As Canadian boomers live longer, the question of whether they'll outlive their money is lingering longer in their heads.
Royal Bank of Canada released a "Financial Independence in Retirement" poll Wednesday, revealing that nearly half of surveyed Canadians over the age of 55 – 46 per cent – feel that they're falling short of saving enough to retire – but only a third are now willing to tweak their lifestyle plans to face that reality.
As more boomers speed towards retirement, longer life expectancy can come with added responsibility; somehow, they have to pay for all those bonus years. The survey's results highlight the importance of forethought not just as retirement nears, but as early as possible, in order to be able to afford one's needs – and wants – later in life.
Among the top concerns of the boomers surveyed was their ability to maintain their current standard of living and to cover the costs of health care. When asked to rank questions they had about their later years, "Will I have enough money in retirement?" came in the top spot.
This is not all downside, says Bill Hill, a national financial planning consultant with RBC. The cost of retirement, after all, is a byproduct of how you spend your time. Because retirement comes in phases – as high-spending early days transition into quieter times, then more healthcare-focused twilight years – some years will be cheaper than others. But savings for each phase needs to be carefully mapped out.
"Get a real number for you, and not one off the shelf," Mr. Hill said in an interview.
People are living longer and longer. In 2015, Statistics Canada projected that by 2061, more than 78,000 Canadians will be over 100 years old – versus 5,800 in 2011. The financial implications of longer lives are vast.
Among the concerns among those surveyed were how to make the most out of savings, how to deal with inflation, what lifestyle changes to make, and how to manage debt in retirement.
"It's a good thing to worry – with worry comes focus – but sit down and think about your plan," Mr. Hill said. "Plan out your life, then reintroduce money."
Travel, taking "time for myself," and spending time with one's partner and family were among the top retirement priorities for Canadians.
The study found 43 per cent of Canadian adults aren't sure how long they'll be retired for. One-fifth of respondents expected retirement to last 20 to 30 years; 6 per cent said they expect more than 40 years or retirement.
One inevitable solution for many is to keep working. Retirement as we know it is a byproduct of the industrial revolution, and the notion of retirement at 55, Mr. Hill said, "was a marketer's dream.
"You need to answer some questions – what will you do with your time? What will you do to keep active and engaged? – before you make the decision to retire."
Past iterations of the RBC poll highlighted, among other things, the lack of retirement income among Canadians. In 2016, it found that 31 per cent of Canadians hadn't begun to save for that phase of their life.
Only two-fifths of Canadians said this year that they were planning for their retirement ahead of the big leap – a number consistent with the poll's findings each year since 2010.
The findings are from a broader annual poll conducted by the bank ahead of the registered retirement savings plan deadline, which this year is March 1. More than 2,000 adult Canadians took the online survey, conducted by Ipsos last November. Of all respondents, 450 said they were already retired.