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Are Canadians Financially Unprepared for Retirement?

    Retirement is a time when people stop working and can finally enjoy the fruits of their labour. It’s a time to relax, travel and spend time with loved ones. However, not everyone has the means to do so comfortably, and in Canada, many people are facing the reality that they may not be financially prepared for retirement.

    According to a recent survey by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, over 50% of Canadians are concerned about their retirement finances. In this article, we’ll explore why so many Canadians are worried about their retirement, what they can do to prepare and what the future holds for retirement in Canada.

    In the past, Canadians relied on a combination of government pensions, private pensions and personal savings to fund their retirement. However, in recent decades, there have been significant changes to the Canadian retirement landscape.

    In 1997, the Canadian government introduced the Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), which allowed Canadians to save for their retirement on a tax-deferred basis. At the same time, many private companies have stopped offering traditional pension plans, leaving Canadians to rely more heavily on their personal savings to fund their retirement.

    Table: Comparison of Retirement Savings Options in Canada

    Retirement Savings OptionAdvantagesDisadvantages
    Government Pension (CPP)Guaranteed income for lifeLimited coverage (max of $1,203/month)
    Private Pension PlanGuaranteed income for lifeBecoming rarer, and not portable if you change jobs
    Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)Tax-deferred savingsNo guaranteed income, subject to market fluctuations
    Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA)Tax-free savingsNo guaranteed income, subject to market fluctuations

    While the RRSP has helped many Canadians save for retirement, it is not a silver bullet. According to a recent survey by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, only 57% of Canadians are currently contributing to an RRSP. Furthermore, those who are contributing are often not contributing enough to ensure a comfortable retirement.

    One of the biggest challenges facing Canadians today is the low savings rate. According to Statistics Canada, the average household savings rate in Canada was just 5.7% in 2020. This means that many Canadians are not putting enough money aside each month to fund their retirement.

    The impact of not being financially prepared for retirement can be seen in the real world. For example, a recent survey by the Bank of Montreal found that one in four Canadians over the age of 55 is still working full-time because they can’t afford to retire. This is a significant change from previous generations, where people could afford to retire in their 60s and enjoy a comfortable retirement.

    Another example is the increasing number of Canadians who are relying on government support in their old age. According to the Canadian government, the number of Canadians receiving Old Age Security (OAS) benefits has increased by 25% in the past decade. This is a sign that more and more Canadians are not able to support themselves in retirement.

    Pros and Cons of Preparing for Retirement

    One of the biggest pros of preparing for retirement is that it can give you peace of mind. When you know that you have a plan in place and enough money saved to support yourself, you can enjoy your retirement without worrying about money.

    On the other hand, preparing for retirement can also be challenging. It requires discipline, sacrifice and a long-term perspective. It can be difficult to save enough money each month and it can also be difficult to make the right investment decisions to ensure that your savings grow over time.

    Another con is the cost of living in retirement. Many people underestimate the cost of living in retirement and how much they will need to cover expenses like healthcare, travel and leisure activities.

    1. According to a recent survey by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), only 39% of Canadians are confident that they will have enough money to last throughout their retirement (source: RBC, 2021).
    2. In 2020, the average Canadian retiree received a total of $18,000 per year from government pensions, private pensions and personal savings (source: Statistics Canada, 2020).
    3. The average Canadian retiree is expected to spend approximately 20 years in retirement (source: Canadian Institute of Actuaries, 2021).

    As the population ages and people live longer, retirement will continue to be a major concern for Canadians. It is likely that the government will need to take steps to ensure that people are able to support themselves in their old age, either through increased support for government pensions or through changes to the RRSP system.

    At the same time, individuals will need to take responsibility for their own retirement and start saving as much as they can, as early as they can. This may mean making lifestyle changes, like reducing spending or working longer, but the payoff will be a comfortable and secure retirement.

    The financial unpreparedness of many Canadians for retirement is a cause for concern. While there are challenges, there are also steps that can be taken to ensure a comfortable retirement. By saving early and making informed investment decisions, Canadians can build a nest egg that will provide financial security in their old age.

    Christopher - BSc, MBA

    Christopher - BSc, MBA

    With over two decades of combined Big 5 Banking and Agency experience, Christopher launched Underbanked® to cut through the noise and complexity of financial information. Christopher has an MBA degree from McMaster University and BSc. from Western University in Canada.

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