Today's economy

Unretirement ahead for more than half of Canadians

By Kevin Press,

A businesswoman is considering retiring later than 65.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.

Few retirees, more workers after age 65

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

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Are You Ready To Retire Or UnRetire? | My Canada Payday on

[…] who simply can’t afford to retire, so they look into what is now known as: unretiring.  For over half of Canadians, unretirement seems to be the major possibility, because not all have had the ability to save the […]

Retirement Planning: Avoiding UN-retirement on

[…] “Unretirement ahead for more than half of Canadians”. What? Does that mean what I think it means? Sounds like a lack of retirement planning. According […]

Ronson on

There is a simple reason for this. Trickle down economics. Actually, more specifically, that trickle down exonomics doesnt work, or certainly doesnt work as it was supposed to. What does that mean? Well, Beginning with Thatcher, Reagan, we had a war on the middle class. Starting in 1980 or so, Incomes frooze, pensions and benefits were cut, job security, education, etc were all scraped because they told us that by giving more income to the rich (both in terms of pre tax profits and after tax incomes due to massive tax cuts) that the wealth would trickle down and we would all be better off.

The actual workings of the neo con agenda were a little more sinister – basically transfer the middle class wealth that in 1980 was held mainly in defined benefit pension plans that had been built up since WW2, into corporate profits that flowed to shareholders. They replaced your father and grandfathers DBPP with a house that “rose faster” and an equity savings plan at work. Both of these assets were highly volitile so on the way up you felt rich (housing bubbles of 80’s 90’s 00’s etc/ stock bubbles) and they were so much more interesting than the boring pension stuff at work.

The problem is that DBPP are the best way to save for retirement. They earn 4% more than the fee laden RRSPs and TFSAs, they even do better than the indexes themselves. More importantly, they require that the employer takes responsibility for funding it properly when markets or inflation go against you. Finally, they restrict access to capital into an annuity.

So why are all the media and politicians talking about how they have to get rid of these wonderous things? Well because they aren’t trickle down. They actually work, unlike regeanomics, Harpernomics, and all the other neo con nonsense that hasnt for 30 years – but more importantly, they actually transfer net worth from the richest 2% to the rest of us – which apparently is not part of the plan for trickle down economics.

adele on

From what I’ve seen, it seems it’s only teachers and other gov’t workers who can retire early. The rest of us have to work ’til we die.

mark on

If most of the people would agree to live in smaller / less fancy houses, a lot of couples would have more money to save for their retirement. It is a choice, you spend all your life spending money on your mortgage/houses or you live in a descent/smaller house where to can save for your retirement, at the same time you would have money to travel and do fun stuff and RETIRE EARLIER !:-)

    Gm on

    This is my plan- through and through! I live in a mini home (1000 sq feet) and it’s plenty of space for me! Plus, I don’t have to spend my days cleaning it. 2 hours per work does it all!

Mississauga Dad on

Retirement? I will never be able to retire. I don’t have any say in the matter. I am a single father of two teenage boys – I get, and got, nothing from their mother in terms of support, nothing from the government – not even any tax breaks. I am hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt after suffering through the abuse and harassment of the family courts for years. (Yet before the divorce torture process started I had managed to save well over a million dollars by the time I was 45.)
My ex cost me tens of thousands of dollars in litigation in order that she obtain sole custody and residency of our children. Once she had done so, and had received all of the ‘financial perks’ that the courts award to single mothers as ‘primary caregivers’, (perks that came out of my pocket of course), she decided that she couldn’t look after the children after all and shortly after winning her windfall, phoned me and said the boys and their possessions were waiting in her porch so please come and get them. They have been with me fulltime ever since.
I have spent additional thousands of dollars in expenses making sure that the boys see their mother every weekend, during all holidays, for at least half of each summer, and for any other time either they or she desires. In all the hundreds and hundreds of times the boys have been to visit and/or stay with her she has NEVER picked up or driven the boys or paid for their bus or train fares. Yet when the boys with living with her she made no effort to, and in fact impeded in every way possible, any attempts for me to spend time with them. And if I was fortunate enough to get any time I, again, picked up all the expenses. She absolutely refused to drive the boys to or from my home.
The boys’ university education is already looked after because of a Trust Fund that I set up solely and totally with money I earned. She never contributed a cent to the fund but I was not given any kind of “credit” for my contributions during divorce proceedings – in fact she did everything she could to try to wrest control of the fund into the hands of her and her father.
I will never be able to retire – I am in my sixties now – I will have to work until I drop dead in order to have any chance of paying all of my debts – debts that were mandated by the systemic hatred, harassment, abuse, and discrimination routinely and knowingly inflicted on fathers by the socialist family court system.
And my ex? She’s living in a nice, large condo in downtown Toronto. She doesn’t work – she lives off the money the courts stole from me to give to her.
Is it any wonder that the biggest cause of death for divorced fathers is suicide?

