Bumpy economic conditions are causing more Canadians to consider delaying retirement, a shift that will ripple through the work force in the coming years.

The share of workers who expect to work full time past the age of 65 has now surpassed those who think they’ll be fully retired at that age, according to a national survey to be released Wednesday. It’s the first time in the seven-year annual survey that more respondents expect to be working full time than retired.

The reasons for postponing retirement have shifted. Six in 10 workers now say they’re delaying retirement because they need to, while four in 10 say it’s because they want to. Before the recession, about half cited financial need as a main factor. Two main reasons for needing to work longer are to earn enough money to pay basic living expenses, and concern that government pensions will not be enough to live on.

“Today’s workers have experienced a prolonged period in which low interest rates, volatile capital markets and a drop in employer-funded retiree benefits have combined to make retirement planning more challenging,” the report, from Sun Life’s “unretirement” index, said.

The data is based on an Ipsos Reid survey conducted in December of online interviews with a sample of 3,000 working Canadians between the ages of 30 and 65, along with a sample of 400 retired Canadians. Sun Life is Canada’s third-largest life insurer.

Six in 10 respondents now expect to work past retirement age while 27 per cent figure they’ll be fully retired. Back in 2008, 48 per cent thought they’d keep working and 51 per cent expected to be retired.

Cheryl and Don Bedard have opted to keep working full time. Ms. Bedard, 66, and her husband, 72, work as consultants at Investors’ Group in Toronto, providing financial advice to clients. Their motivation is both financial and the desire to stay mentally active.

“We like to be mentally stimulated and being in the work force allows us to do that,” said Mr. Bedard. As well, “economic factors are motivating us because we can control the flow of income that will sustain our lifestyle.”

They like the flexibility of being able to choose their hours and schedule time with grandchildren – and they love the opportunities for training and education. And they see more peers in the same boat.

Broadly speaking, many boomers haven’t saved enough for retirement, said Ms. Bedard, amid factors such as “the transition from planned retirement pension plans, that people are changing their jobs more often and the cost of living, which has gone up far faster than incomes.” Combined with much longer life expectancies, the result is more people plan to work longer.

Other findings from the survey were mixed. On average, respondents now say they expect to retire at age 64, a lower age than in previous years and matching pre-recession levels. “So while large numbers of Canadians anticipate working past 65 – either by choice or necessity – that trend is offset somewhat by a significant number who expect an early retirement,” the report said.

While the effects of the financial crisis on retirement plans may be easing, on the whole, respondents “remain unsure about their ability to achieve their financial goals.” The portion of people saying they will have enough money to enjoy the lifestyle they want rose to 64 per cent from 59 per cent a year earlier.

Employment has generally been growing among workers aged 55 years and up, Statistics Canada data show. The jobless rate for men over that age was 5.8 per cent at the end of last year while for women it was 5.1 per cent. The participation rate among older workers eased last year, but remains higher than pre-recession levels.

The report comes in the same week a Royal Bank of Canada poll showed just 39 per cent of respondents said they put money away for retirement in 2014.


The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Feb. 18 2015, 6:00 AM EST
Last updated Wednesday, Feb. 18 2015, 7:54 AM EST