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Why you should plan for a longer retirement

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It’s no secret that you’ll likely to live longer than you expect — you could spend up to 30 years in retirement. That means you need to plan for extra expenses and health issues.

If that worries you, you’re not alone. Consider that an RBC retirement poll finds the top three concerns of Canadian boomers (those aged 55 and up) are related to longevity: that segment is worried about maintaining their standard of living (39%), having enough savings (37%) and covering healthcare costs (34%).

But, despite acknowledging these concerns, only one third of poll respondents (33%) say they plan to review and adjust their retirement lifestyle plans to ensure they’re on track. And, almost half (46%) say they’re financially unprepared for retirement compared to where they thought they would be.

What’s more, other recent studies suggest many Canadians aren’t contributing enough to RRSPs and TFSAs. Trends data from Statistics Canada shows that, between 2000 and 2013, the number of contributors to RRSPs declined gradually by approximately 16% — when looking at contributors between the ages of 25 and 54.

Two reasons for this are poor economic performance and the availability of the TFSA as an alternative. StatsCan says, “Two of the largest annual declines occurred from 2007 to 2008 (2.8%) and from 2008 to 2009 (4.4%), which coincided with both the economic recession in 2008/2009 and the introduction of TFSAs in 2009.”

TFSAs may be elbowing out the RRSP, given the StatsCan study shows “an increase in the number of individuals aged 25 to 54 who contributed to a TFSA, from 2 million in 2009 to 3 million in 2013.”

But there’s a problem: more people in that age bracket were also withdrawing from TFSAs during that period, despite the looming reality of retirement.

A recent two-part study from BMO uncovers similar issues. The survey, conducted in December 2016, finds only 46% of Canadians plan to contribute to RRSPs this year. Plus, part two of the survey reveals that 38% of Canadians have withdrawn RRSP funds this year, before age 71 — an increase of 4% from last year.

Most early withdrawals are made to buy a home, says BMO, but some contributors also use the funds to pay for living expenses (21%), debt (18%) or emergencies (18%).

Bill Hill, national retirement planning consultant for RBC, warns in a release that your priorities can shift as you enter retirement, so it’s best to review whether you’re saving enough. Ipsos conducted the survey for RBC, polling 2,033 adult Canadians online from November 25 to 30, 2016.

RBC poll highlights

Top questions on the minds of boomers

  • Will I have enough money in retirement (46%)
  • How do I make the most of the money I have saved (26%)
  • How will I deal with inflation in retirement (20%)
  • What lifestyle changes should I expect in retirement (19%)
  • How will I manage debt in retirement/How will I earn income while I’m retired (15%)
  • Should I downsize/sell my home (13%)

Top activities of retired Canadians

  • Taking time for myself (62%)
  • Spending more time with my spouse/partner (45%)
  • Getting more rest (43%)
  • Travelling (42%)
  • Improving my health (38%)
  • Spending more time with my family (other than my spouse/partner) (32%)

For tips on planning for retirement, read:

Will you be a centenarian?

Key facts to know about RRSPs

Moving? What to do with your U.S. retirement account

Canada’s best places to retire

Checklist: 6 questions for retirees

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