FEBRUARY IS COLD: THINK RRSP AND WARM UP YOUR FUTURE

What are your financial priorities for February? Paying off credit card debt after that holiday shopping spree? Digging deep into your pockets to find money for a last-minute RRSP contribution? If RRSP’s and saving don’t seem important to you – think again – you could be making a big mistake.

A few statistics to consider: Personal lines of credit have soared 30 per cent over the past year, according to CIBC economist Benjamin Tal. He said consumers are sitting on a “financial time bomb” due to their current debt loads. In an interview on Report on Business Television, Adrienne Warren told me recently that after 22 years of declines, Canadians’ savings rates are now at zero. That’s right, zip, nada, no savings at all. What’s more, only 20 per cent of us maxed out our RRSPs last year. Canadians aren’t stashing money away like they once did. This fact is particularly relevant at this time of year – with the RRSP deadline approaching at midnight on March 1.

Saving money is the reason why hundreds of Canadians call my program, ?Talking Tax?, on Tuesdays and Thursdays on Report on Business Television. Each week, I sit down with top Canadian tax experts to answer viewer questions on minimizing their tax bills. What I have found since the show began more than a year ago is the most obvious tax-saving strategy remains the RRSP. The Registered Retirement Savings Plan allows you to keep the government’s hands off of up to 18 per cent of your income. But that is only the beginning. There are so many other strategies you can use, no matter what your age – to get the nest egg you want.

Those strategies are the focus of a special series on Report on Business Television in the coming weeks. February is “Your Money Month” – a month-long series looking at all of the options to consider this RRSP season.

Whether you are just starting out, or about to retire, we have lined-up dozens of experts to examine your investing issues. How soon should you start investing in an RRSP? Is it smart to borrow money for an RRSP? Should you be putting extra money in your house, or your portfolio? How much do you need to retire? Do you have too much money in your RRSP? All of these questions, and a whole lot more, will be answered during “Your Money Month” on Report on Business Television.

Here’s a breakdown of our special series: Feb. 1 to 4 is an RRSP primer; the week of Feb. 7 is the ?Making A Million?, is that enough to retire on? Or, do you need that much? ?Business Morning with Jim O?Connell? weekdays at 10 a.m. will answer these questions. For the week of Feb. 14 we’ll bring you “Generation RSP?. This is a series of investing tips based on your age group. How should you save if you are a 25-year-old single male? Or a 35-year-old married mother of two? What if you just started saving at age 50? We break it down by generation, starting with people in their 20s, then those in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s on ?Trading Desk with Pat Bolland? every afternoon from 1:30 to 4 p.m. And, for the last week of February in a series called “Cracking the Nest Egg?, we’ll tell you how to spend money wisely once you’ve retired ? you can join me at 8 a.m. on ?Am Business?. On a daily basis, my colleague Andrew Bell, author of “Mutual Funds for Canadians for Dummies” will also give viewers tips on all aspects of investing.

February is “Your Money Month” on Report on Business Television and will include everything you need to get ready for the March 1 RRSP deadline and beyond. Consider it an educational and entertaining way to get the best financial advice to plan your future. For more information on ?Your Money Month? visit www.robtv.com. Report on Business Television can be found on Rogers 57 in Toronto or check your local listings.

Kim Parlee is the host of “Talking Tax” on Report on Business Television.