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The problem with rules telling people how much they will need to save for retirement is that the numbers can be large and intimidating. People are just as likely to disengage as be motivated by these numbers, especially if they’re having trouble finding money to save.

Yet people do want and need guidelines for retirement saving, which is one of life’s most important personal finance tasks. Here’s a fresh take on retirement saving that was discussed recently in a U.S. investing publication: Multiply the value of your home by 0.3 to get the annual income you’ll need in retirement and then divide the resulting number by 0.04 to get the dollar amount of assets you’ll need when you retire.

The underlying logic here is that your home drives your spending in retirement. Living in an expensive home can impose certain spending requirements – nice furnishings, nice yard, nice car and more. Downsizing to a more modest home in retirement can mean downsizing your spending as well.

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The average house price in Canada was $454,776 in January, which suggests a need for a retirement income of $136,433 and total savings of $3,410,820. Ouch.

My own thought is that these numbers are too high for most people. But you should still take a look at them. If you own an expensive house and find that a lot of your spending is house-focused, you may need to save more than you thought.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

Why am I still worried about money?

A guy asks why he’s concerned about running out of money, even though his home is paid off and he has a solid retirement income. I know from my interactions with Globe readers that money anxiety is not uncommon among affluent people.

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How women sabotage their financial security

Personal finance author Jean Chatzky says women tend to be more cautious than men as investors. Yet, for a variety of reasons, aggressive saving and investing is actually more important for women.

Eating the same lunch every day is a tasty personal finance trick

All about a guy who ate a peanut butter sandwich every workday for 25 years or so. A quick and cheap way to simplify your life.

In search of dividend diversity

An investing blogger talks about how to find good Canadian dividend stocks outside the tried-and-true names in banking and telecom.

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Today’s financial tool

This worksheet will help you calculate your net worth – the difference between the value of the assets you own minus the amount you owe.

Ask Rob

Q: Would you please discuss the pros and cons of online investing?

A: Investing using an online broker will save you a lot of money in fees and commissions versus using an investment adviser. Online brokers typically charge $5 to $10 to buy or sell a stock or exchange-traded fund, whereas an adviser might receive 1 to 2 per cent of value of your account every year in fees (in both cases you’ll pay additional costs to own investments like ETFs or mutual funds). Investing online yourself is cheaper, but you don’t get the potential value of having an adviser. Advisers can tell you if you’re saving enough for retirement, what rate of return you should try for, whether there are tax-saving opportunities you should look at and more. Advisers can also manage a portfolio for you, although you can easily do this yourself using balanced ETFs (a diversified portfolio in a single fund). A middle way is to use a robo-adviser – have a portfolio of ETFs managed for you at a low cost.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

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In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance-related stories

- Bond yields cracked below a key level this past week. Here’s what it means for choosing a mortgage

- The emerging threat to personal finances in a cashless world: Paying with plastic doesn’t feel as painful as cash

- Financial Facelift: To buy or rent a condo? Montreal couple search best route for saving towards retirement (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

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