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charting retirement

When planning for retirement, it is crucial to understand how long you might live. But you’ll also want to know the probability of living until an advanced age, such as 90 or older.

In the case of a couple who are both aged 65, the husband has a 40-per-cent chance of living until 90, while his wife has a 50-per-cent chance of doing the same. The chances that at least one of them will live until 90 is higher again, at 70 per cent.

In addition, there is a 34-per-cent chance that at least one of them will live until 95, and an 8-per-cent chance that one of them will make it to 100. These figures apply generally to Canadians with at least some savings – the probabilities are even higher for certain groups, such as public sector employees.

This type of data can influence your retirement strategies. For instance, it may not seem like a good idea to wait until age 70 to start receiving your Canada Pension Plan payments – with a 42-per-cent boost in the amount you receive – if you think you’ll only live until 85. But if you know there is a 23-per-cent chance of living until 95 (if you’re a woman), you might feel differently.

To put this into perspective, the probability of dying of COVID-19 over the past 45 months was less than two-10ths of 1 per cent, yet people took extraordinary measures to deal with that challenge.

Knowing your chances of living longer could spur you to look at different retirement planning products. For instance, a joint and survivor annuity – one that keeps on paying out a regular amount as long as at least one person is still living – seems more viable when you know there is a 70-per-cent chance one of you will live until 90. Or you might be more likely to consider the new annuity-like products that focus on longevity and have payouts that keep growing the longer you live.

Frederick Vettese is former Chief Actuary of Morneau Shepell and author of the PERC retirement calculator (

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