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Forget Portfolio Returns – Master Your Savings Rate Instead.

Read time: 4 minutes

Your savings rate (SR) is the amount of money you save divided by your income, and it’s one of the most important financial metrics you can track.

Unfortunately, most people think portfolio returns are the ultimate indicator of financial success. That’s an easy mistake to make, especially when the financial news media is force-feeding us market performance daily.

In today’s issue, I will show why you should focus on your savings rate instead of your portfolio returns.

Learn to:

  • Calculate your savings rate
  • Determine how much you need to save
  • Make your future self the most important bill you pay
  • Get started!


Calculate your savings rate

Portfolio returns, tax rates, and inflation are largely out of our control. Your savings rate is one of the few things you have control over in your wealth-building journey, and it’s the one that has the most significant impact. 

To calculate your savings rate, simply take your total annual savings, and divide it by your total income. Include all your savings – RRSPs, TFSAs, and retained earnings. If you’re incorporated, use your total income, not the salary and dividends you pay yourself.

It’s important to track this based on your goals. Let’s say you earn $300,000 in practice income annually and want to retire in 20 years with $100,000 in income. You also want to pay for your child’s education in 10 years at $20,000 per year for 6 years.

If, every year, you’re saving $10,000 to your education goals, and $10,000 to your RRSPs, your savings rate would be 6.67%. But your education savings rate would be equal to your retirement savings rate, while your retirement goal would take significantly more capital to fund. 

In this case, break out the two goals, and you’ll get a much clearer picture.

You can use your pre-tax income, or your post-tax income – it doesn’t matter. But to measure whether you’re improving your savings rate over time, make sure you use the same calculation each time. 

Determine Your Required Savings Amount

Now you know your savings rate. But is it enough?

To answer this, you’ll need to figure out your required savings rate. This figure tells you how much you need to save to meet your goals. 

This number can’t be summed up with one tidy formula. If you’re working with an advisor, they can help you. If not, you can do this with a good old-fashioned financial calculator, but I prefer this online tool instead. 

You’ll need to make some assumptions. Be conservative here, we’re not trying to plan a best-case scenario. I suggest:

  • Inflation at 2.50%
  • Portfolio returns: 5%
  • Estimated tax rate: 20%

You can add things like CPP and OAS in the “Post-Retirement Income Streams” section if you like, but we’re just trying to get a general idea. 

If you already have money saved for retirement, you’ll want to factor that in using the “Current Total Savings” field.

Now you have a target to aim for.

If it’s a high number, work up to it. Starting with a large amount today might be difficult, so start small and aim to raise your savings rate over time. 

Once you’re on track with your savings goals, you don’t need to feel guilty about spending the rest!

Pay Yourself First

Don’t fall into the “I’ll save what’s leftover” trap. If you’re like most people, there won’t be anything leftover. Instead, listen to the wisdom of Warren Buffet:

“Do not save what is left after spending; instead spend what is left after saving.”

Your future self should be the most important person you give your money to. 

Pay them first.

The best way to do this is to have your savings automatically deducted from your bank account and sent to your investment account. 

If you start small and work on increasing it over time, it will be less of a shock to your budget.

Start Small

I’ve met hundreds of people that said they didn’t start saving early because they didn’t have money to save. What they usually mean is they felt the amount they were able to save was insignificant.

But saving money becomes a positive feedback loop.

You start with $25 a month, and before you know it, you have a few thousand dollars invested. You start looking for ways to increase this to $50, $100, and then $500 per month. You start setting goals for yourself, and as you reach them, you activate the reward center of your brain. This behavioural compounding is incredibly powerful over the long run.

The sooner you start, the earlier you will hit your wealth goals.

If you’re working on paying off student loans or your mortgage – start a small savings plan anyway. Again, it’s about the habit – not the amount.

These days, many firms offer zero-commission ETF purchases. Some online brokers even offer fractional shares on certain ETFs, with a minimum of just $1. Many mutual funds have a minimum purchase of $25.

So, there’s no reason to wait – start investing now, no matter the sum.

I hope this helps on your wealth building journey.

To get in touch, email me at, or follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter (@MarkMcGrathCFP) for more financial planning discussions for Canadian physicians.



The opinions contained herein are the opinions of the author and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of Wellington-Altus Private Wealth. Assumptions, opinions and information constitute the author’s judgement as of the date this material and subject to change without notice. We do not warrant the completeness or accuracy of this material, and it should not be relied upon as such. Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. Graphs and charts are used for illustrative purposes only and do not reflect future values or future performance of any investment. The information does not provide financial, legal, tax or investment advice. Particular investment, tax, or trading strategies should be evaluated relative to each individual’s objectives and risk tolerance. All third party products and services referred to or advertised in this presentation are sold by the company or organization named. While these products or services may serve as valuable aids to the independent investor, WAPW does not specifically endorse any of these products or services. The third party products and services referred to, or advertised in this presentation, are available as a convenience to its customers only, and WAPW is not liable for any claims, losses or damages however arising out of any purchase or use of third party products or services. All insurance products and services are offered by life licensed advisors of Wellington-Altus. Wellington-Altus Private Wealth Inc. is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Amy Sweeney



Amy was born and raised in Squamish, is David’s oldest daughter and now the newest member of the Sweeney Bride team. Many may recognize her as she has worked periodically for the team for over 20 years. For the past five years, she has gained administrative experience and more running her own business as a Kinesiologist after completing a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology at the University of British Columbia in 2016. Now, Amy is officially ready to join the finance industry. Currently residing in North Vancouver, Amy spends all her “free” time raising Dave’s two wonderful grandchildren.
Liam Hill


Associate Investment Advisor

Originally from Sydney, Australia, Liam moved to the Sea to Sky region in 2013, leaving the beaches behind to embrace the mountains. He hasn’t looked back since and enjoys exploring the wilderness by both land and sea.

