The Current

Canadian seniors still working to make ends meet

Studies say a third of Canadians without an employer pension are reaching their mid-sixties with little in retirement savings, forcing them to keep working.
A survey by Manulife Bank found that six out of ten Canadians worry about having enough money to retire. (Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters)

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Many Canadians over the age of 65 are finding themselves in situations where they have no choice but to work — and the number of people in this group is growing.

As jobs with pension plans become scarcer and as a third of over-65 Canadians without them are left with $1000 in retirement savings, working years are extending into their seventies, eighties and beyond.   

Two seniors — Stu, 72 and Sheila, 68 — say they can't afford to retire. We have withdrawn their last names in order to protect their privacy.

Neither Stu nor Sheila thought they would still be working by this time. Both had reliable jobs they left to pursue their interests, for Stu that was social work and for Sheila it was real estate. However, between health issues, market fluctuation and, for Sheila, an issue with an accountant who didn't report her husband's company's finances, both were left without the savings needed to retire.

Both Sheila and Stu are doing what they can to cope with their current situation, but it can be tasking since it's not something they feel they can speak openly about, for fear of burdening friends and family.

I'm just grateful every day that I can get up and put one foot in front of another and keep working, like Stu said ... but at the other time, when my friends are all travelling all over the world it kind of does break my heart that I can't go.- Sheila

John Stapleton, an innovation fellow and social policy expert specializing in retirement issues with the Metcalf Foundation, says a lot has changed when it comes to seniors in the workforce. While Stapleton mentions the bright side — medical advances allowing people to live longer, healthier lives  — he also notes the climate in which this is happening. 

We're looking at lower savings rates, lower interest rates on those savings too, which mitigate against savings. We're looking at higher housing costs and of course, one of the big ones is ... that they have to take care of someone who is very aged.- John Stapleton

As for those Freedom 55 ads you've likely seen over the years, Stapleton says that even when they first aired, they applied only to a small group of people.

We'd like to hear your stories about working later in life and your thoughts on the issue. 

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This segment was produced by The Current's Anne Penman and Ines Colabrese.