indicatorInvesting and Saving

Investment savings strategies for turbulent markets

By Michelle Seymour, CPA, CA, CFP® 26 October 2022 4 min read

One in five Canadians say that if they could do things over again, they would invest more, invest earlier, and invest wiser (FP Canada’s 2022 Financial Stress Index). Going back in time isn’t possible but the next best option is to get started today. An investment savings plan is a gift you give yourself and your family but it might require some planning to put it into place.

Getting started 

Start by identifying your financial goals. Some examples of short-term financial goals may include saving for a vacation, wedding or home renovation or establishing an emergency fund. In contrast, common longer-term financial goals may include investing for your children’s future education or your own retirement.

Next, determine how you will start saving towards your goal. Pre-authorized contributions (PACs) are a good approach for many individuals or families. A PAC is a recurring automatic withdrawal that transfers a set amount of money from your bank account into an investment or savings account. You determine the amount and frequency of your PAC. A key benefit of this approach is that a PAC is automatic and can help you make regular, incremental steps towards your financial goals without having to find time for it. 

A PAC is not a one-size-fits-all approach, however, and other savings strategies may be required for those with less consistent cash flow. Examples may include independent contractors, business owners or employees that receive a large portion of their compensation in the form of an annual bonus. In these cases, saving may include larger lump-sum contributions instead of, or in addition to, a PAC.

Having determined the amount you will save, the final step is to determine how you’ll invest your savings. A financial advisor can partner with you to help with each of these steps toward your financial goals.

Financial reset

If you’re already saving but feeling uncertain if you’re on track to meet your financial goals, consider taking the time to revisit your current strategy. This may include a review of the amount you are saving but also a review of your investment strategy. Again, a financial advisor can help you identify possible options and alternatives that may be available to you.

Turbulent markets 

If you’re thinking this approach could be useful during all types of market conditions, not just in turbulent times, you would be correct. In fact, that’s the beauty of a PAC or other strategy that includes regular investment purchases over time. This approach focuses on a long-term savings strategy for long-term financial goals with the focus on time in the market rather than timing the market

By its nature, a PAC eliminates attempts to try and time the market, which isn’t typically a successful strategy. The timing of when to invest is no longer something to contemplate as it is done automatically according to the predetermined schedule you set up. It also helps to average out the actual cost of your investments over time by adding to your portfolio when it is both rising and falling in value.

Now we’ll bring this to life with a couple examples:

Lauren and Justin

Lauren and Justin have a busy life – both professionally and personally – with rewarding careers and a young family. Their primary financial goal had been the purchase of a single family home. Having recently accomplished that goal, they now want to start looking towards their next financial objective – saving for their children’s future education. 

To date, Lauren and Justin have set aside some funds in their savings account, as they did for their home down payment, but recognize that a different approach is required for this longer-term goal. Based on a recommendation of a close friend, they schedule a meeting with a financial advisor. Their advisor suggests that the savings for this goal be directed to a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) as well as an investment strategy for these funds that is consistent with Lauren and Justin’s risk tolerance and capacity. Their advisor also suggests they give further thought to retirement savings above and beyond the contributions currently being made to their respective employer savings plans. Lauren and Justin set up three monthly PACs: a contribution to a family RESP as well as contributions to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) for both Lauren and Justin.


Bryan began saving for retirement at the age of 40. Fifteen years later, his retirement savings have grown considerably but he regrets that he didn’t start saving when he first started his career. Bryan recently received an inheritance and wants to ensure that he has no financial regrets with respect to these funds. He schedules a call with his financial advisor to discuss how this unexpected windfall could best support his retirement goal. 

After careful consideration, Bryan decides to invest these funds in the same manner as his existing retirement investments. After all, he plans to use these funds towards his retirement, a retirement that may now be a bit closer than he’d previously thought. Although the inheritance funds are available today, Bryan’s advisor suggests an approach whereby the funds will be invested into the market over a period of time rather than in a single transaction. In the meantime, the remainder of the inheritance funds will be transferred to a high-interest savings account (HISA) until the funds are invested. Bryan feels more comfortable with this approach, especially in light of recent market volatility.

Taking action

An investment savings plan can help you achieve a range of financial goals and help you feel prepared for what’s ahead. An ATB Wealth advisor is here to assist you along the way and help you plot out your next steps on your financial journey.

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