Will you get to pick your own retirement date?

happy couple enjoy sunset on the beach

Every time I read an obituary about someone who passed away in their 50s or 60s, it occurs to me that although we all worry whether we will have enough money to retire, the real issue may be whether we will have enough time.

In 2015 my husband and I will both turn 65. I took early retirement from my job as a pension lawyer almost 10 years ago and developed a new career as a journalist writing about workplace issues. My husband loves his ongoing career as a senior software architect.

We are talking about phasing into retirement over the next year or two, but regardless of how much we have saved, we can’t help wondering if we will be happy living on about 50% of our current income. And yet, I would never forgive myself if by hanging on for too long, we squandered precious years together when we could travel and have more time for our family.

To determine how much money you will actually require when you are retired, you need to know how long you can expect to live. According to a recent CBC article reporting on data from the World Health Organization, average life expectancy for males born in 2012 is 80 and for females is 84. When I plugged our data into the Canadian Business life expectancy calculator it spit out 81.03 for a 64 year old male and 86.91 for a 64 year old female.

In a recent Globe and Mail article, Janet McFarland quoted Canada’s Chief Actuary Jean-Claude Ménard. He said that although more and more Canadians are celebrating their 90th birthdays, additional gains in longevity will be hard to come by. But even if average lifespans never hit 100, more individuals are expected to reach that level. Half of Canadians aged 20 today will live to age 90, and 10% are expected to reach 100.

But even if you are on track to save enough money to live comfortably for 30 years or more, your nest egg will have to last a lot longer if you are forced to retire early because you lose your job or your health.

When retired Canadians participating in the recently-released 2014 Sun Life Health Index were asked about circumstances surrounding their retirement, seven in 10 reported they were not able to retire as planned or expected. Almost a third (29%) retired early for personal health or medical reasons.

A more detailed breakdown of their responses is set out below:

31%: Finished my career and retired as planned
29%: Retired for my own personal health or medical reasons
15%: Took an optional early retirement offer from my employer
14%: Retired for some other reason
10%: Forced to take retirement due to my employer
2%: Retired to take care of someone due to their health or medical issues

So what can you do to maximize your chances of a healthy and financially secure retirement? First of all, there is no doubt that good genes make a difference. Then:

  • Live a healthy lifestyle.
  • Stay out of debt.
  • Have a one or two year emergency fund in your tax-free savings account in case you lose your job or become ill before your planned retirement date.
  • Save at least 10% a year for retirement beginning at as young an age as possible.


But also take time to smell the roses.

Even if you retire at 65 and live until 95, you have many more years behind you than ahead of you. If you love your job, by all means keep working full or part-time. But don’t be afraid to take the leap that lets you discover there is much more to life than work.

It sounds good, right? Now if I could only figure out the best time to jump…..











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