to start semi-retirement soon, sooner than most. Find out how, what I did, and what you can learn to tailor your own financial independence path. Join the newsletter read by thousands each day, always FREE.

43 Responses to "Weekend Reading – Do you really need $1.7 million to retire?"

  1. Hi Mark: It was an innocuous investment as I bought 800 shares of Great Lakes Power and they split in two. That gave me 1600 shares. In ’01 Brascan took them private and I could take the cash or the shares My 1600 shares of Great Lakes Power would equal 1448 shares of Brascan. Great Lakes paid a dividend of $.62 while Brascan paid $1.00 so I took the Brascan shares. Brascan changed its name to Brookfield Asset Management and split the shares 3x’s in the next six years 3/2. I bought 500 more shares and the stock has split 3/2 twice more.

  2. Hi Mark: I hold 12187 shares of BN now. I figure the original ACB would remain the same , I would only have more shares since BAM split five times and I bought 500 shares and received 67 shares when BPY.UN was privatized. the original shares were 1448 = $31486.00. After 3 splits 3/2 I now have 4887 shares. I thought this was a bi annual event so bought another 500 shares to bring me to 5387. In ’11 BAM split again so now I have 8080 shares. In ’20 BAM split again to give me 12120 shares. They then privatized BPY.UN and in the deal I received 67 more BAM shares for a grand total of 12187 Now they have split off the Manager. According to a formula I must lower the ACB by multiplying it by .88. This is fine as this would be applied to the original ACB but my problem arises when I try to figure out the ACB for BAM as wouldn’t it be a new entity. John Heinzl gave an easy illustration that if you had 500 shares you would multiply it by .88 and remaining sum you would divide by 125. He used a figure of $20000.00 and after multiplying it by .88 you would have $17600.00. The remainder $2400.00 you would multiply by 125 to get the new price per share. As you can see after 5 splits plus stock received in transactions determining the new cost for BAM ( the Manager) seems difficult. I received .25 of BN plus 20 shares from BAMR which were merged into the Manager (BAM) to give me 3066 shares.

  3. Hi Mark: Your sign off is apropos. Save, invest, prosper even in retirement. A rhetorical question. What would $400k 31 years ago be worth today? The 90’s were great and it increased to 1 mil. the second week of Sept./97. It has become a hobby and following the business news enjoyable. I roughly figured up my expenses and they are higher than yours Mark. Part of that is instalment payments car insurance. Five years ago I had a nasty accident on the 401 at the Brighton turnoff. the car was a write off. About three weeks later I was coming home from bowling and it was like pea soup as the fog was thick. Traffic was coming in the other direction so I tried to stay over but this was a mistake as a wheel caught the snow on the side and pulled me down the bank were I hit a tree. Another write off. So now I’m in the high risk bracket and insurance is over $3000.00. I figure roughly $96000.00 yearly. I now have some math to do but like dad always said that I can’t see the forest for the trees. The question is Brookfield. Yes I’m a professional procrastinator. According to John Heinzl you take the original ACB and multiply it by .88 to get the new ACB and I’m fine with that but when it comes to BAM you are to take the remainder and divide it by a quarter. The question is Brookfield has split five times and for the Corp. that is fine because the ACB stays the same but now you have more shares. With BAM, is it not a new entity. If so how do you calculate the new price. In 2001 I received 1448 shares, then in 2007 I bought 500 shares and then in ’20 I received 67 shares when BPY.UN was privatized.

    1. BAM is a great company and I suspect the subsidaries like BIPC and BEPC will only grow more…

      “Yes I’m a professional procrastinator.”

      I suspect when it comes to buying and holding stocks that has served you very, very well! 🙂

      How many BAM shares do you hold now?

  4. Interesting.

    I see some recommend no debt but I have always had debt, which I say is to have my house pay for it’s renovations (heating and windows lately) and using other people’s money (investment, deductible).

    I have been retired 11 years (retired 1 year earlier from my goal of 54).

    Just coverted all my RRSP and LIRA to RIF/LIF to bridge waiting for CPP/OAS to 70.

