Many Canadians retire earlier than planned

Many Canadians (48%) retired earlier than expected due at least partly to circumstances outside of their control, an Angus Reid poll finds.

Just 46% of retirees controlled the circumstances surrounding their retirement while the remaining 6% retired later than planned.

Read: Retirees have nearly $29,000 in annual expenses

Overall, 36% retired at age 55 or younger; 28% retired in their late 50s (between 56 and 60) and 36% retired at 61 or older.

Nearly half (48%) of the retirees agree with the statement: “I’m worried about my money lasting my lifetime”; 19% strongly agree. This anxiety is shared by substantial numbers of retired Canadians from all walks of life, including 54% of retired women and retirees with less formal education (52%).

Another survey item asked respondents to broadly describe how they are faring financially in retirement:

  • 38% say they “have enough money to do everything I want”;
  • 44% say they “live comfortably but don’t have money for extras”; and
  • 18% say “making ends meet is a struggle”.

Read: Highlights of Benefits Canada’s retiree/pre-retiree research

Financing retirement

The Canadian retirees surveyed highlighted the following primary means of financing their retirement:

  • government pension – selected by 57% as one of their three main sources of retirement income;
  • a work pension – 53%;
  • retirement savings (i.e., RRSPs) – 30%;
  • investments – 13%;
  • downsizing/selling assets – 6%; and
  • other sources (inheritance, support from children, etc.) – cited by a total of 11%.

Read: Retirees may be reluctant to sell homes

How one’s retirement is funded is strongly correlated with financial security.

A government pension is a primary source of retirement income for 67% of those struggling to make ends meet versus 43% of those who describe themselves as well-off. Twenty-eight percent of those struggling are able to rely on a work pension—whereas 61% of the best-off group point to a work pension as a primary means of support.

This affluent retired group is also considerably more likely to rely on retirement savings (40% do so) or investment income (25%). These two vehicles were cited much less often by the struggling group, who were more likely to say they have downsized (13% had done so) or used other means (such as support from children) to support themselves in retirement.

Read: Canadians feel better prepared for retirement

Public/private sector divide

Running through all these results is a rather sharp divide between public sector and private sector retirees and, relatedly, between those who had been union members and those who had not. The marked difference in perspective lends considerable credence to arguments about a growing inequity between Canada’s public and private sector workers.

Private sector retirees are considerably more likely to report leaving the workforce early due at least partly to circumstances outside their control (53% versus 41%). They are almost twice as likely to report that making ends meet is a struggle (22% versus 12%). Private sector retirees are also more likely to worry about outliving their money (53% versus 41%).

Public sector retirees are much more likely to be relying on a work pension as a primary support in their retirement (75% versus 39%) whereas their private sector counterparts are more likely to be relying on other savings and supports. (Both groups, significantly, cite Canadian government pensions as a main source of retirement support: 57% each.)