You've probably heard of RealAge, a quiz that Dr. Oz has used on his show to have people become more aware of their health. Audience members stand up and say, "I'm 40 years old but my real age is 52." That is their moment to know that things are out of whack, their "ah-ha" moment, as Dr. Oz's mentor Oprah Winfrey would say.
Patricia Lovett-Reid, senior vice-president of TD Waterhouse, decided this year to put together a similar test for financial age. The test, which you can find below, comprises seven quick and easy questions about your financial behaviour. Questions like: Do you speak to a financial adviser and how often, when do you plan to retire, do you have a budget for spending and saving? With the financial-age quiz, however, you want to finish older (and wiser) than your chronological age.
Ms. Lovett-Reid believes there is a lot of similarity between how you treat your health and your finances. Both are improved by developing better habits and coming up with goals to guide you. In fact, Ms. Lovett-Reid is only too happy to relay her own personal tale about seeing a doctor about going on a diet last September. "I went to her and I said, 'I don't want to do this, I'm not prepared to change that.' I had all these stipulations around it.
"And she said, 'There are no quick fixes; it's going to take some consistency, you're going to have to set some specific goals, we have to implement changes as you go. And we will get you to where you want to be.' "
The road to good health is the same as the one to financial health, but even Ms. Lovett-Reid admits "the discipline can be tough."
Her seven questions may seem obvious, but Ms. Lovett-Reid says that when she tested the quiz with her friends at a dinner party, "it really sparked a conversation."
That's a good thing. Along with the quiz, TD Waterhouse released the results of a poll that asked boomers - Canadians between the ages of 45 and 54 - where they stand financially compared to people their same age. Sixty per cent of the respondents believe they are behind when it comes to retirement saving. They could use a good conversation about finances.
Ms. Lovett-Reid says that "you can change your financial age - you can change how quickly you advance through the aging process."
It's not unlike changing your diet. The first step, she says, is "looking at your own data points. The numbers don't lie." In other words, look at where you are financially and start making small changes to how you spend, save and invest.
Set your goals and figure out how you can reach them. Along the way, you may make changes to your plan, but make sure you have a plan that you can live with.
Ms. Lovett-Reid believes that any plan should include rewards. "I don't expect people not to spend, I want them to spend; the economy needs them to spend. But you don't have to single-handedly support the economy."
I've taken both tests, and my RealAge and my financial age are both close to my chronological age, and both could use some real improvement. I've set some goals; now we'll see if my discipline holds out.
Here's the test:
TD Waterhouse Financial Age Quiz
1. Based on your current savings and investments, do you think you will have enough saved to retire on your target date?
a) Target date? I haven't even thought about when I'll retire
b) It will be close, but I think I can make my goal
c) Yes, I'm confident that I can make my goal
2. How often do you speak with a financial expert about your retirement financial goals?
a) I don't normally speak to a financial expert
b) About once a year
c) At least quarterly
3. How old were you when you started saving for retirement?
a) I haven't started thinking about saving for retirement yet
b) I just started/I am planning on starting soon
c) I began saving as soon as I started earning money
4. How much do you contribute annually, on average, to your RRSP (or other retirement savings plans)?
a) I do not contribute to an RRSP (or retirement savings plan)
b) I contribute, but less than the maximum allowable amount
c) I contribute the maximum allowable amount
5. Does your household have a budget for spending and saving?
a) No, our household doesn't have a budget
b) Yes, but it isn't followed exactly
c) Yes, and it's followed closely
6. How do you plan to finance your retirement?
a) I'm not sure. I'm hoping I'll win the lottery or receive an inheritance
b) CPP, OAS and other government programs, along with some savings
c) With a comprehensive retirement savings program, including government programs, RRSPs, pension plans and other investments
7. How would you rate your financial health compared to others your age?
a) Fair or poor
c) Excellent or very good
Scoring - give yourself:
1 point for every question you answered (a)
2 points for every question you answered (b)
3 points for every question you answered (c)
After you've added up your score, give yourself extra points based on your actual age:
5 points if you are 29 and under
4 points if you are between 30 and 39
3 points if you are between 40 and 49
2 points if you are between 50 and 59
1 point if you are 60 or older
To find out your financial age, compare your total score to the key below:
If you scored 23 and above: Your financial age is older than your actual age - and this is a good thing!
You realized early on that financial decisions should be made sooner rather than later. You also understand the impact that today's financial decisions will have on your retirement. Even though you started saving early, it's important to consistently review your plan. Visit a financial advisor to confirm you're on track to meet your goals for a financially-secure retirement.
If you scored between 13 and 22: Your financial age is about the same as your actual age - maintain what you're doing to get where you need to be.
While you have some financial plans in place, there is always more that can be done. Remember that as your lifestyle and priorities change, you should monitor your spending and savings as well. It's important to review your financial situation regularly and ensure that your plans are up-to-date, especially as you get closer to retirement. Seeking advice from a financial advisor can help you feel more at ease.
If you scored between 8 and 12: Your financial age is younger than your actual age. It might be time to consider 'growing up.'
Right now you are taking life day-by-day and not giving enough consideration to your financial future. And while you're having fun, it's very important to start planning. Saving for retirement does not have to be complicated. An experienced financial advisor will be able to offer you valuable tips on how to start making the most of your money and preparing for the future.