Over sushi the other day, I was describing my new financial guru to a friend of mine. “She’s amazing,” I said. “We’re doing the interview, and she’s talking about couples and finances. All of a sudden, at the top of her lungs, in a crowded coffee shop, she cries ‘He got down between your legs and you didn’t know that he had a crappy credit rating? You should have found out!'” 

My friend looked at me, put down her California roll, and said, very earnestly: “Are you talking about Gail Vaz-Oxlade?” 

I sure was. The finance whiz and straight talker behind Princess and ‘Til Debt Do Us Part has a new book out, Never Too Late, which gives all the ins and outs you need to start investing for retirement. Sound complicated? Not really: the tips are fun, simple, and delivered with that unmistakable Vaz-Oxlade sass. Saving always gives me the panic sweats, but Gail, like Julia, says NO FEAR! “If you work through the process, you will be reassured,” she says. “Here’s the thing: this is the first book that you come away from being excited about saving.”

And that we did. We also sat down with Gail, and basked in the glow of her financial wisdom. Below, an age-friendly guide to getting your shiz together, savings-wise. Believe me, if we can do it, book in hand, you can too. 

Before you’re 25: 

•  Whether it’s paying off your student loan, or putting a little bit away from each shiny new paycheque, Gail advises finding balance. Yes, you should keep your future in mind, but this is also a time of financial freedom for many of us. Find a happy medium ground between looking to the future and enjoying the benefits of your hard work today! 

•  Stock your freezer, so when you come home exhausted, you don’t resort to money-draining takeout or delivery. 

•  “In your twenties, you can save as little as 6% of your income, and be able to build up a nest egg because you have so much time on your side,” explains Gail. In your thirties, that number goes up to 10%, and in your forties, 18%. 

•  “Most of life, and the decisions about life, are experiential. You actually have to go through it. If you ask a 20 year old what they’re life is going to be like, how could they fricking now, because you never know what’s going to come up,” Gail says. The bottom line? Don’t be put off by the idea of saving for a retirement when you haven’t even picked a career path yet!  

•  Saving can often be about breaking bad habits. If shopping is one of them, “never go into a store without a list.” Simple. 

•  “You need a budget! The budget lets you decide where you want to spend your money, and it doesn’t mean not having great fun. You can have whatever you want, but some people are under the impression you can have it all at the same time; that’s a fallacy. You have to make choices.”

•  “Have a cook-together party: have a bunch of people in to your apartment, each make on of your favourite meals in a portion that you would share with everybody. At the end of the night, you have five dishes to put in the freezer, for five nights when you would normally order in. It’s so easy, it’s fun, you can drink a bunch of wine while you’re chatting up a storm, and have a great time, and still save some money.

Before you’re 30: 

•  Gail says that 20% of Canadians who are eligible for retirement plans through their work don’t participate. WHY THE EFF NOT? Get on it! Find out if your employer has a plan that they’re willing to kick in to, and sign up!

•  11 million working Canadians don’t have a pension plan at work. That means you’ve got to make your own. Get familiar with RRSPs, TFSAs, and unregistered investments, and start a game plan for your future. 

•  Start to understand how your investments work. Put aside time to finally get a grip on what your money will be doing once you put it away. Remember: Less invested now can often be better than more invested later. 

•  Know the rule of 72. This is one of Gail’s best tips, and it will help you figure out how many years it will take your investments to double. Page 62!

•  Think about what you buy. A fancy car might make you feel rich, but you know what else does? Being rich. 

•  If you’re paying down debts, or trying to save, practice “planned spending.” That means your allotting specific funds to spend, save, or put towards debt payments.

If you’re paying off debts, “you first have to decide when you want to have the consumer debt paid off, and whenever that is, you divide the amount of consumer debt by the number of months, and that tells you how much priniciple you have to pay off every single month.”

Before you’re 35: 

Thinking about marriage? “I think the most important thing is that before you partner seriously, you need to sit down and have a conversation about your money. You need to do it because you need to go into the relationship informed.” Gail says that as uncomfortable as the conversation may be, it will be better than all the problems caused by couples entering into serious partnerships on different financial pages. “I’m not saying don’t fall in love with anybody that doesn’t match you, because that’s not real, but at least you need to know they’re not like you so you can take steps to make sure that you keep your union on an even keel financially.”

“I found things really clicked at 35,” says Gail. “At 35, lights came on all over the place. Up until then, I was sort of still figuring out who I was, and what I was prepared to do for what. At about 35 I found, I’d had enough experiences that I was prepared to now say okay, you know what, that energy is not worth it, I’m not expending energy to do that anymore. Or, this thing is absolutely worth the expenditure of that energy, so that’s what I’m going to put my focus on.” Think of money and energy the same way: you work hard for it, so what, in the long run, is really going to feel worth it to you? 

For more information on Never Too Late, and Gail’s other books, visit her site: http://www.gailvazoxlade.com/