We’re all another year older at the start of 2023, but many of us still invest like it’s 1999.

Regardless of market conditions, our retirement portfolios need to mature with us - from carefree 20-somethings to slow-driving seniors. 

Exactly when or where to invest depends on who we are, and how we want to retire. A qualified advisor can be a big help with the details, provided fees don’t impede growth. 

Here is a general guideline that applies to typical investors as they age.    


With mounds of student debt and a mountain of a mortgage compounding at higher interest rates, you probably can’t afford much more than a strategy.

The first priority is to pay down debt starting with the highest interest rates, or consolidating all debt into a low interest loan.

Contribute what you can in a tax-free savings account (TFSA), which allows you to invest in just about anything without paying tax on the gains.

Open a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP), but only invest if your taxable income that year reaches a high marginal rate. RRSP contributions and gains are fully taxed when withdrawn; ideally at a low marginal rate in retirement.

This is the time in life to take calculated risks for potentially rich rewards in speculative investments because you have a long time horizon. That means more time for them to grow, or to make up for bad calls before you need to cash out.    


Young investors can at least use last year’s crypto-crash as a lesson in the hazards of speculative investing but older investors have less time to make up for bad calls.

Kids and bills call for a mature strategy that includes investing in good companies that produce something with intrinsic value, and grow earnings over time.

Diversifying equities across sector and geographic lines will hedge against concentrated risk and widen opportunity. Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) can make it easy.

You can also hedge against equity market risk by directing more of your portfolio to the safety of fixed income. Higher interest rates have made it possible to reach overall return goals with a significant portion in guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) and investment grade bonds.

This could also be a time in life to take your company pension seriously and work it into your retirement plan. 


Continue rebalancing equities and fixed income as you steer your portfolio to safer waters.

These are normally higher income years when RRSPs make more sense. Refunds will be bigger because the contribution amount would have been taxed at a higher marginal rate.

A tax strategy that shifts RRSP refunds to your TFSA is a very good idea. In retirement, RRSP withdrawals can be capped at a low marginal rate and TFSA withdrawals (which are not taxed) can be used to top up your income requirements. 

A tax strategy can also include a spousal RRSP, which allows a higher income spouse to contribute to the RRSP of a lower income spouse at their higher rate. The higher income spouse gets the big refund and the lower income spouse is taxed at a lower rate. 


How you want to live in retirement, how much it will cost, and what you need to do to get there should be coming into view.

Be sure your RRSP savings don’t grow too much. In addition to having to withdraw them at a higher rate, old age security (OAS) benefits could be clawed back if mandatory minimum withdrawals reach a certain threshold.

This is when investing becomes wealth management and preservation becomes a priority. Reliance on capital gains from stocks gives way to a safe income stream from dividends and bond yields. Higher interest rates work in your favour like they worked against you in your 20s.


This is when the ship turns 180 degrees from saving to drawing down savings. Instead of deciding what to buy, it’s time to decide what to sell.

Your portfolio still needs to grow but that income stream, combined with Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) payments should take off some of the pressure.