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Retirement savings

February 18, 2015

Canadians fear running out of retirement savings

The 2015 Sun Life Canadian Unretirement Index found 36% of workers believe they could outlive their savings. Few retirees say the same.

Working Canadians are two-and-a-half times more likely than their retired counterparts to believe they are at “serious risk” of outliving their retirement savings. Over one-third (36%) of Canadians aged 30 to 65 answered yes to that question in the 2015 edition of the Sun Life Canadian Unretirement Index. Just 14% of retirees said yes to the same query.

This seventh edition of the study is the first to compare the views of working Canadians to retirees. It found that even as Canadians grow more optimistic about key aspects of their retirement plans, they do not expect to enjoy the kind of retirement lifestyle that today’s retirees have earned.

I’ll share more on how sentiment is improving in my next post. Meantime, here are five examples of how today’s workers compare to retirees:

  • One-third (33%) of workers are dissatisfied with their retirement savings. Seventeen per cent are somewhat dissatisfied and 16% are very dissatisfied. Half that number of retirees — 17% — say the same. Just 12% are somewhat dissatisfied and 5% are very dissatisfied.
  • Canadian workers expect to retire, on average, at 64. It’s the first time since 2009 that our study has found an average expected retirement age below 65. (The result hit a high of 69 as recently as 2011.) Retirees, on the other hand, told us they retired at 62 on average. It was their plan to retire early, and for the most part they achieved that goal.
  • About seven in 10 workers (68%) have the benefit of a workplace retirement or savings plan. More than half (55%) have a plan of their own and another 13% will benefit from a spousal plan. Retirees had it much better: 68% had a plan of their own and 8% were married to someone with a plan.
  • Workers are less likely than retirees to have confidence in the funding role government will play in their retirement. While 94% of retirees are confident about their government pension and 82% are confident about government-funded prescription drug benefits, just 72% and 68% of workers, respectively, share their optimism.
  • Two in 10 (19%) workers are “not at all confident” they will be able to take care of basic living expenses in retirement, versus 5% of retirees. And 28% of workers say the same about covering their medical expenses in retirement, versus 11% of retirees.

Some of this stands to reason. Retirees have either achieved their financial goals or they’ve made whatever adjustments are necessary to make do with what they have. It’s reasonable to conclude that this is part of the story.

Clearly, though, there’s something more going on here. Low interest rates (historically low since the financial crisis), along with capital market volatility and a steady reduction in workplace coverage, have combined to present today’s workers with retirement planning challenges few of their predecessors faced.

The onus is on individual Canadians to save and plan for their retirement to a degree not seen in previous generations.

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