Is retirement realistic for millennials? Why they say they need to save more

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Money Tips Monday: The changing landscape of retirement in Canada
WATCH - The changing landscape of retirement in Canada – Jan 29, 2024

Millennials feel they need to save more than any other Canadian to retire, a new survey indicates.

BMO’s annual retirement survey, released Wednesday, found Canadians ages 28 to 44 believe they will need about $2.1 million to retire, the highest among all adult generations.

The online survey also found that, for a second consecutive year, Canadians overall believe they need about $1.7 million for retirement.

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Deadline approaching to contribute to retirement savings plan

Higher interest rates and inflationary pressures are impacting Canadians, with 63 per cent indicating current economic conditions are negatively affecting their ability to save for retirement, it added.

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“It’s a daunting number for people who are just entering the workforce, who maybe have just graduated from university, with debt or without debt, and to have to visualize the average dollar amount of $1.7 million for retirement,” said Lianne Di Rocco, a portfolio manager at BMO Nesbitt Burns.

“It doesn’t have to be as daunting a a retirement plan if you’re starting younger versus older.”

Click to play video: 'Report: Retirement out of reach for many older Canadians'
Report: Retirement out of reach for many older Canadians

The survey added 37 per cent of Canadians are putting less money towards retirement savings, while 38 per cent of Gen Z respondents (ages 18 to 27) said they are putting off saving for retirement completely.

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BMO’s retirement survey comes a week after Toronto Metropolitan University’s National Institute on Ageing (NIA) released a report suggesting only 35 per cent of Canadians over 50 who plan to retire indicated they were financially prepared to do so.

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Some 39 per cent said they did not feel financially ready to retire, while 26 per cent said they’re unsure if they can afford to retire when they want to.

While the needle hasn’t moved much on overall retirement readiness from the inaugural Ageing in Canada survey a year earlier, the latest report found that older Canadians faced new pressures over the past year tied to higher borrowing rates and market volatility.

Annual inflation, though it largely cooled over the course of 2023, was still listed among the factors fuelling an economic hardship for both existing and would-be retirees.

Natalie Iciaszczyk, research program manager at the NIA, told Global News last month the rising cost of living is eating away at Canadians’ ability to save, as more of their monthly cash flow goes to daily expenses rather than long-term investments.

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CARP talks big issues affecting seniors in 2024

“Inflation has made it harder for Canadians who are still working to get by, and that makes it harder for them to be able to set money aside for the future,” she said.

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Iciaszczyk added it’s not clear from the two years of NIA studies whether the financial pressures are pushing Canadians to push back their retirement age.

Another report released Wednesday by the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario suggests 81 per cent of Ontarians are more concerned about paying for basic necessities than saving for retirement. The poll also found 44 per cent said the high inflation is hindering them from starting to save for retirement.

RRSP account values down: BMO

Despite cost-of-living woes, BMO’s survey found 62 per cent of Canadians have either already contributed to their Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) in 2023 or plan to do so. The average amount people plan to contribute to their RRSP has increased to $6,512 in 2023 from $5,753 in 2022.

The survey found RRSP account values have fallen from elevated levels measured over the previous two years. The average amount held nationally fell 28 per cent to $113,070 in 2023 compared with $144,613 in 2022. Despite the decline, total account holdings are in line with historical averages, with a notable increase in retirement savings reported during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“The biggest benefit to doing your RRSP contribution every year is that you’re going to be creating a tax credit to offset any tax payable that you have from earned income during that year, and also for the younger generation that’s looking at buying a home,” Di Rocco said.

“We still have the Home Buyers’ Plan in the RRSP … so I think for the younger generation, it makes sense to be able to buy a property and also to start that savings and compounding tax free.”

Men estimate on average they need $2 million to retire, while women believe they need $1.3 million in retirement.

Sixty-seven per cent of men said they are confident they will have enough money to retire as planned, and 56 per cent of women said they are confident they will be able to reach their retirement goals.

The average age people plan to retire is 62 years old, BMO added.

— with files from Global News’ Craig Lord

BMO’s study was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights via an online survey of 1,510 adult Canadians,  Nov. 3-8, 2023. The margin of error for a probability sample of this size is ±2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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