Investor Toolkit: The right way to calculate your retirement income

Investor Toolkit: The right way to calculate your retirement income

Every Wednesday, we publish our “Investor Toolkit” series on TSI Network. Whether you’re a new or experienced investor, these weekly updates are designed to give you specific advice on successful investing, and on successful retirement planning. Each Investor Toolkit update gives you a fundamental tip and shows you how you can put it into practice right away.

Tip of the week: “When you’re planning your retirement, make sure that you haven’t based your future income on over-optimistic calculations that will leave you short.”

As the deadline for RRSP contributions approaches, many investors are confident they are taking concrete steps toward a secure retirement. But are those steps based on realistic calculations?

Let’s say you’re 50 and you want to retire at 65. You have $200,000 in your RRSP, and you expect to add $15,000 in each of the next 15 years. To determine if this is enough to retire on, you need to make assumptions about investment returns and income needs.

  • What you can expect. Long-term studies show that the stock market as a whole generally produces total pre-tax annual returns of 8% to 10%, or around 6% after inflation. For retirement planning, we’ll assume a 6% yearly return, and disregard inflation.Your $200,000 grows to $479,312*, and your yearly $15,000 RRSP contributions add up to $370,088, for total retirement savings of $849,400.

(*Be sure to check your math. There are many compound-return calculators available online. For example, you can find a comprehensive compound-return calculator at the Bank of Canada’s web site,

  • Income and outgo. If you continue to earn 6% a year, and you withdraw $50,964 a year (6% of the $849,400 in your RRSP), you can avoid dipping into capital until your mid-70s, when RRIF rules call for steadily rising withdrawals.

    However, if you start taking money out faster, or earn lower returns, you’ll run out of money. If you withdraw $90,000 a year while earning 6%, the money you’ve accumulated will last just over 13 years. If you earn 5% but withdraw $90,000 a year, your money will be gone in just over 12 years.

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  • Beware of getting caught in a vicious circle. Some investors, worried about their money eroding, or tempted by even greater gains, start to look for higher returns in riskier investments. They may take a chance with gold and silver stocks or even with high-risk junior stocks. In years when these volatile investments lose money, those investors will then have less capital for the following year. This may lead to a vicious circle of lower income and shrinking capital.

Our investment advice: Rather than taking on extra risk, we always advise investors to take the safe route to retirement planning. Save more now, work longer, or plan to spend less. Retirement leaves you with lots of free time, and filling it often costs more money than people anticipate. But postponing retirement, or working part-time as long as you’re able, can pay off in higher current income, more contentment and greater long-term security.

COMMENTS PLEASE—Share your investment experience and opinions with fellow members

What do you believe is the biggest challenge in planning for retirement: ensuring that you have enough money, or preparing yourself to be active and productive in your post-work years? Let us know what you think.


  • Conventional retirement advice doesn’t seem to correlate to my actual experience (retired six years, my wife retired 11 years).

    The drawdown rate of retirement funds seems not to correlate to a little experiment I have going on. My wife has a LIF. There is both a maximum and minimum withdrawal amount. She has been withdrawing the maximum amount for 11 years including the one time 50% withdrawal. The fund generates enough income to pay 75% of the required withdrawal amount.
    We are trying to run it out, but it is going to be a long drawn out procedure.

    Now, this is small scale compare to our total retirement plan, but I think it can be scaled up.

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