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Canadians more optimistic than Americans about retirement Add to ...

Canadians are a more optimistic bunch about retirement than their U.S. neighbours, but both are worried about how well their retirement funds will perform and whether they’ll be able to retire on time.

A survey, to be released Thursday by Bank of Montreal, found that 60 per cent of Canadians are confident they’ll be able to save for their retirement versus fewer than 40 per cent of Americans.

And while 90 per cent of Americans responded that they’re worried about the performance of their retirement funds, usually held in a 401K in the United States, two-thirds of Canadians had the same concerns about their RRSP.

“Despite the effect of the 2008 global recession had on investors’ abilities to save for retirement, the Canadian economy has fared significantly better than what’s been seen in the U.S.; this has contributed to our more optimistic outlook,” said Tina Di Vito, head of the BMO Retirement Institute.

But about half of both Canadians and Americans surveyed said they expect to postpone retirement – or already have done so – because of a shortfall in retirement income.

The survey, conducted by Leger Marketing, also found that Canadians are better retirement savers than their U.S. counterparts. About two-thirds of Canadians have an RRSP while only 34 per cent of Americans invest in a retirement fund.

Alison Griffiths, a financial author whose latest book is Count on Yourself: Take Charge of your Money, spends about half the year in the United States and doesn’t find the survey’s results surprising.

“Interestingly, though the U.S. market has solidly outperformed the Canadian market over the past year – up 2 per cent versus minus 12 per cent – and despite the fact that unemployment stats are improving, there is a deeply held feeling of disenchantment with all things financial,” she said.

However, Canadians may not be far behind, she suggested. “Once Canadians assess their retirement fund returns for 2011 they are going to find a lot of sagging bottom lines so I expect we are going to see some waning of that reported confidence,” she said. “In Canada more people use advisers than in the U.S. so we tend to be buffered from the impact of our RRSP performances when we have someone to hold our hand and soothe our fears.”

If you’re worried about how well your retirement portfolio is doing, it may be time to re-examine your investments, she said. “For those who are concerned about retirement portfolio returns I advise them to stay with safe, low-fee investments. Don’t rule out short-term bonds and GICs as ballast for your portfolio.”

And if your retirement fund is lower than you’d like, she suggested you try a “no-spending month or two” where you buy “nothing but the essentials, not even coffee at the drive through.”

“They will be amazed to have cash left at the end of the month and a renewed feeling of control over their spending.”

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