Print Page

Majority of Canadians Feel They Can't Afford to Retire

Employers also concerned about employees’ ability to retire

Ottawa, October 27, 2014—Despite the fact that many Canadians say they are putting money aside for retirement, the majority are concerned they have not saved enough to sustain them through retirement, according to findings from a new Conference Board of Canada report.

The report, A Survey of Non-retirees and Retirees in Canada: Retirement Perspectives and Plans, summarizes the findings of a Conference Board survey of Canadians' retirement readiness conducted in June 2014.

Sixty per cent of respondents feel they have not saved enough to comfortably retire. Even more concerning, almost 60 per cent of those on the cusp of retirement (55-64 years of age), and a little over 40 per cent of those aged 65+ report that they have not put enough money aside. Women and those with lower levels of household income were even less likely to have put money aside.

Agreement/Disagreement on 'Have Not Saved Enough for Retirement'

“While these findings are disturbing and suggest that much more needs to be done to ensure Canadians are ‘retirement ready,’ there is some good news in the survey,” said Judith MacBride-King, the lead research director. “A good number of younger Canadians are beginning to consider their future post paid-work. About 34 per cent indicated that planning for retirement is a priority for them—and 24 per cent noted that they have formulated a plan to prepare for their eventual retirement.”


  • 60 per cent of survey respondents have not saved enough for retirement.
  • Over one-third of Canadians say they don’t know when they’ll be able to retire.
  • Over 40 per cent of employers believe their employees are overly optimistic in their assessment of when they will be able to retire.
  • 60 per cent of current retirees say their retirement incomes are sufficient to meet their retirement needs, but many project difficulties over time.

According to the survey, the average planned age of retirement was 63.2 years of age. However, over a third of respondents said they were uncertain when they would be able to exit the labour force. Of these, women (83.5 per cent) were more uncertain than men (69.8 per cent) regarding their planned future retirement. Up to 19 per cent of respondents say they will never retire.

Concern over inadequate retirement savings has already led a good number of Canadians to delay their retirement. More than one in five respondents have decided to retire later than their initial plan five years ago. Furthermore, a full 45.6 per cent of respondents say they plan to continue to work part-time or on a contract basis after their official retirement, and the percentage increases with age. About 51 per cent of those aged 45-64, and 60 per cent of those aged 65+ say they will continue working past their official retirement date.

“Financial literacy among Canadians is also a concern”, said MacBride-King. “About half of the survey respondents rated themselves as average, and 1 in 5 note that their skills are below average or poor. This is a particular concern when it comes to women, younger respondents, and those with lower household incomes—all of whom rated their financial literacy skills particularly low.”

Having the knowledge to understand personal and financial matters plays an important role in retirement planning. Respondents who report excellent financial literacy skills are anywhere from 4 to 7 times more likely to be confident that they will be able to retire when they want, understand the income they will receive from public pension plans, and know how much they need to save.

The survey of Canadians also examined how retirees are faring. Sixty per cent of retirees say their current incomes are sufficient to meet their needs, with the remaining retirees struggling. More than half of current retirees surveyed rely exclusively or to a large degree on public pension plans.

“One of the key findings of the employers study is that Canadian companies are concerned employees simply don’t know enough about their retirement prospects,” said William da Silva, Retirement Practice Leader at Aon Hewitt, the global human resources business of Aon plc. “Clearly, there’s room for employers to play a bigger role in financial literacy, but many are concerned about the possibility of litigation if they do. Current Canadian law provides no protection from liability to those plan sponsors who provide plan members with appropriate choices and advice.”

Employers’ Views on Retirement Preparedness

This research includes a companion report, An Employer's Perspective: Retirement Savings and Preparedness, which examines employers’ views on the retirement preparedness of their employees, and retirement savings plans and practices among Canadian organizations. According to the employers’ survey conducted between April and May of 2014:

  • More than 40 per cent of employers believe their employees are too optimistic in their assessment of when they will be able to retire.
  • Close to 50 per cent of employers feel their employees are unaware of how much savings are needed for retirement, and a little over 30 per cent feel there is a lack of understanding of what their public pensions income (CPP/QPP, OAS) will be.
  • While most public sector respondents have a defined benefit plan in place, 45 per cent of responding private sector organizations do not. Group RRSPs are the most common plan, and are in place in 63 per cent of responding organizations.
  • 70 per cent of respondents with defined benefit plans expressed concern about the sustainability of their plans.

This research was conducted with the support of Aon Hewitt and the National Association of Federal Retirees.

For more information contact

Corporate Communications

Monthly Newsletter

Get updates about Conference Board research and events by signing up for our monthly newsletter.

RSS Feed

RSS Feed  Subscribe to the Conference Board’s News Release RSS Feed

Access Our Research

Access to The Conference Board’s reports is free of charge to professional journalists upon request.

Access Our Experts

We have a team of experienced researchers and economists who are able to comment on current events or share their expertise for news features.

Recent News Releases

Les gouvernements fédéral, provinciaux et territoriaux sollicitent des commentaires en vue de l'élaboration d'un cadre visant à encourager l'activité physique

October 20, 2016

Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Governments Seeking Input to Inform a Framework for Physical Activity

October 20, 2016

Canada is Ill-Prepared to Keep an Aging Population Moving

October 19, 2016

Recent Speeches and Op-Eds

Behind CETA’s headlines: What Canadians need to know about the deal and what’s at stake

October 21, 2016

The BRICs have cracked

October 21, 2016

Innovation is key to success of Canada’s manufacturing sector

October 13, 2016

Connect with Us