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Working longer is quietly becoming the default solution to not saving enough for retirement.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

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.

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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.

Tools: 'How Long Will I Live?' and other helpful online retirement calculators

Read more: Five signs you're counting too much on CPP for retirement

Rob Carrick: The new way to tell if you've saved enough for retirement

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.

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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."

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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.

A Globe and Mail Worksheet

How much does long-term care cost?

Canadians are living longer and as we age, we require more hands-on care and medical attention. That can include staying at a long-term care facility, a place that offers seniors 24-hour nursing and personal care.

For many Canadian families, the long-term care system represents a “safety net” should they become unable to care for themselves or a loved one. But staying in such a facility, despite being subsidized by the government, is generally not free. Accounting for the cost of long-term care can be an important part of retirement planning.

We developed this calculator to help readers understand, estimate and plan for the cost of long-term care in government-subsidized facilities. Select your province and the amount of time for which you think you might need care, and the calculator will show you the total estimated cost at current rates.

Keep in mind that although the calculator shows a lump sum, the costs are charged monthly by the facility and can be offset by any monthly income you or your family members have. In addition, long-term care facilities often have different options (such as private or semi-private rooms) that can affect the total cost. Where possible, we’ve included these options to illustrate how different choices affect the final tally.

Your considerations


The average length of stay in a long-term care facility is about 18 months, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

Your costs

Standard care


Private care




Notes and Assumptions

Unless otherwise noted, costs listed are maximum rates. For provinces that list daily costs, a monthly rate was calculated by finding the annual total and dividing it by 12. Individuals may also be responsible for other costs, such as prescriptions and hygiene products. Some provinces use a formula to calculate a rate based on the individual’s financial means. Depending on the province, subsidies may be available to cover a portion of the resident’s fees. Different pricing may apply for married residents and common-law couples. The rates listed for Nova Scotia are for nursing homes, rather than residential care facilities. Check your provincial website for up-to-date pricing as rates are subject to change.

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