Randa.O on

There is one other way to retire early or with enough money: Move to Windsor, Ontario. Houses are cheap and it’s a beautiful area.

George Sparrow on

why is it that we need all this money to retire? Who dictated this? the financial people? More than likely!
Are you going to travel? Probably not! What will you do with the money then? Let banks and insurance companies make money from it!
Most of you who retire regardless of age will be too sick or feeble to do anything!
Greed is what its about simply put!
My observations over the years is that MOST in Canada cant save because they need to live. We cant all have cushy government jobs that pay a small fortune to push paper.
Be a bit more realistic in your needs then tell us how much you have saved.
Ive been an engineer for a long time and due to various circumstances have less than 100k in rrsp and nothing else. So CPP and Old age will be my main source of income when I retire. Of course that is if I can ever find another job.

    Ghee Mac on

    Totally agree George! Too much is never enough. Where did they come up with the figure of $250,000 in the article anyway?

Retired on

My wife and I see many others are struggling with finding employment, underemployment, stagnant wages, uncertain defined contribution or no retirement income plan, maxed-out credit cards, unsustainable debt (mortgages, car payments, etc.), little/no savings, student loan debt, etc. We most concerned about the young, including our children who, because of the previously mentioned problems, are having great difficulties with making long-term plans and implementing them. People of retirement age shouldn’t expect to continue to live the “high life” they are accustomed to, they should lower their lifestyle expectations and retire. My wife and I retired early because we could and to make way for young people to take our places. If people don’t retire, they are depriving their children’s generation of opportunity for employment, greedily sacrificing them for their own, usually financially secure, lifestyle; a form of Filicide.

Ariadne Etienne on

60% of Canadians are living from pay cheque to pay cheque. A few years ago Stats Canada announced The End of the Family in Canada since the majority of Canadians no longer earned enough to provide all the necessary resources to support a family of four. Poverty has become a critical issue, along with massive job losses and the present government is only interested in disassembling the nation for large corporations, oh yes, and selling China all the oil it has. Inequality has never been as extreme as it is presently, and, Canadians earning under the average wage are paying a higher proportion in taxes than those earning above the average wage. Revolution anyone?

Diane Smith on

My husband and I have little savings. In April he is 65 years old. We have struggled all our lives with lack of money.
He is not well and needs to retire, but he says he has to keep working. A year ago our daughter and her husband asked us to move to their property. We left a very nice mobile home that was in a strata. We sold it and the land for $110,00.00. We bought a much older mobile home for only $33,000.00 with promises from our daughter and husband that he would help renovate the mobile home. Next to nothing has been done. What has been done we have paid for.We gave them the$20,000 that they wanted for a down payment. We had no written plan, but just thought we would be okay. now we have only $35,000.00 left after all the expenses of moving and many fees.We just want to say to anyone making decisions with no plan to sit down, and do so.

Sharpy on

First off due to increases in energy and Taxes, Medical etc I cannot retire in the Home I built to do so in! Then our company has a policy of harrassement and pushes those close to retirement into quiting or dying to save paying out full pensions aided by Bill 168. Thus if healthy may have to retirer out of Country???

Jasbir Singh on

There’s nothing wrong with rest and leisure, for we all need it to recover and rejuvenate, but there is a certain threshold or level at which rest and leisure become excessive. I don’t know what that threshold is, but I do think that people should take the time to think about the meaning and purpose of their work.

According to Rabbi Daniel Lapin it isn’t supposed to be this way. In his interview with Pat Roberston, he discusses his book, Thou Shall Prosper – 10 Commandments for Making Money, and he says that the 10th commandment is to never retire. He says plainly,

“…never retire…who told you that you could retire?”

