The New Retirement

Peter Muggeridge | September 18th, 2013

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Sixty-five is a number that has forever been a number stamped on the minds of many Zoomers. As the traditional retirement age, we’ve always calibrated our mental calendars towards that big day, the long-awaited moment when we can finally stop setting the alarm, slurping down a quick coffee and rushing off to work.

After many harried years in the trenches, turning 65 always signified that it was finally time to relax, travel, visit the grandkids, try out the new golf clubs or explore previously shelved hobbies. Life, we felt, would finally be experienced on our own terms.

While that dream isn’t dead, it’s certainly undergoing a radical change, at least according to the recent release of the 2013 Sun Life Canadian Unretirement Index. Instead, says Kevin Dougherty, president of Sun Life Financial Canada, “It’s being replaced by the reality that many people expect to be working beyond the traditional retirement age.” 

Since 2008, the Unretirement Index has been tracking the changing attitudes working Canadians have toward retirement. And it provides a telling glimpse of how the financial crisis, uneven stock markets, dwindling rates of return and mounting debt has upended our understanding of how and when we expect to retire.

Here are some of the key trends emerging from this year’s Unretirement Index that illustrate the dwindling stock we are placing on this once vaunted age marker:

Age 65 is no longer a benchmark: Almost as many working Canadians (26%) expect to be working past 65 as those who expect to retire at that age.

We’ve got no choice but to work: The proportion of Canadians who expect to be working after 65 because they “need to” has increased by 53% since 2012.

We’re worried about everyday expenses: In 2008, only 11% of respondents felt they needed to work past 65 “to earn enough money to pay basic living expenses.” In 2013, that percentage had more than doubled – 25% of Canadians now list this as the main reason why they will need to work longer.

We lack retirement savings: A whopping 42% of working Canadians in this year’s Index say they’re dissatisfied with the amount they’re saving for retirement and almost 40% say they’re worried about outliving their savings.