Tim Stobbs is 42-years-old and already three years into retirement.
His days include writing, brewing beer at home and painting miniature figures. The father of two also volunteers and even works a few hours a week at a local library.
The Regina man was 39 when he retired from work as an engineer in 2017 — a plan 11 years in the making.
“The whole retire early thing started way back in a job when I literally woke up nearly feeling sick to my stomach going to work — I hated it that much and I went, ‘there’s gotta be a better life than this,’” he said.
“I didn’t have much saved, I was up to my eyeballs in debt like everyone else.”
But Stobbs had his mind made up on early retirement, while his wife, who also worked full-time, was more focused on the idea of financial security.
With the arrival of their second child, the couple decided to work on a savings plan that suited their lifestyle. At their peak — they were saving over half of Stobb’s salary.
Stobbs acknowledged he was, at the time, earning an annual salary of $75,000. In the last year of his retirement planning, he was making $100,000.
“It has to be your version of early retirement. When people say, ‘well I can’t do what you did.’ I don’t want you to do what I did — that was for me, that’s what worked for our family,” Stobbs said.
He said people often focus on the numbers, comparing starting points, when saving ultimately requires a commitment to spending less, or rather — prioritizing what’s most important.
“I find a lot of people have this default (of) spending on everything and we don’t actually question why we’re spending money on things until we go, ‘what exactly am I getting out of this? What makes me happy?’” he said.
“It’s going through every chunk of your life and examining it.”
He said initially, the couple was too strict on saving.
“There’s no point saving for 10 or 15 years and being miserable doing it,” he said, adding there’s no one-size-fits-all plan.
“It has to be your version of early retirement. When people say, ‘well I can’t do what you did.’ I don’t want you to do what I did — that was for me, that’s what worked for our family.”
Retirement planning myths busted
Zena Amundsen is a certified financial planner at Astra Financial in Regina. She said there are many myths people believe when it comes to retirement planning.
“Some of the stories we tell ourselves is, ‘I’m too young, I don’t have to start thinking about it,'” she said.
“Another common myth I’ve heard is, ‘well, I don’t have a million dollars, so I don’t have enough money, so why would I even start?'”
Amundsen said one of the biggest barriers to financial planning is the stigma around discussing money, and an overall lack of financial confidence.
She added the first big step is taking stock of one’s current financial situation. From there, it’s time to set financial goals, which will likely change as time goes on.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. If you say, ‘oh, I’ve only got this much’ or it doesn’t feel like much at all — it doesn’t matter. Just take stock and be aware of that,” she said.
Amundsen recommended people speak openly about their financial goals with partners and family, and support their goals by reading books on the topic or speaking with a professional planner.
She said financial goals should align with what people want out of their retirement.
When will you retire?
On Friday, the Bank of Montreal released the findings of its annual Registered Retirement Savings Plan survey.
It found 69 per cent of Canadians now hold an RRSP account, compared to 60 per cent last year. The average amount held in RRSP accounts hit $111,922, up by almost $10,000 compared to 2018.
On average, Canadians plan to retire by age 62. However, 25 per cent do not know when they will retire and 10 per cent don’t think they will ever be able to retire.
Fifty-nine per cent of Canadians are unable to estimate how much money they would need to retire comfortably. Meanwhile, only half of Canadians are hopeful they will have enough money by their retirement and will be debt-free by the time they retire.