How to invest for retirement when time is no longer your friend

By Mark Seed, myownadvisor

Special to the Financial Independence Hub


Save early, save often.

Time in the market is your friend.

Get started, stay invested.

Let’s face it: easy to say, hard to do.

How to invest for retirement when time is no longer your friend?

Read on in today’s post, including answering a reader email on this very subject.

Time in the market 

Cutting to the chase: time in the market, as opposed to timing the market, works because it does not involve short-term predictions or any guesswork at all. This strategy proves that time and patience in the market is better than a quick sale. For example, when a person has a stock or ETF for many years, the power of compounding simply tells us that investment growth will do all the heavy lifting for us. Patient investors will gain larger profits by allowing their investments to grow over time.

“The wonderful magic of compounding returns that is reflected in the long-term productivity of American business, then, is translated into equally wonderful returns in the stock market. But those returns are overwhelmed by the powerful tyranny of compounding the costs of investing. For those who choose to play the game, the odds in favor of the successful achievement of superior returns are terrible. Simply playing the game consigns the average investor to a woeful shortfall to the returns generated by the stock market over the long term.” – John Bogle, founder of Vanguard Group.

John said things better than I did. Most investors should consider investing as a multi-year long-term endeavour.

The secret sauce therefore is spending time in the market – staying invested – and not diving in and out.

I’ve seen this play out myself, in real time, with my dividend investing journey. See the chart below. Sure, I’ve added new money over the years but going forward, my portfolio will continue to grow and is likely to double every 10 years or so even if I don’t add another five cents.

My Own Advisor Dividend Income Update

Further reading: read more about my progressive dividend income journey here.

Waiting for growth can be painful. Or maybe life throws a curveball at you and you simply can’t invest as much as you’d like. Life happens.

I’ve been on record to say if you haven’t saved a cent by age 50, for any retirement at all, you might be kissing any middle-class retirement lifestyle away. With inflation running higher, that might be more true than ever.

But it is never too late to right the ship. It’s never too late to learn something new. It’s never too late to get started with investing: you can invest for retirement when time is no longer your friend.

How to invest for retirement when time is no longer your friend – reader question

Here is the reader question, adaptedly slightly for the site for today’s post:

Hi Mark,

I appreciate all that you do. I recently sold a property and I’m starting all over.

I’m newly self-employed. I have a new rental apartment, but starting from scratch. I’m 55 and have an empty TFSA. I would like to max it out with investments that will act as my long-term account. I don’t need to touch that money for probably 15 years. I hope to put any savings, about $77,000 in there next year.

I’ll also be putting another $150,000-$200,000 into my new business. Day trading? Kidding.

Back to my biggest question – most articles and advice I’ve read about is focused on long-term investing that caters to a younger person whose age allows them to exploit compound interest – I know you write about that too. Because I’m not in that category, I thought I’d reach out and see what you can help with. What is possible? 

Please accept my request or send me any articles on your site that address investing for someone older, with limited funds like myself for the TFSA. 

Thanks so much for your time and consideration.

Thanks for your email and readership.

Well, a few thoughts and I’ll put them in order of what I would consider myself, based on my personal lessons learned as your food for thought.

How not to invest for retirement when time is no longer your friend

I’ll cover how much wealth you can still generate with your TFSA in a bit, but I think it’s important for me to call out that based on market history, because equity markets can be volatile in the short term but rather predictable over the long-term (they rise), an investor who stays invested is probably going to win the race.

Case in point.

Did you predict this massive fall, and rise, in our pandemic-era?

If you’re being totally honest with yourself, I doubt it. I know I didn’t see this comeback coming but I’m sure glad it happened ….

The Cash Wedge

So, whether you invest in stocks, bonds, real estate or more speculative plays like Bitcoin, you should know that you’re mainly rewarded with returns for your exposure to just one thing: risk.

Risk, on the whole, is difficult to define and measure, especially at the personal level but essentially it comes in two main flavours: short-term and long-term.

Short-term risk might be easier to relate to. Stocks, bonds, and other assets can lose money in the short-term. See above!

But investing history consistently tells us for any short-term headaches, by staying invested, “this too shall pass.”This means that an investor who stays in the market (and does not trade) generally speaking has a much higher probability of long-term success than one who tries to pick the perfect time to get in and out.

Further reading: I used to sabotage my portfolio. Don’t repeat my mistakes!

How not to invest for retirement when time is no longer your friend

Another concept I want to bring up is the fact that at any age, there is one major piranha you need to avoid for successful, more predictable wealth-building: the investment industry itself.

