Editorial: Coming of age

As the baby boomer generation moves en masse toward retirement, there’s been a lot of talk about retirement income adequacy—and a lot of concern. Are people saving enough? With increased longevity, will they outlive their assets or be forced into a reduced standard of living?

In late 2014, Benefits Canada undertook a research study of 1,808 Canadians who are either retired or within five years of retirement to get a broad understanding of the retirement landscape today. You’ll find highlights of the results here.

We weren’t surprised that pre-retirees aren’t getting a lot of support around the retirement transition or that they don’t understand the risk of outliving their savings. Nor were we surprised by the (likely misplaced) optimism that they want—even expect—to retire early. It was the comments from those already retired that were most surprising.

Generally, Canadian retirees are happy with their lot and their lifestyle. But they also gave some pretty candid feedback, positive and negative, on why they left the workforce when they did and what it’s really like to be retired.

“I wanted to spend more time with my husband and do things while we were able to still do them.”

“I am enjoying this chapter of my life even more than I expected.”

“I am finding it difficult to get into a daily routine and to fill up all of the free time I have. I volunteer for various groups and keep up with friends, but there are still more hours in the day than I need.”

“I didn’t realize how lonely it would be.”

Of course, having enough money is the foundation for a successful retirement. But we spend so much time worrying about our finances, we may forget there are psychosocial aspects that also shape our experience. Not to mention those random twists and turns our lives take that we never could have predicted….

“I didn’t expect to have to retire because of failing health.”

“I didn’t expect to have an accident that totally ruined my retirement after two months.”

“My husband died suddenly after I retired, and I am on my own.”

Is there anything employers can do to help? Encourage employees to save but make sure they realize retirement planning is about more than a figure in a bank account. Offer guidance, perhaps through an external provider, on how to manage the transition and how to stay mentally and physically active. Invite retirees back to the workplace to visit with pre-retirees, to share their advice and their stories.

Because you just never know what life has in store for you. Even if you’ve saved enough, your retirement may not be what you think.

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