In other words, nowhere in the Judeo-Christian tradition does it ever teach or mention that people are supposed to stop working and stop doing things for other people. He says that we are always called to serve other people, and should continually ask ourselves how we can supply what people need. This means that we should never resign or rest in this effort as long as we are mentally and physically capable. Contrast this with our secular society that indoctrinates us with these TV commercials: Lotto Max, Freedom 55. We are told to serve only ourselves, and to retire to a life of luxury.

BJ on

ANYONE OVER THE AGE OF 65, THAT DOES NOT NEED TO WORK (or is just bored at home), should NOT be allowed to hog a job. PERIOD. If you can’t proove that you need to work past 65, then get out of the workforce, and let a desperate unemployed person in. A person who will lose everything if they don’t find a job soon. (maybe they already have lost everything). You’ve had your stint in the job market, now go pick up a hobby or volunteer for something. Working past the age of 65 if you don’t need to, or are just bored, is IGNORANT AND GREEDY.

    DS on

    Some young people wouldn’t work even if working in a pie factory tasting pies

    Calvin Lawhead on

    I retired early at 55 now having spent 17 years of fun not making a penny but spending what I have earned.. I hope to live another 10 years or so. I retired because I felt it was time to let some young person take my place. You are on this earth to enjoy life and not to work yourself to death..

dusty on

mullrooney mikeharris mcguinty says it all get ridof all unions that way we all be equal on the street

jessica on

I got push out of my job at 55 . luckly , I have been saving large amount of money since started to work 28 years ago . I can not say the same for a lot of Canadians .

Expedito on

Just remember It no longer the same as the 70,80, or even 90s. The fact is certain trend, whilst you might want to continue working, corporate or corporation treat you as a machine that wear out, that become unhealthy and must require more maintenance and higher insurance. To the corporation, older people are not good for the bottom line so unless you are working for the government, do not be surprised that you will become unemployable when you need to be employed. This is the same with your insurance, you will only be insured when you are healthy, when you get older at 65 all insurance will move against you.

SO again, those that glorify, the corporation, the demise of the Canadian crown corporation, and the Canadian unions you also will feel the pain, exception are are bankers, lawyers, and doctors that work in private corporation.

    susanh on

    Retire to the same life style? Honestly I think retirement will be much different for most of us than we had envisioned. After getting divorced at 60 and then having my well paying job eliminated by my off shore employer at age 63, options become limited. I am currently living with my son, daughter in law and 2 young children in rural Nova Scotia having moved from expensive BC. I would not be able to afford to live on my own. This will definitely take a very long period of adjustment for me. CPP collected early just to have some income and can’t wait til I’m 65 to get OAP and guaranteed income supplement, my monthly income will then double. Woopie! The sad part about it is the really good traditionally female job I had has disappeared, so there is absolutely no net gain for this beautiful country. Seems like not having mandatory retirement anymore can sometimes work against older workers.

mike on

I was born in 73 and according to the gov site for “life expectancy” The average death time for me is at 69. So I guess I should work my butt off and save tens of thousands to put in rrsp’s. Ummm ..NO!!! LMAO I am very sure that if I live to the “average” or beyond.. I will be comfortable on the 1500 to 2000 a month that we all get from CPP OAS and there is also a “top up” given. People who squirrel away all their monies for retirement….WAKE UP…spend it now on yourself while your alive and can enjoy it. Do not wait for death and have a boring life. You do not need a 3000 square foot house a a bmw in the driveway at 65 yrs old. You need a one bedroom with a cat and a laptop. Anyone complaining about “baby boomers” eating up all the monies…needs to just shutty…you obviously have no idea how it works. The gov did not just start paying people out of the blue years ago LMAO. The money babyboomers put in over a lifetime is the ONLY money they are taking out..and in turn the money you put into ccp is the ONLY money your will be taking out. Yes I know the gov has miss spent monies everywhere…but none the less…STOP panicking, there will be plenty there for you when you retire and await death.

    nan on

    Mike are you kidding??? Your comment assumes you’ll remain in good health in your “golden” years. I know several people who developed progressive diseases (ms, Parkinson’s) after age 50. Even with better than average nest eggs, they’re struggling to keep up with the cost of in-home care, home adaptations, etc. The government will not come to your rescue.

    Brian Poncelet,CFP on


    I am not sure why you are confident about CPP or OAS.

    In a nutshell the odds of you getting any real money is slim.

    Why OAS new age to collect is 67.
    CPP new thoughts is to increase contributions. Remember in the early 80’s this was under 3% total now it is 9.9%!