Did I just call out all the entire wealth industry? Only some to a point!

I firmly believe the more you know about the financial industry’s priorities, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to thwart it. Simply put, the brokerages and financial industry at large is a colossal marketing and money-making machine designed to do one major thing: make money.

(If you ever doubt this, turn on your television for a couple of hours and count the credit card companies, banking companies, loan companies and more you see in advertising to you.)

When it comes to successful, long-term investing (and you still have many years to invest by the way!!), you should simply be very wary of any financial company trying to be your best friend. Absolutely, there are great companies out there. But essentially, financial companies are in the business to do one thing and doing it very well for shareholders: make lots of money. I know, I’m a shareholder of many financial companies for that reason.

Conquer the enemy in the mirror: avoid sabotaging your portfolio

I know you’re probably kidding on the day trading thing (or not?), so whether any investor decides to trade or not is their decision, of course. I know for many investors, these universal and repeatable practices can work well given enough time:

  1. Keep a modest and consistent savings rate for investing purposes. Grow your savings rate if you can.
  2. Keep your money management fees low.
  3. Consider diversifying your assets to mitigate risk. Spread your assets around.

With these lessons learned above, let’s now consider what wealth you can still create leveraging that TFSA alone.

How to invest for retirement when time is no longer your friend: use the TFSA!

I’ve come to realize investing might be as exciting as watching our laundry tumble in the dryer. That boring process doesn’t mean it can’t work incredibly well:  including using the TFSA as a long-term investment account.

Good on you to consider it too!

The Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) is a gift to all Canadians. I mean, who doesn’t love tax-free money or better still, money that grows tax-free?!

To your earlier point, here is the current TFSA contribution limit in this post.

As of next year, you should be able to max out that TFSA assuming new TFSA contribution room opens up on January 1: so you can deposit your $77,000 and then some.

Similar to the assets you can hold within a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), you probably already know that the TFSA can also be used to help Canadians build significant wealth beyond just holding cash savings. With your after-tax dollars, you can own a number of different types of investments inside the TFSA:

  • Cash
  • Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs)
  • Bond funds or bond ETFs
  • Individual stocks
  • Equity funds or equity ETFs

I personally own a mix of individual, Canadian stocks and low-cost, diversified ETFs in my TFSA. I’m likely to add more ETF units in the coming years thanks to my lessons learned in diversification.

Assuming you contribute that $77,000 to your TFSA in the coming months, and keep contributing every year to your TFSA, you still have the potential to build some great wealth for the coming 15 years until age 70.

How to invest for retirement when time is no longer your friend - TFSA


  • After $77,000 contributed, $6,000 contributed every year, for 15 years, to TFSA.
  • To simplify, TFSA contribution room does not increase by inflation (although it should).
  • Rate of return is a modest 5.30% in a 70/30 stock and bond mix.
  • No TFSA withdrawals occur over the 15 years.
  • Inflation runs at 2% otherwise.
  • Value of TFSA at age 70 ~ $299,510.

How to invest for retirement when time is no longer your friend summary

Based on this reader question, I can’t say whether that TFSA alone should be enough to retire on at age 70 in addition to CPP and/or OAS benefits.

I can say that a steady, disciplined approach to saving and investing inside your TFSA is likely to deliver some value to your retirement plan.

To wrap, a few final comments:

  1. All investors make trade-offs when it comes to their investment decisions. Stocks may or may not go up. Bond returns could be lower in the coming decades. Holding cash might not keep up with inflation: it likely won’t. There is no right or wrong answer since we cannot predict the investing future. There really is no perfect portfolio: but do consider staying invested in a balanced approach that is aligned to your personal objectives. I would personally reconsider day trading for wealth-building.
  2. Consider using your TFSA as you have considered beyond cash savings for tax-free growth. This means most of your investments inside the TFSA should not be for major speculation but again, I will leave that decision to you!
  3. Finally, there are some simple, low-cost ways to own wealth-building assets inside your TFSA. From Cashflows & Portfolios consider this:

Build Long-Term Wealth using these Diversified ETF Model Portfolios.

I hope this post helped you out, in many ways, and I look forward to your continued readership.

Mark Seed is a passionate DIY investor who lives in Ottawa.  He invests in Canadian and U.S. dividend paying stocks and low-cost Exchange Traded Funds on his quest to own a $1 million portfolio for an early retirement. You can follow Mark’s insights and perspectives on investing, and much more, by visiting My Own Advisor. This blog appeared on his site on Nov. 15, 2021 and is republished on the Hub with his permission.











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