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Saving for retirement.

Nearly a third of young Canadians have not started saving for retirement, although a quarter of them want to leave the work force early.

A poll released Wednesday by the Bank of Montreal found that 27 per cent of young adults, defined as those between the ages of 18 and 34, say they have not started saving for retirement. Furthermore, only 10 per cent have "thought a lot" about how much money they will need to have stashed away for their golden years although one-quarter of them expect to retire early.

The news wasn't all bad. More than half of those polled by BMO – 52 per cent – own a registered retirement savings plan and just over a third, or 36 per cent, have a tax-free savings account. And a vast majority – 82 per cent – believe retirement planning is important.

The BMO poll of 1,000 Canadians was conducted online by Leger Marketing in February.

Tina Di Vito, head of the BMO Retirement Institute and the author of a book on how to rescue your retirement, said young Canadians need to start take concrete steps now. "A clear dichotomy exists between what young people think about retirement and what they are actually doing to prepare for it."

The BMO release noted, however, that today's young people face significant financial challenges. "Factors that may hinder their progress in establishing themselves financially, in general, let alone for retirement, include poor post-economic recession job prospects, rising student debt and lower real wages."

Alexandra Macqueen, a certified financial planner and co-author of the book Pensionize Your Nest Egg, says the findings are not surprising. "At that age, retirement is just not on people's decision horizon."

She believes that even at 35, many Canadians are still grappling with other financial issues – such as how to pay down their mortgage, student loans and pay for daycare.

Despite the benefits of compound interest, she says not having any retirement savings at a young age is no reason to panic. "As long as you keep your lifestyle expenses low and then build savings as you age, you should be fine," she says.

Ms. Di Vito says it is up to parents and other influential adults to encourage young people to think about their financial future. She offered these three tips for parents:

1) Start early
Involve kids in their tween and pre-teen years by talking to them about saving and setting financial goals. Open a Registered Education Savings Plan for them, make regular contributions and teach them about the power of compound tax-deferred growth.

2) Hold them accountable
If adult children are working but living at home, discuss their financial contribution toward general household expenses; perhaps even charge them rent. If asking for rent makes you feel guilty, consider investing the "rent" money in a separate account and then surprise them with a monetary gift at a later date to use for their wedding or for a downpayment on a home.

3) Speak their language
Instead of using words like "retirement planning," make the future more relevant with phrases like "save money for tomorrow." These interactions will need to take place using their preferred channels of communication such as smartphones and social networking websites.