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By Robb Engen on August 3, 2017

Juggling Competing Financial goals

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Raising a family can often seem like a balancing act trying to juggle all your competing financial goals and keep your head above water. Looking at your finances and trying to figure out how to deal with multiple goals can be frustrating.

We want it all – who doesn’t? But for most of us it’s not that easy to make the maximum contributions to each of your RRSPs, TFSAs, plus fund the kids’ RESPs – let alone top-up your mortgage payments and still have money left over to, you know, live a little.

That means prioritizing your financial goals; deciding which ones get funded and which ones get left on the cutting room floor. It means striking the right balance between satisfying our present and future selves. It sometimes means spending instead of saving, or vice-versa.
Which goals do you save towards first, second, and so on?

  1. How do you prioritize retirement savings, children’s education, a new vehicle and mortgage pay down?
  2. How do you pay off debt and still have savings?

As a single-income family we need to make tough choices when it comes to our budget. We can’t max-out everything, so we pick the savings goals that are most important to us right now. For us that has meant making the maximum contribution to my RRSP and to the kids’ RESPs.

Sure, we could have funded one more savings goal, such as putting an extra few thousand dollars onto the mortgage, or contributing that amount to one of our TFSAs. But that would have come at the expense of our summer vacation, which we look forward to and enjoy every year. It also might come at the expense of our emergency fund, which, incidentally, came in handy when our hot-water tank died the night before we left on summer vacation last year. There’s a $350 service call I didn’t need, thank you very much.

The good thing is that we continue chipping away at our goals. We don’t have to worry about remembering to contribute to our RRSPs or the kids’ RESPs anymore because those contributions are automatic and have been for years. So, what’s next?

We went through our list of big financial priorities and found that most have been taken care of. We bought a new car four years ago and paid it off last fall. Two years ago, we developed the basement in our home and will pay off that loan soon. We (okay, I) loosened up the purse strings and put more money towards our family vacation. Life is good.

Now we find ourselves with an extra $5,000 per year to start funding a new goal or two. Without any major expenses on the horizon we decided to put the entire amount into one of our TFSAs. We chose a TFSA, and not extra mortgage payments, because with mortgage rates under 3 percent I think it’s reasonable to assume we’ll get a better long-term rate of return investing in an index mutual fund or exchange traded fund (ETF).

As we enter our late thirties it feels good to have put some of our major expenses behind us and to start tackling another savings goal. We’ll keep going down this path until we finally manage to max-out all our savings opportunities.

That might be years away, but with a good financial plan, open lines of communication between spouses, and the right balance between the present and future, I have no doubt we’ll achieve financial freedom soon.

Robb Engen blogs about Canadian personal finance at Boomer & Echo. Reach him at

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