About four or five years ago, I was sitting in a story ideas meeting when the discussion turned to retirement. One editor turned to the room of about 15 people and asked: "Who believes they will work past the age of 65?" Almost everyone raised his or her hand, including me.
It was at that moment that I understood how much people had changed in their thinking about retirement. Since then, of course, the recession hit and the markets crashed, and the joke has become about how Freedom 75 may become the new normal. But at that meeting, my colleagues were talking about wanting to work past 65. They weren't interested in Freedom 55.
I thought of this discussion last week when I read the results of a survey commissioned by Investors Group, one of a slew of reports being released by financial institutions ahead of the March 1 RRSP deadline for the 2010 tax filing year.
This survey of 45- to 65-year-olds - boomers - found that 52 per cent believe working beyond "retirement" will keep them young and 42 per cent think the best way to retire is by gradually working fewer hours for their current employer.
Twenty per cent of the respondents say they plan to work in their current field after 65, 15 per cent say they plan to enter a new line of work and 12 per cent say they will go back to school.
David Ablett, a financial-planning expert at Investors Group, wasn't surprised by the large numbers of boomers who say they want to work past the age of 65. He says the issue is "really becoming front and centre" for most financial institutions, driven by clients who are seeking financial advice on the matter.
"I think for a lot of seniors the phased retirement approach would be something they would welcome, on the basis that it allows them to generate additional amounts of income but probably more important, to stay active and engaged," Mr. Ablett says. "I think people also realize that going to work is a real socializing experience."
Financial advisers should help boomers prepare for every retirement possibility, he says, by taking an inventory of potential retirement income sources should their clients want to retire at 65, earlier or later. The next step is to come up with an expectation of their expenses.
"Once you've got that data, it's a lot easier to say, 'OK, what if you continue to work but only, say, half time?'"
Mr. Ablett says that taking financial stock can also have the opposite benefit: Many people believe they can't afford retirement but aren't considering all their income sources or find they may have overestimated their expenses.
"It all comes down to finding out exactly where you stand," he says.