While there is no doubt that COVID-19 has had a significant economic impact, with many individuals losing their jobs and businesses facing uncertainty, almost one half of Canadians report that they have experienced little to no impact on their finances during this time.1

In fact, there may be many of us who are actually cash-flow positive right now, as we are spending less on things like commuting, eating out, and shopping. You may even be dreaming about what that extra money could go towards.

“We know that some Canadians have unexpectedly found themselves in a position to save and it’s important for people to know what their options are,” says Agnes Vandenberg, Vice President, Personal Savings and Investing at TD. “Obviously for some, it would be for short-term needs such as paying down debt or a summer vacation. But for others, using these savings to further invest in their longer-term goals, such as retirement, could be optimal.”

Whether your goals are short-, medium- or long-term, here are some ideas to help you get there with the extra money you’ve found in your budget.

Short-term goals

You may be realizing a savings of hundreds of dollars a month because you are no longer commuting, paying for parking or filling up your gas tank as often. Maybe you’re thinking that if you start saving now, you could have enough money in a few years for a new car. Or new living room furniture. Or a wedding.

When saving for short-term goals, you want your money to grow with little to no tax implications, but still be available when you are ready for it. Consider using a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). A TFSA is a registered savings account that can help you save money and have it grow tax-free, for your next big-ticket item or event.

You might think of a TFSA like a basket in which you can hold qualified investments that may generate interest, capital gains and dividends, tax-free.

One thing you might consider holding in your TFSA basket is a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC). GICs are a safe way to save money because your principal is protected and you’ll earn a guaranteed rate of return for the term of your investment.

You may also consider opening a High-Interest Savings Account (HISA). A HISA pays a higher rate of interest than a simple chequing account and is intended to be used to save money rather than for daily transactions. A HISA can be a great way to save for an emergency fund, if you don’t already have one.

Medium-term goals

Many Canadians are itching to get out with friends, celebrate milestones, take in a movie or spend an afternoon shopping. But one bright side is that we can count up all the money we’ve saved by eating at home, watching old movies and staying away from the malls. The average Canadian spends more than $200 per month on eating in restaurants alone.2 Consider saving up that money for a heftier goal a little farther down the road, such as purchasing a home, getting a graduate degree, or starting a business.

A TFSA can also be a good savings vehicle for medium-sized goals, as new contribution room is assigned annually, and you can carry forward any unused contribution room from previous years. But for specific goals like saving for a home, a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) has certain advantages.

An RRSP is a savings plan, registered with the Canadian federal government, that you can contribute to for retirement purposes. Any income earned from investments held within the RRSP can then grow tax-deferred until it’s withdrawn. RRSP contributions are tax-deductible, meaning they can be deducted on your current year tax return, potentially reducing the total amount of taxes you pay.

While primarily used to save for retirement, your RRSP offers some useful benefits when saving for your first home. The Home Buyers’ Plan allows you to borrow up to $35,000 from your RRSP to put towards the purchase or build of a qualifying new home, as long as you pay the money back within 15 years.

Your RRSP also offers the ability to borrow up to $20,000 to pay for education or training under the Lifelong Learning Plan program.

“This is a great time to consider investing, based on your goals and risk tolerance,” says Vandenberg. “Buying at the low when most investors are too afraid to buy can be beneficial in the long term.”

Long-term goals

Maybe you’ve gotten into the habit of going for a run at lunchtime or maybe it’s virtual yoga first thing in the morning. After all, you want to live a long and healthy life. However, a longer life means saving enough money so that you can enjoy it. With the money you may be saving from your gym membership, consider using that money to save for your later years and your retirement plan.

“Get into the habit of investing with as little as $25 per month,” says Vandenberg. “Over time, the automated contributions will compound and help you reach your financial goals sooner.”

For an idea of how much you’ll need at retirement, and how to get there, you can use a retirement calculator. Your retirement plan should be developed with a financial professional who takes into account all the potential streams of income you’ll have during retirement, how much you can save, and how you will be taxed. Your streams of income could include government income, a company pension and personal savings like those in your RRSP, TFSA or other investments.

And given that you may be looking at decades down the road, you may wish to consider an investment in a mutual fund which can be held within your TFSA, RRSP or as part of a non-registered account.

A mutual fund is a portfolio of bonds, stocks, or other investable assets like money market products, that are selected and managed by a professional on behalf of many investors like you. A mutual fund pools your money with other investors so that you can gain access to more underlying investments than you would normally have access to. With so many different types of mutual funds available, there may be one or more that fits your lifestyle and investment goals.

With the help of a financial professional, you can find the right one for your time horizon and your risk tolerance. They may also help you select suitable savings and investment options for your financial goals. Even if you think there is no extra money in your budget, speaking with a financial professional may help you identify ways to help you save towards your financial goals.

DENISE O’CONNELL

MONEYTALK LIFE

ILLUSTRATION

VERONICA PARK

  1. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200420/dq200420b-eng.htm
  2. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1110022201