Liam’s unique strength lies in his capacity to adapt and fine-tune strategies to match the ever-changing financial world. He’s a passionate advocate for adaptability and flexibility, believing these traits are crucial for securing financial well-being.

Liam holds the Canadian Securities Course qualification and is currently pursuing the Chartered Investment Manager (CIM) designation.

He shares his industry knowledge and business skills to empower individuals, families, and businesses on their path to financial success.

Liam is committed to educating our clients about the financial services industry and helping them make the most of available resources to achieve prosperity.


Administrative Assistant

Sharon worked for Sweeney Bride from 2014 to 2016 and recently rejoined the team as an Administrative Assistant in 2021. She has years of administrative experience in a variety of industries including working in legal and accounting firms. She enjoys being detailed, organized and efficient. When not hard at work, she enjoys exploring the great outdoors with her dogs, playing co-operative strategy board games and relaxing while sipping a nice Craft beer.

Carrie Freitag


Administrative Assistant

Carrie is the newest member of our team and is our Administrative Assistant. She has previous industry and administrative experience and her fascination with the finance industry is rapidly growing. Carrie moved to BC in 1994 from Ontario and never looked back. While not working she loves hanging out with her two kids, awesome cat Leo, and enjoys a competitive game of 21, and her gardens.

Katie Norton



Katie is a Business Administration graduate who joined the Sweeney Bride team in 2016. She takes care of on-boarding as well as managing account administration for our existing clients. She works hard to ensure the clients feel supported throughout the on-boarding process and is always available to answer questions.

A BC resident since 1997, Katie and her husband moved to Squamish to raise their two girls. They enjoy all of the outdoor activities and natural beauty that Squamish has to offer.

Liz Woodsworth


Office Manager

Liz joined the Sweeney Bride team in 2015 as office manager. She is the gatekeeper in the office and is the face that greets you as you come through the door. If she can’t help you, she will ensure you speak with someone who can. Liz is a long-time Squamish local; when not in the office she spends her days soaking up all that this town has to offer while chasing her two active boys. Liz brings her valuable organizational skills and enthusiastic attitude to the team. 

Janet Bride


CFP®, CIM® | Senior Wealth Advisor

Janet Bride is a Senior Wealth Advisor at Wellington-Altus Private Wealth and co-founder of the Sweeney Bride Strategic Wealth Advisory team.

With over 15 years’ experience in the Industry Janet holds the Chartered Investment Manager (CIM®), CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®, and Elder Planning Counselor (EPC) designations and is also Insurance licensed.

Janet grew up in Ontario and moved out to beautiful British Columbia in 1995 with her husband, Paul, who is an adventure travel photographer. Her passion is to travel the world. Always interested in exploring different cultures and landscapes, she is grateful to have traveled to over 50 countries across 6 continents. She also enjoys continuous learning, spontaneous adventures with family and friends, and an active lifestyle in the Sea to Sky. Janet is proud to be a Big Brothers Big Sisters Alumni member since 2004.

She is highly motivated by helping people reach their financial dreams by creating comprehensive financial plans for individuals & families. While using a holistic approach to wealth management, she specializes in tax strategies and her goal is to encourage savings and help build our client’s wealth for a healthy and prosperous future.



CFP®, CIM® | Senior Wealth Advisor

Dave Sweeney is a Senior Wealth Advisor at Wellington-Altus Private Wealth and co-founder of the Sweeney Bride Strategic Wealth Advisory team.

With over 31 years’ experience in the Industry Dave holds the Chartered Investment Manager (CIM®), CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®, and Elder Planning Counselor (EPC) designations and is also Insurance licensed.

Dave has lived in Squamish for most of his life. Married to his wife Donna, since 1987, they proudly have 3 lovely daughters, Amy, Danielle and Jamie. With his time in Squamish, it has allowed him an opportunity to become involved in many valuable groups.

Dave is a retired Captain of Squamish Fire Rescue after 35 years of service. Another passion was sports and he has been a coach for Squamish Youth Soccer Association where he dedicated 10 years to coaching girls Rep teams. Additionally, he is a former member and Treasurer of the Sea to Sky Community Services Board. Dave is a frequent contributor to Mountain FM’s Mountain Monitor, providing general advice and financial commentary.

Dave continues his volunteer work as Treasurer for both the Squamish Hospital Foundation and the Squamish Downtown Business Improvement Association. He is also a sitting Board member of the Squamish Community Foundation.

Professionally, Dave started his Financial Planning practice in 1994. After living through both his parents’ demise and witnessing what a lack of understanding they had, he realized what sound planning techniques could do to ensure that an untimely death did not destroy one’s lifetime work. For over 20 years, he has made it his passion to assist others in not facing the same plight.