Retiring Well: ‘Declutter’ financially before you retire

If you’ve helped an aging parent downsize from the family home or sorted through a loved one’s belongings after their passing, you may be inclined to tackle your own clutter — but that doesn’t make it easier.

“You can get this numb feeling when staring at piles of things you haven’t used for a long time: where do you even begin? People often end up just avoiding the problem entirely,” says Dave Lee, a Senior Wealth Advisor with Scotia Wealth Management in White Rock. “Sometimes messy finances can create a similar numb feeling — looking at the stacks of paper and password log-ins doesn’t ‘spark joy’ for everyone, and it can be challenging to get organized.”

But the benefits of decluttering go beyond the task at hand, whether that’s making space in the garage or putting together a more organized retirement plan.

“It’s like a breath of fresh air, bringing energy into other aspects of your life. Decluttering financially helps provide a clarity, that allows you to make better decisions,” Dave says.

Decluttering your finances

Unless you’re a strict minimalist, the longer you’re alive, the more stuff you’ll accumulate. Life happens, and with it comes sports equipment, clothing, craft supplies, mementos and all sorts of stuff that you no longer need. The same thing can happen to your finances, leading to disorganized clutter in your retirement plan.

Examples of financial clutter:

  • Online accounts you opened when you were keen to ‘do it yourself.’

  • A credit card that you haven’t used since redeeming the points from the sign-up offer.
  • A savings account at the bank you used before moving provinces.
  • An RRSP opened to make a deadline-day contribution, but haven’t touched for years.

  • ‘Locked-in’ retirement accounts from defined benefit pension plans at previous employers.

“Eventually, something encourages you to get organized — retirement planning, a major life change, or just a realization that it’s time to regain control. I can help organize these accounts and create a cohesive plan that gives clients a path forward,” Dave says.

Dave was once introduced to a couple who felt they were well diversified because they had their money at seven different institutions.

“I reviewed their statements and found that every account held a similar high fee mutual fund. This shifted our conversation about what diversification really means – and it doesn’t require driving all over town and receiving more statements that you can keep track of.”

How clear is your financial picture? It may be time to work with a professional who can help you declutter, get organized and move forward.

Dave Lee CIM, CFP, FCSI is a Senior Wealth Advisor with Scotia Wealth Management in White Rock. He can be reached at or 604.535.4743.

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ScotiaMcLeod, a division of Scotia Capital Inc.

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