Setting priorities in Canada

Question: My wife and I moved to Canada after I was laid off in 2009. We have been very fortunate in finding work, community and opportunity in our new place of residence. However with this fortune has come confusion - please help. We have debt in the United States from our university studies ($60,000.00+/- joint). We have a daughter that deserves a collage saving account. We have limited financial investments placed towards retirement. However we have approximately 35% of our monthly income contributing to our existing $30,000.00 saving account. In short we have a dilemma.

We are in a very fortunate position where we earn more than we ever earned in the United States and would like to take advantage of this opportunity to prepare for our: retirement, our daughter's future education, and our eventual return to the United States (home purchase). We need help in understanding how to prioritize and balance this dilemma. Jay, Vancouver, BC

Answer: I'm glad you got work in Canada and are doing well there. We've received a number of emails from people who have moved north for jobs.

To your question, I've always these lyrics from the Byrd's captured an important part of personal finance:

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn

Right now, I would put a priority on saving for retirement and saving for when you move back. (You're already doing the latter.)

I would take advantage of the money your making to get yourself in a better postion with retirement savings. That probably means putting less into emergency savings. But I would still keep adding to that pot of money in case you have another job upheaval or to finance a good move back to the U.S.

There's no question your daughter's college education is important. But when it comes to savings I would move it down the priority list. It's more important at the moment to shore up your retirement savings. I would continue to chip away at the student loans.

The reason I say 'there's a season' to financial priorities is that in 5 years where the extra money goes could shift. You could maintain the status quo with retirement and taxable savings while putting at the top of the list eliminating student loan debt and setting money aside for your daughter's college education.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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