Majority say they'll work past 66, retirement survey indicates

A growing number of working-age Canadians plans to stay on the job past the standard retirement age of 65, either because they can’t afford to retire or they just want to keep working.

60% of respondents to Sun Life survey say they'll have a job, either full or part time

The average age of retirement in Canada is about 62. Retirees surveyed by Sun Life had fewer doubts about their financial security than working-age Canadians.

A growing number of working-age Canadians plans to stay on the job past the standard retirement age of 65, either because they can’t afford to retire or they just want to keep working.

An annual Sun Life survey of Canadians of working age found the number of respondents who expect to be working at age 66 topped 60 per cent. About 32 per cent of those said they’ll work full time, while only 27 per cent expect to be fully retired.

Sun Life says it's the first time since it started the survey seven years ago that the number of Canadians polled who expect to still be working full time past 65 has surpassed the number of individividuals who expect to be retired.

When the poll posed the same question in 2009, at least 55 per cent of working-age respondents said they expect to be fully retired at 65. Only 16 per cent said it's likely they would be working full time.

Change of expectations

That change of expectations over the past six years may reflect the impact of the financial crisis, which ate into Canadians' retirement savings, pessimism over the health of the public pension system or the federal government’s decision to raise the age of eligibility for the Old Age Security (OAS) benefit to 67.

According to the Sun Life survey, 16 per cent of respondents said they needed to work at age 66 to earn enough money to live well, and 21 per cent said they needed money for basic living expenses.

About 41 per cent of respondents said they really want to keep working.

Many respondents have real doubts over their financial security, with 36 per cent saying they were likely to outlive their savings.

Sun Life reports the impact of the financial crisis may be wearing off a little, as respondents seemed more optimistic than last year that they would be able to cover basic expenses in retirement.

But Sun Life president Kevin Dougherty urged Canadians to seek financial advice about retirement and perhaps put their minds at rest.

Retirees aren't so worried

"It is striking that in today's economic environment, they've developed a view of retirement that previous generations of workers would not recognize," he said.

Retirees appeared to be much more sanguine about their financial security, with only 14 per cent of those surveyed saying they might outlive their savings.

The average age of retirement in Canada is 62, according to Statistics Canada, and the average among respondents to the Sun Life survey is 61.

The expectation among survey respondents that they will be working at age 66 appears to be out of step with the reality — that many people don’t have the option to work past 65. Some people are forced into retirement by an employer, some must take it for health reasons and others take it before 65 to care for a family member.  

The survey was performed for Sun Life by Ipsos Reid between Dec 5 and Dec. 22, among 3,000 Canadians 30 to 65 years old. Demographics for the online panel was adjusted to reflect the adult population according to census data. An additional 400 retired people were asked questions about their financial security.


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