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retirement planning

Dushan Milic/The Globe and Mail

It's been just over a year since Jess agreed to participate in The Globe's Portfolio Makeover series, asking for expert advice on whether she could get by as a freelancer and still be financially secure in her later years: Can Jess, 46, leave behind the working world?

At the time, Jess had just left her full-time job in marketing, and she was feeling anxious about not having a regular paycheque. She and her husband, who have one child, had already built up a sizable nest egg, with more than $264,000 in cash, $52,000 in TFSAs, non-registered savings of 46,284, and $482,000 in RRSPs. They're debt-free, with their Toronto house paid off. Nevertheless, she worried that by going freelance, she'd have to dip into her retirement funds.

Now 47, Jess is feeling more comfortable financially as a result of the perspectives shared by the two financial advisers The Globe consulted for her Portfolio Makeover. She's also enjoying her new career, doing communications work on a contract basis and making about $55,000 annually.

"What stood out for me [from the Portfolio Makeover] was that I didn't realize I was okay leaving the full-time work force," Jess says. "Having two experts tell me it was okay and that I really didn't have to get back to it full time, if at all, was a relief.

"I love working from home because I can manage my time," she notes. "I can volunteer at my child's school and go on field trips. I can help my parents run errands during the day. My time is my own. I know what deadlines need to be met, but my work doesn't have to be 9-to-5. Leaving my last job was the best thing, and the timing was right. I'm really happy right now."

Jess has made changes to her portfolio, still working with the same financial adviser through her bank. She's consolidated investments, which has resulted in a reduction in fees to about 1.5 per cent from 2.5 per cent. She's also moved funds in the non-registered account to a dividend-paying account, which pays about $1,000 a month.

"On the investment side, I'm still quite conservative," she says. "We're still maximizing all of our RRSPs, TFSAs, and RESPs."

Jess says that even though she's been reassured that she doesn't need to work – her husband brings in about $80,000 gross a year – she's plans to keep working to prepare for retirement.

"The conservative side of me says go freelance and keep building that nest egg."

She says both she and her husband credit their conservative streak to their parents.

"We are both children of first-generation immigrants to Canada, so we really looked to them as role models," she says. "Both our sets of parents came here with little more than a few bucks in their pockets and made do. They never had any debts. They never purchased anything unless they had the money to pay for it outright."