Competing priorities impact Canadians' retirement readiness

Poll of retirees and pre-retirees reveals shifts in short- and long-term objectives as well as potential oversights

Competing priorities impact Canadians' retirement readiness

The importance of preparing for retirement is by no means lost on Canadians, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to get sidetracked or delayed.

According to the latest iteration of Franklin Templeton’s Retirement Income Strategies and Expectations (RISE) survey, which was conducted in February before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 79% of Canadians believe someone should begin saving for retirement by the time they’re 30 years old, and 41% either started or plan to start doing so by that time.

Looking at the top three financial priorities reported by each participating age group, the survey showed that retirement saving is a top objective among those in their 30s, and it remains as a primary consideration for people up to their 60s.

But the need to address other priorities may set Canadians back. Among respondents who felt they did not save enough for retirement, one third said they fell short because they had to prioritize debt repayment, and one fourth blamed their shortfall on an unexpected life event or expense. Notably, “paying off unsecured debt” and “having sufficient savings to cover unexpected expenses” was consistently among the top three financial concerns reported by all age groups, from respondents in their 20s up to those in their 60s and beyond.

Such competing financial priorities might be causing too many Canadians to kick the can down the road when it comes to preparing for retirement. While 75% of respondents expressed confidence at their understanding of how much they’ll need for expenses, 73% reported feeling stressed about potentially outliving their savings, and 48% have never developed a retirement plan.

Many Canadians are also embracing the idea of a later-than-expected retirement. Forty-two per cent of pre-retirees said they would postpone their retirement if they didn’t have enough saved. And among those respondents who are working past the age of 65, more than half said they’re still at work because they love it.

But for many others, retirement came with unexpected surprises. One in five retirees said they were pushed out of the workforce by circumstances beyond their control, such as a lay-off or health concern. More than half (56%) expressed regret at not having saved more, and 61% said that rather than decreasing, their expenses remained the same or increased in retirement.


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