Just 27% of working Canadians expect to be retired at 66. That’s the key finding of this year’s Sun Life Canadian Unretirement™ Index. Almost the same number (26%) believe they’ll be working full-time at 66. Another 32% say they’ll be working part-time.
Five years ago, when we asked the same question in the heat of a global financial crisis, 51% of Canadians said they expected to be retired at 66. Interestingly, the percentage was even higher a year later. In 2009, 55% of Canadians expected retirement by 66. This year’s result is less than half that number.
While the data doesn’t tell us why attitudes began to grow more negative after 2009, the timing does coincide with a growing realization that the recovery following the 2008-2009 recession was relatively weak. After a period of optimism in 2009 — during which Canada’s economy was held up as a source of stability in a volatile world — it had become clear by 2010 that economic growth across much of the country would probably be soft for the foreseeable future.
The study also asked those who expect to be working at 66, why they believe that will be the case. Will they keep working because they want to or because they need to? Here, too, we see a sharp contrast between our first two years of Unretirement™ research and the three years since.
This year, among the 58% of Canadians who expect to be working either full- or part-time at 66, more than six in 10 (63%) say it’s because they’ll have to. The other 37% say it’s because they’ll want to. The gap between the percentages that want to and need to has never been wider.
These numbers tell us a lot about how much Canadians’ retirement expectations have changed in the five years since the financial crisis. The top reasons Canadians gave for working past 65 in 2008 and 2009 were about enjoying their work and wanting to stay mentally active. That changed in 2010. Since then, the top reason has been “to earn enough money to pay basic living expenses.” Back in 2008, just 11% cited that reason for working at 66. This year, one-quarter of the Canadians who expect to be working at 66 say it’s so that they will be able to cover the basics.
Other key findings this year:
- Six in 10 working Canadians (59%) expect to retire with less than $250,000 in savings. Thirty-eight per cent say they’ll retire with less than $100,000 saved.
- Just one-third (34%) say they are either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their retirement savings. Four in 10 (42%) are “very dissatisfied” or “somewhat dissatisfied.”
- Almost four in 10 (38%) say there is a “serious risk” that they will outlive their retirement savings. Thirty-one per cent are not confident they will be able to cover their medical expenses in retirement.
- Paying down debt is far and away the top financial priority. Forty-five per cent say paying off a loan or paying down a credit card balance is their No. 1 priority. Just 23% say the same about saving for retirement.
There is a bit of good news in this year’s results. Eighty per cent of working Canadians said they’ve taken at least one step toward achieving their retirement goals. In some cases, that step has been pretty rudimentary. Forty-three per cent have “started thinking about it” and 30% have discussed retirement plans with their spouse or partner. Others are taking more meaningful action: 42% are investing in a personal registered account; 29% have met with a financial advisor; and 22% make automatic/regular deposits to a retirement savings account.
One in five (20%) Canadians have taken no steps at all.
For a full report on our findings, visit sunlife.ca/unretirementindex.
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