02/09/2015 12:00 EST | Updated 02/13/2015 03:59 EST

With A Little Help: Why It's Never Too Late To Get Assistance Planning Your Future

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As the saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago. The second best time is today.” Although saving for something that seems as far away as retirement is overwhelming, keeping up on how to plan smart to get the biggest return on your retirement investment can make a huge difference. If you haven’t been as diligent about retirement planning as you’ve wanted to be, there’s no reason to despair, because you can start right now. We’re here to supply you with the simple basics of how to get the ball rolling, so you can start building your ideal future in no time.

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Consult with a financial advisor to get the best bang for your buck.

Not everyone’s a financial whiz and money guru, and that’s okay. Of course, you may hit the books and learn the details about a pension plan or a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), but learning from a living and breathing expert may be the way to go. For instance, did you know that an RRSP exists to allow your nest egg to grow in a tax-sheltered environment? The goal is to put money in when you’re at your earning peak, then withdraw that once you’re happily retired. Information like this doesn’t just come from the magazine covers at your grocery store. You can learn quite a bit from your financial advisor simply by setting up an appointment and having an honest discussion about what you want for your future in retirement.

Don’t procrastinate! Start now.

Sometimes the answer is as simple as taking action and doing something. You may have to put in some serious thought about investing and what kind of financial planning you have in mind for your future, but simply taking action to set aside a reasonable amount of money for your retirement every month doesn’t have to wait until the last possible minute. The beauty of it is that you can start anytime, whether you’re 25 years old or 55 years old. The earlier you start, the bigger your little nest egg will be by the time you’re ready to hang up your working gloves. However, with that said…

Don’t treat your retirement fund like an emergency fund.

Life happens. Sometimes people get laid off, get sick, accrue debt, or have a windblown tree (literal or proverbial) fall right into the roof of the house. These things are all uncontrollable, and it can seem tempting to dip a hand into the retirement cookie jar to fix all those problems. An investment poll among Canadians revealed that 40 per cent of Canadians withdrew money from their RRSPs in 2013! When it comes to setting money aside for your eventual retirement, consider that money locked away. Treat your retirement fund like an investment into your future, not a quick rainy day emergency fund. Keep in mind the long-term benefits of saving for old age, and step away from that proverbial piggy bank.

Several smaller payments are better than one huge lump sum.

So you’ve met with your financial advisor. You’ve won half the battle, which is to take control of your future and show initiative. As appealing as it may sound to start dumping in any extra dough you have into your newly minted retirement savings account, keep in mind that you have other bills to pay as well. A 2013 survey revealed that 56 per cent of Canadians say they plan on contributing to their retirement savings, but 64 per cent of those people also polled that they knew they didn’t have the money to do so. Don’t think you have to put in exorbitant payments for it to work, though. 31 per cent of those polled also said they put money away in their RRSPs automatically throughout the year.

Educate yourself.

Not that you have to go back to school for this, of course. But according to one survey, about one-thirds of the Canadian population do not know how tax-free savings accounts (TFSA) work. That’s over 10 million people! At some point it’s not enough to set money aside, but rather about continuing to learn about how to save and contribute to your retirement effectively. For instance, did you know that there is a yearly limit on how much money you can put into your TFSA? No? Neither do 38 per cent of Canadians, according to the same aforementioned survey. Read up on the different tactics you can use to maximize your return on your retirement savings and meet with the experts at your bank to consult with them. There are tools at your disposal to help you continue to learn.