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Lisa Zamparo

I’m a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), business coach and personal finance expert in Toronto who can help you make intentional decisions with your money. My personalized approach to financial planning can help you achieve your goals by aligning your spending with your priorities.

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Confused & Committed

People often give unsolicited advice. When it comes to the percentage of my income I should save, the range is immense. Different advisors, whether it's a professional, family member, or friend, have recommended different numbers.

To play it safe, I've stuck to the rule I often hear, which is to save 10% of your income. But now that I'm getting into my 30s, I'm questioning whether it's enough. Should the amount increase year by year? I’m starting to save more, but that's because I'm also making more. Technically, it's still 10% of my income.

My concern stems from also hearing that some people have been able to save 70% of their income with a better chance at retirement. While I don't believe that's possible for me, I'm concerned that 10% of my income is far from what I need to retire comfortably. Were they able to save such a high percentage because they invested heavily and aggressively? If this is likely the case, should I consider doing the same?

In Hot Water

So, I'm not sure if I need therapy or financial advice. But. Here goes.

I've been in a common law relationship for the last 15 years. I'm a stay at home mom and take care of four children. Recently, our world has been turned upside down. The century-old house we purchased two years ago started to show its true colours - it began with a septic tank replacement, then it needed re-roofing and toxic mould removal. Overall, the repairs would have cost us $75,000.

With a $190,000 mortgage on our house at 90% loan to value, we couldn't refinance, and we couldn't take out more because our consumer debt was also out of control. So, we walked away from the repairs, and the house, and declared bankruptcy. It was the most difficult decision of our life. And now we feel even more overwhelmed.

At least my partner's job is secure. He makes $70,000 a year. With the additional income, the universal childcare benefits give me; we can make ends meet our immediate needs.

How do we rebuild ourselves? How do we establish better trust and transparency (re: consumer debt)? How can I make sure we'll always be able to provide for our kids when we don't have access to credit?

Elle Décor Wannabe

I'm 25 years old, engaged, and starting to consider the next stage of life seriously. To me, that means saving for retirement, having a better routine, and considering homeownership. The first two seem like straightforward goals, but the idea of owning a home is so abstract, I don't know how to assess my standing.

I live in Toronto, so there's a constant buzz about how unattainable home ownership is for young people. But to be honest, I don't know what that means or where I stand amongst my peers. I saw an ad in the paper the other day for a condo priced between $400-500K. After doing the math, I found that I could easily afford the maintenance fees plus property tax if my partner were to cover the monthly mortgage (also easily done).

My question is, once we have the down payment saved, should we look for a potential place right away? Should we be trying to stop paying rent as soon as possible? Or should we take it easy, save for some beautiful furniture, and buy when we have more than enough to invest?

Lost Mama

I'm married, in my 30's, with a two-year-old and another one on the way. I have an RRSP, an RESP, and a little under $10,000 in investments through an employee benefit program. I also have a small mortgage and no debt outside of that.

However, with daycare fees and fixed monthly expenses, I have very little in my savings accounts; a picture that will unlikely change as I will soon be on maternity leave. After that, my childcare costs will double. Lately, planning for retirement has been on my mind. Even though I've always made financial decisions with my partner, I feel that now I need the help of a planner or advisor.

So, my question is, how do I find one? Should I seek an independent? Or look to a large financial institution? Or maybe go the robo-advisor route?

Since I don't have a lot of money to invest, I'm wondering if it's worth investing in fees and upfront costs of getting advice. Would I embarrass myself if I were to go to a professional and present them with such little assets?

I know I need a long-term game plan. And I'm worried about my savings account (which I depleted during my first maternity leave ☹).

What direction should I take?