LIM, Sylvia

Author Tags: Advice

Sylvia Lim is a Certified Financial Planner and Certified General Accountant. She is the author of:

Simply Essential Personal Budgeting Kit (Self-Counsel)

Finances After 55: Make the Transition from Earning a Living to Retirement Living (Self-Counsel, 2005)

[BCBW 2004] "Advice"

Finances After 55 (Self Counsel $14.95)

Ten years ago, Baby Boomers were raising children and paying off their mortgages. Now they’re managing their parents’ finances and worrying more about retirement.

Sylvia Lim’s down-to-earth guide Finances After 55 (Self Counsel $14.95) is designed to offer practical tips for the newly gray as they jog and sail and jazzercize their way towards old age.

“People today are definitely better-educated about retirement,” Lim says. “Many people don’t feel they have a government safety net—whether that perception is real or not—so they do more for themselves. RRSPs have become so popular that it’s almost unheard of for people not to have long-term savings of some kind.”

Some of Lim’s clients are so well-prepared for retirement that they make the mistake of not living for today, of unduly hoarding their resources. They won’t even take themselves out to see a movie. Those super-savers can take some comfort in knowing seniors in Canada are comparatively in good shape.

“We’re definitely better-off than in the States,” says Lim, a financial planner. “because we have better social programs here. For instance, 30% of the population in the States has no health care insurance. One aspect of retirement that Canadians don’t have to worry about is health insurance, and prescription drugs. Our system looks after us. That’s what we pay taxes for.”

So it’s not all gloom ‘n’ doom. With the combined political clout of the Baby Boomers, it’s likely our nursing homes will be well-stocked with Jimi Hendrix CDs for a few more decades to come. Or, at least, that’s the word from our current Prime Minister. Whether or not all provincial premiers can resist two-tiered health care systems is another matter altogether.

“Retirement requires a new mindset,” Lim says. “You need to actively manage your investments, in order to generate income to live off. Unlike a paycheck—which is steady—your investments can generate income one year, but they may not generate income the next.

“You have to watch your investments at all times. Your have to do your homework. You have to be committed to spending time with your portfolio, or committed to finding people to help you. You shouldn’t count on your pension to cover all your retirement expenses.”

Not all adjustments during retirement will be monetary. “You have to be mentally prepared,” she says. “Have you heard of people who die because they’re forced into retirement? It’s because they have absolutely no idea what they’re going to do with themselves.

“It’s important to have a circle of friends and social activities beyond those that surround you at work. You’re not going to work nine-to-five, Monday to Friday. So are you going to be hanging around the house every day, driving your wife crazy?”

The good news is most people are better at playing the retirement game than they used to be. Often retirees take up part-time work they like and experience personal growth in retirement. Fewer and fewer people avoid making a will.

One option is to move to a different area of the province in order to maintain your standard of living on a reduced income. Yippee, Quesnel here we come. Meanwhile there are lots of government agencies such as the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) that provide seniors’ discounts, two-for-one coupons, travel discounts.

Finances After 55 serves as beginner driver’s manual for the road to retirement. Proceed with caution, but don’t forget to have some fun en route. 1-55180582-0

--by Jeremy Twigg

[BCBW Winter 2004] "Finance"