    As for expenses, 60K is about right. My fiancee is still working until next year and she is fine too.


    1. Outstanding, Denis re: “I have been retired 11 years (retired 1 year earlier from my goal of 54).”

      Ya, I think $60k per year per couple give or take a few thousand is pretty good for retirement. But, as always, “it depends”!

      Thanks for your comment,

      1. Sorry I meant 60K for me and my fiancee has her own finances since my daughter will inherit from me and her daughters will inherit from her. She has less expenses than me and could live well on 36K per annum when she retires.

        As per BAM from the other person (Ronald) , my BAM are in my registered accounts so I have no worries.


        1. Denis, you’re in excellent financial shape then – kudos!

          Yes, smart to keep BAM registered I think. I own BEPC and BIPC registered but I could also own them in a taxable account due to corporation struture.

          Thanks back!

  5. I agree – such lofty sums will seem so unattainable that they may lead people, especially young people starting out, to feel they will never get there. $1.7mn is also not even remotely close to what real Canadians havae saved and lived on in retirement.

    Statistics Canada publishes actual net worth data, and if you select values per household and for different age groups, you will see that the toal financial assets breaks down as: <35: $164k, 35-44: $342k, 45-54: $718k, 55-64: $873k and 65+: $624k. These figures include ife insurance and pensions, as well as other financial assets. Total average net worth, including real estate, is $1,058,788 among those 65+. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/cv.action?pid=3610066001

    Fred Vetesse has written extensively on this topic and he routinely points out that people in retirement typically spend about 50% of theirp pre-retirement incomes, and that Canada's seniors have among the lowest incidence of being in poverty in the Western word.

    Yes, people should save, and likely more than most do, but the notion of needing $1.7mn in today's dollars is unreasonable.

    1. Great stuff, thanks for that. I have looked at those tables as well.

      Yes, Fred Vetesse has written extensively on this topic and I reference his content often.

      People need to save money but my goodness, $1.7M invested for anyone in their early 60s is great 🙂


    2. Deane Hennigar (RBull) · Edit

      Thanks for those stats BB. I hadn’t looked at anything like that for years. They don’t surprise though.

      Agree, for most couples 1.7 is a pretty big number to expect or likely need for retirement, especially with govt benefits on top. As the stats Can numbers allude to its not something many are likely to achieve.

  6. In regards to your projected monthly living expense our spending is close to your estimates. Retired and downsized home in 2016 (debt free). Our last winter travel ended in March 2020 with only car trips visiting family since. Our annual spending is now around $40k ($3500/month). With this we live a full and active life. Our precovid travel spending was averaging $12k so for us a $60k after tax income (barring inflation) was sufficient.

    At a 5% after tax return (dividend income split between 2 people works nicely) you need $1,200,000 in investable assets assuming no other income sources to generate the required $60k yearly Once you include minimal CPP and OAS of say $12k ($1000/month after tax) you can reduce the required savings by $240,000 leaving a need approximately $960,000 in investable assets (as a conservative investor I only include CPP and OAS for 1 person as these benefits tend to disappear after the death of a spouse). For us, 250k of the money came from downsizing. The remaining 700k came from a lifetime of investing which, as an example, can be achieved by investing $500/month at 5% for 40 years. These numbers do ignore inflation/taxation.

    How much you will need to financially retire will depend upon your “numbers”. If you can enter this phase of your life with little to no debt, a paid off home, and a steady income stream, your spending, or lack there of, may surprise you, especially after the first 5 years, which I like to call the go go retirement years.

    Always enjoy your postings and the practical advice they provide.

    1. Great to know and thanks very much Terry for the kind words 🙂 Means a lot!

      Debt free is key for any retirement. At least it is for us.

      I think based on what I know from my readership, folks I know personally, and others, I think many Canadian households can retire on $5k per month. Certainly if you want to travel for a few months per year, that won’t do it, but for a few weeks here and there I think $5k or $6k per month would be great.

      My math says $1.3M is more than enough invested for anyone to live from age 50 to age 95.

      “How much you will need to financially retire will depend upon your “numbers”.”

