What will your retirement look like?

Senior couple in front of Eiffel TowerWhen I read survey results, it usually seems like just a jumble of numbers unless I can somehow relate to the data in the context of my own experience. As I officially retired 10 years ago from my career as a pension lawyer but immediately embraced an encore career as a personal finance writer, it is not surprising that HSBC’s new global study The future of retirement* resonates for me on many levels.

First of all, survey results confirm that that my experience parallels that of many others. More than a fifth (22%) of retirees participating in the survey have been through a period of semi-retirement, while over half (56%) of working age people plan a period of semi-retirement before they fully retire.

Furthermore, over half (54%) of working age people who plan to semi-retire want to stay in the same job or career but work fewer hours. Among those who have already had a period of semi-retirement, almost one in 10 (9%) put this down to no longer being able to find full-time employment.

In my case, first editing a pension and benefits magazine and then building a freelance writing business meant I could continue to be involved in aspects of my former career that I loved, while shedding tasks I enjoyed less such as endless meetings, strategy sessions and managing people.

The study also revealed that key aspirations people have for their retirement include:

  • 55%: Spending more time with friends and family
  • 45%: Frequent holidays
  • 38%: Extensive travel
  • 33%: Taking more exercise/playing more sports
  • 33%: Charity/volunteer work


I am relieved to find out that our own retirement goals are similar. In fact we are very much looking forward to planned trips to Portugal/Spain and South America. Because I recognize that we will move from the “go-go” phase of retirement to the “slow-go” or “no-go” stages within a few years, we want to pack in as much globetrotting as we can while we can.

Another thing that I found really interesting is that Canadians are some of the most likely to want to spend it all before they go. When asked about their attitudes towards spending and savings, 27% of working Canadians responded “spend all your money and let your children create their own wealth.”

We helped to finance our children’s education and have given them money at various times for a down payment on a house and car purchases. Even as adults, we have taken them on many vacations and we are contributing to a Registered Educational Savings Plan for our granddaughter.

While we plan to continue making appropriate gifts to the kids as long as we can, our retirement plan is based on a “die broke” scenario to age 90, However, we have not included the value of our paid-up home in the calculations, so we have a nest egg for extreme longevity and probably some money left over for a modest estate.

The report also reveals that more than two in five (41%) working age people plan to move when they retire. Of these, almost half (46%), plan to move from their town or city to a rural area.

Why move to the country?

Nearly three in five (57%) working age people who plan to move are seeking a more relaxed lifestyle in retirement. A third (33%) would like to benefit from lower living costs and nearly a quarter (23%) from cheaper rent or property prices when they retire.

We have tossed around the idea of moving to an area with a lower cost of living, but we love the amenities of the city that are no more than a short subway ride away from where we currently live. There are also lots of freebies. This week I played hooky for an afternoon and saw a movie at Hot Docs which is free before 5 PM for people age 60+.

The study includes lots of other fascinating tidbits, so take a look at the full report. I will be drawing on other survey results for future blogs and stories.

*The report is based on a survey of 16.000 working age and retired people in 15 countries and territories worldwide, including 1,000 Canadians.

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