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What’s your great personal finance-related task in life? My sense is that a lot of people would say it’s getting their mortgage paid off as soon as possible. That’s understandable in an era of high house prices and big mortgages, but not the correct answer.

Saving for retirement is Job One in your lifelong personal financial journey. I think people know this deep down, but they may not do anything about it.

It’s financial literacy month in November, a time when players from all over the financial world try to help people better understand money. Your top short-term financial literacy goal is to take control of your debts. Longer-term, it’s to make sure you’re on track to retire comfortably.

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To get you started, here’s a list of seven deadly retirement planning sins from Readers Digest. I realize RD isn’t an obvious source for savvy money advice, but they do have a knack for communicating in a simple, reassuring way that might be helpful in developing your retirement focus.

For a future newsletter, I’ll develop a retirement planning “to-do list.” I’m thinking of simple steps you can take to get a better understanding of how prepared you are for retirement, and what to do if you’re not where you need to be. This will an all-ages effort – thoughts for millennials, Gen Xers and boomers. Stay tuned, and don’t hesitate to share any retirement planning thoughts you have. I’m at rcarrick@globeandmail.com.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

How to control your holiday spending

A bunch of useful, practical suggestions for trimming your holiday-season spending.

Another reason why personal finance is different for women

Salaries for women tend to top out around age 40, while pay for men keeps growing for another decade or so. Women have to work harder to save. And they live longer, on average.

12 common decorating mistakes

Get better value for the money you spend on beautifying your home. For example, test paint colours before buying,

Why they check your receipt at Costco

One of the signature experiences of shopping at Costco is walking by the staff member at the exit who wants to see your receipt. It’s not to check for theft.

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Today’s financial tool/app

Here’s a just-the-facts, zero-hype place to learn more about cryptocurrencies like bitcoin – the GetSmarterAboutCrypto website from the Ontario Securities Commission.

Ask Rob

Q: I am nearing retirement and now find I have a bit of money to invest. I hadn’t heard of market-growth GICs until recently. My time horizon is likely three to five years. Just wondering if you have an opinion on these. Would they be a suitable investment at this time? I am looking at a GIC of some type.

A: I don’t like market-growth GICs, which offer an opportunity to get returns tied to stocks or stock indexes without risk of losing money. The problem is that these GICs are designed in a way that makes them more profitable for the banks that issue them than for the investors who buy them. Various terms and conditions limit your ability to benefit from rising stocks, and it’s quite possible for investors to end up with no more at the end than the money they contributed in the first place. If you’re a cautious investor, how about a three-year ladder of GICs from an alternative issuer with better rates than the banks?

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

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If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

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