      Totally. 🙂

      I appreciate your lived experience and contributions to the site!

  7. Hi Mark.

    I looked up the average and median Canadian income and it looks like average income is around $60k per year and median income is around $40k per year. I say around as different sources produced different results. If you assume a 4% return on $1.7 million this would be $68k per year. I guess people are saying they need more money in retirement than they do during their working years. You also mention that for two of you your spending on food is $800 per month. I believe this, I spend just over $400 per month for a single person. I have been tracking my actual spending since November 1, 2021 and my food spending works out to $414 per month. This includes groceries, restaurants, even buying a coffee at Tim Hortons, everything is included. I also believe I eat well; fresh fruits, vegetables, beef, steak, chicken, etc. I do make most of my own meals, I may eat out once a week.

    1. Thanks Paul.

      Ya, based on the retirees I know and clients I support, no debt and spending about $72k per year on average or about $6k per month is living very well. So, that means, you’d need about $1M in the bank around age 60 to pull that off.

      If you want to retire a bit earlier, say around age 50, you’d need about $1.3-1.4M.


      Great reference for your personal groceries. Seems about right to me!

      Thanks for your contribution. Have a great weekend.

  8. “Q: Mark, you only spend $800 per month (or so) on groceries? How?”

    Personal thought is that you are not eating pork and beans Mark at $800mth or those cats are living the high life
    We spent on average $550mth in 2022. I do separate out pharmacy items as a separate line and medical (prescriptions) also has its own line. Pharmacy is where stuff like paper towels, tooth paste, cough medicines, etc, etc. get bought. If I were to add that in to the grocery part I still would be below $700mth, So I think you are eating fillet mignon Mark LOL
    I did send you my spread sheet of budget lines some time ago. As mentioned I prefer the KISS method to tracking expenditures. I don’t care where I spend it, just how much I spend.

    “semi-retire to spend about $4,000-$4,500 per month without any travel or major capital expenses.”

    Again that is above what I budgeted back in 2015 and I have still not exceeded that amount. Mind you Covid reduced expenditures in 2020/2021 and still in to 2022. Also can depend on where you live. I am in a smallish town south of Montreal.so maybe housing costs such as taxes are less.
    As mentioned in CAP and by several comments here the $1.7 million is out to lunch – at present. Twenty years down the road it might be more relevant. I also know a couple who live on CPP/RRQ & OAS with nothing else and are quite happy. Their idea of a “vacation” or maybe better put, an enjoyable week or two is going hunting or fishing. So they enjoy themselves and at the same time lower the grocery bill by putting meat in the freezer. Cost of bug repellant might seem exorbitant to us though.
    To each their own. No one size fits all


    1. Ha, no cats are doing just fine, thanks 🙂

      Great details.

      I suspect most Canadian households, without any debt, could live quite well on about $5k or $6k per month for sure. That certainly doeson’t need $1.7M in your 60s.

      To your point, no one size fits all.

      Have a great weekend.

  9. Mark
    Have you ever done a case study on 3500 per month for retirement? I know several retirees who are living of just that approximate amount with a home and a car who are doing just fine. These over inflated numbers from studies are just bonkers. Even if you had 400k saved and kept it invested in solid dividend paying stocks while drawing it down you can easily make a decent amount to couple with CPP and OAS to last you. The key is being debt free. I just find it disheartening to always have such high numbers thrown about when it is truly not needed. Yes you might not be able to travel every year or dine out all the time, but you wouldn’t be on the street or eating cat food either.

    1. Great question. I did this one, Lou and answered another reader question in the case studies below.



      Well put: “These over inflated numbers from studies are just bonkers.”

      Most of my readers continue to say that…something to the effect that even $750k invested in many solid dividend paying stocks should deliver $35k or so per year, right there. Add even in average CPP and OAS and that’s $50k per year, after tax, for retirement spending in your 60s quite easily, which is about $4k per month.

      Most successful retirees I know and have worked with have a common denominator involved that you’ve already flagged: “being debt free”.