    We are in a low interest rate environment for years. So returns are expected to be low as well. After inflation, taxes there is not much left.

    Kimble on

    Ridiculous. My spouse turned 60 and looked into CPP. He qualifies for $100/mth. Be scared, you will live in poverty if you haven’t saved $500k by the time you are 60-65.

Kenby Steele on

I just read a book about this call “55 And Scared Sh*tless” about the author who had absolutely zero money saved at age 55 and figured out how to work in his retirement years without having to get a menial low paying job. In the process, he rescued his retirement. He came up with the concept of micro-jobbing which he figures is a viable means of income generation in the “golden” years, as well as the future of jobs. It was an interesting read.

SAM on

I worked for 40 yrs in commissioned retail, big and small companies. My CPP/OAS/GIS is less than $ 20,000. The gov’t feels , that is OK and sends financial help to Syria, Haiti, Africa. how about that/

    Expedito on

    Dont forget the 30 billion dollar on Aftganistan and the new F35. Plus we have not helicopter after billions of dollars.

    John on


    The amount Canada sends in aid to these countries is negligible. The reason Canada’s budget is in deficit is because of the huge tax cuts handed out over the last 25 years. That benefits the rich and hence partly the reason your CPP/OAS is limited.

John on

I wish Financial Advisors were willing to work with the small, passive investors, with NO mega-bucks/savings/real-estate for investments, and only 10-15yrs till retirement, with an eye to existing debt/older Parent obligations, that hinder the retirement planning.

Jeff on

Well good, not sure what there is to do when you retire anyways. I don’t need to, but I’ll work till I die, simple as that. I’m 53 now.


    terrylee on

    Thanks Jeff,

    We’re sure your arrogance towards retirement is a great comfort to us all!

    BJ on

    No. If you don’t need to work, get out of the workforce, and let people who desperately need a job, get one.!!!!

TheManWhoStaresAtSheeple on

Apart from the 1 in 5 working for the “public service” and expecting to retire comfortably on their “public but unfunded pensions” with age factors of 85 or even 80 it is more interesting to find about the remaining 7% that are expecting to retire at 66 – are they the bank/insurance companies employees and the CFPs?

Inquiring minds want to know!

    John on

    Man who stares..
    Why do you say public pensions are unfunded. Public workers have paid into their pensions throughout their working lives. Pensions are generally managed by an arm’s length board and are either fully funded or are in the process of altering benefits and or contribution rates to make it so.

    Join a union if your pension arrangements aren’t what you would like. Everyone deserves a fair pension.

Chris on

IS the sharp drop co-incident with the federal government changing the age to collect OAS to 67?

Bob Walls on

How much of this is due to Canada raising the retirement age to 67?
I’m thinking that many are assuming that they are not retiring at 65, but at 67.

Michael Bercik on

What is the prognosis for a minimum wage increase to help the poor?
How many million$ are enough to comfortably retire on?

Brian Poncelet,CFP on

I am surprised the numbers are as good as they are.

A great poll to ask is how many people have a Hard Copy Financial Plan which is reviewed once every 12 months.

My sense is since most people think their statements are plans and don’t know how much they need…. there really is a lot of problems for the future.

    Kevin Press on

    That’s a great question Brian, thanks. Our study this year found that just 17% of working Canadians have a written financial plan.

      Brian Poncelet,CFP on

      Kevin, based on my experience I’d say 10% of the 17% don’t have a written plan. Years ago I would ask the question ” If you have a written plan which includes all your insurance policies, investments, will, real estate, etc., and how you are going to spend your money in retirement, I will give you $1,000 dollars”

      I must have asked the question a 100 times, no one ever produced anything. The best any one could do is show me some projections of a crazy rate of return which was done two years ago. No exit game plan. This was from owners, dentists, and many others who had stockbrokers bugging them all day long on some flow-through shares or a new IPO.

      Part of the problem is really our industry. It is all geared to accumulate money, not how to spend it in retirement and how to make it last and pass it on.

      Calvin Lawhead on

      In and earlier reply … I said I have been retired for 17 year. Yes , I had a self developed financial plan which has worked well until now as well as the exit plan. Now is the time to start selling the properties and move to an apartment. My wife and I have travelled the world and enjoyed the pleasures that most working people just dream of. “Hard work makes one free” .

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