      Anyone paying down debt in retirement is doing three things that are not overly wise:

      1. paying other people first which is reducing your potential spend.
      2. opening up more financial risk than necessary (re: interest rates, other).
      3. creating undue/unnecessary emotional stresss or anxiety.

      I wouldn’t advise taking much if any debt into retirement, whatsoever, that folks couldn’t easily pay off right away.

      Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts about those other lower income case studies.

  10. The Toronto Star published an article about the BMO survey on Feb. 7th and made the following points which I think are a good way to look at the survey results:
    – most people when they think about how much they will need for retirement over estimate their future monetary need. I know I did when I set my target in an attempt to ensure I didn’t under save. It was an aspirational target for an enjoyable retirement.
    – so the $1.7M number probably says more about the mood of people in this high inflationary time than it does about the true $ needs to retire.
    – people today feel they will need 20% more $ than they did in 2020 (the last survey when $1.4M was the average response) to fund retirement. This isn’t surprising given inflation had been about 2% for over a decade (or was it two) back in 2020.

    My assumption is the $1.7M or whatever figure is appropriate for an individual or couple would be from all income sources so CPP, OAS, pensions etc. would count towards the figure thus requiring less than that figure in personal savings.

    1. Yes, for sure, Paul – I see this $1.7M number as more of an aspirational belief, not really what folks think they need.

      Even then, interesting about the mood of folks to your point (feeling the number must be 20% higher now).

      Maybe that’s true – includes all income sources such as CPP, OAS, etc. Hard to say. I figure it was a good case study all the same.

  11. I heard a recent study that one quarter of people who live until 60 will reach 100 years of age. Those are pretty good odds of living until 100. On those odds, should we be calculating retirement savings based on 100? And if so, and if some actually does retire at 65, I can’t see it possible that 1.7mil would be enough for a reasonable standard of living.
    Mark, I don’t know what age you tend to use for retirement savings, but I tend to see maybe 90-95 in what I’ve read. Of course, the numbers are just estimates for planning purposes. Nothing is certain.
    And as for setting a retirement “number” now while some of us are still in our 40s, there are just too many variables to be 100% certain. I think all we can do is plan conservatively, so we don’t run out of money.

    1. Thanks Dave!

      We tend to use age 95 by default for clients (like this one) but that doesn’t mean we don’t adjust it to their needs; some folks want 90, some 95, others age 100. So many unknowns and variables…that’s really the punchline as you know.

      Stats Can continues to tell us folks over age 85 make up a very small % of the population and at best, if very healthy in 60s, you have ~40-50% chance making it to age 90. OK but not great odds overall.


      $6k per month is a great retirement spend without debt for most Canadians I suspect, which means you don’t need this much but again, depending on lifestyle, most might spend less and others might spend a lot more.

      Chat soon!

  12. “Canadians believe they will need $1.7 million to retire”
    Are we saying $1.7 million per person OR per couple?
    That’s a ridiculous amount for the average Cdn.

    1. I think this is by household. The fact that one person, in the same house, might say they need $1.7M + $1.7M with their partner is bonkers to me. That would be an incredible amount of money to start spending age 62+.


  13. Excellent Post Mark as usual!
    1.7$ million ? haha in that case there’s no hope of retirement to almost every Canadian , I think I mentioned that in here before but my parents are a true example of that they’ve been retired for so long on just the CPP/OAS/GIS which for both totals less then 30K a year and that’s it !! no investments no other income and they’ve been retired for over 25 years now but the imprtant thing is for them is that they retired with 0$ in debts and thank God they’re healthy , of course at their age they don’t drive so no car needed and also can’t travel , I know this can’t apply to everyone because each one of us have a different style of living but I honestly believe that getting rid of your debts before retiring is the key for a successful retirement.
    As for groceries we do spend 250-300 a week and that’s a family of four so your 200$ a week is absolute normal 🙂
    Extremly happy that we got the 11% raise from MFC this week it definitely pays to wait and collect those dividends and a bonus raise hopefully every year.
    WCN is on my list to buy but it’s trading at all time high , I love the company because it’s simple to understand that in any economy cycle people still going to produce waste that needs to be dealt with so it’s a company that will profit in all kind of situations , I bought ATD few months back for my Wife and at the time I thought it was at all time high but I look at it today it broke another reccord so I guess if your holding for the long term today’s price won’t matter ? I would like to hear your thought on that Mark and if you ever bought on conviction or you always wait for the right price.

    1. “1.7$ million ? haha in that case there’s no hope of retirement to almost every Canadian…”

      Pretty much. Which is why I do not like these numbers. Interesting stuff but not relevant to many.

      I do believe $0 debt is key for any retirement success…unless you have a high amount of cashflow. (We hope to be debt-free in another 12-15 months, a small mortgage, that’s it.)

      Yes, I should have mentioned a few raises. I got EQB, MFC and NTR as raises recently 🙂

      Big fan of WCN and I hope to buy more but I’m not sure now is the time for me. re: all time high. I don’t always “sit” for the right price. I try to buy stocks near 52-week lows overall as a plan but sometimes, you simply need to rebalance the portfolio a bit and add/invest some money!

      Have a great weekend,

  14. Instead of reading the WSJ on skipping breakfast I skipped that article and read Jason Zweig. “Stock Buybacks Aren’t Bad. They Aren’t Good, Either.”

    Just reminds me our federal government is going to try and pass legislation to tax Canadian companies by two percent on their share buybacks.

    A nice dividend increase of 11% announced for MFC just the other day. I bought it in 2020 when everyone else seemed to be buying whatever was going up, i.e. expensive. At the time the company had a dividend yield of 6.5% and showed 3 and 5 year dividend growth of around 10%. When I bought it I figured either I’m wrong or the market is. Already now have about 23% in the taxable allocated to the financial sector so that’s enough for me, for a while.

    On the not so good news front, MG is increasing the dividend by only 2.2% and XTC didn’t offer any dividend increase for their usual annual dividend announcement. Both companies will probably go on the sidelines of our portfolio for 2023. Corby and Leons have been disappointments the last few years as well, to say the least. The only one I still like in the consumer discretionary sector is Canadian Tire.

    1. Jason Zweig is a great writer. I like him.

      Yes, got raises recently from MFC, EQB and NTR. Nice. 🙂

      I don’t own Canadian Tire yet but I recall the returns have been flat for the last 5-years.

      Buying anything lately?

      1. Buying anything lately?


        Hi Mark,

        This month I added more shares to our EMP.a and CTC.a.

        Empire we’ve owned since 2007 and Canadian Tire is a relative newcomer to the taxable portfolio since 2019.

  15. Thanks for the shoutout, Mark! Excellent CAP post about needing $1.7m to retire (or not). I find articles like the one from BMO to be misleading and possibly harmful.

    Seeing a huge number like that could scare people and lead them to work longer than necessary or believe they’ll never be able to retire.

    Thankfully, there are bloggers like you who set the record straight (with realistic numbers and proper planning). Hopefully, your more balanced message gets through!

    1. I couldn’t find in the BMO article if they are suggesting 1.7 million per couple or if it is per individual? Would a couple need 3.4? The article missed out on details that should have been included.

        1. I assume that’s per household (which could mean couple or individual, so I wouldn’t double the number necessarily for two people) but either way, not very relevant since the only number that matters is a personal one. 🙂

          Yes, BELIEVE is a key word!

          Have a great weekend, Chrissy.

      1. I believe it is per household but I can’t find the actual study either. More of a sentiment/belief which is not helpful. I can’t see any couple needing $3.4M to retire. That’s bonkers to me! 🙂

    2. Yes, very misleading and while interesting, not relevant nor really that helpful.

      Thanks for the kind words and will post very relevant case studies to Canadians over time! 😉

      Enjoy your weekend,

  16. On the mortgage renewal concerns and mitigating the increased costs, I would also suggest that it’s a good time to look at the life insurance and critical illness insurance costs. If the borrower(s) felt obligated to go with the lender’s offering, there’s a high probability they can get a lower cost alternative elsewhere.


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