How Many Years Will I Spend in Retirement?


As our life-expectancy increases, North Americans are spending more time in retirement than ever before.  An essential part of financial planning is to recognize how many years you will spend in retirement.

In 1921, the average life expectancy at birth for a Canadian male was 58.8 years. At that time the Ford Motor Co. had a mandatory retirement age of 65.

Clearly for many employees, this mandatory retirement age was just a notional concept.

It certainly made financial planning easier.

Today, many people retire (whether by choice or not) somewhere around 60 to 65.

Based on a United Kingdom study, for someone aged 62, a man has a 52-per-cent chance of living 20-plus years, and a 14-per-cent chance of living 30-plus years. For a woman, she has a 67-per-cent chance of living 20-plus years, and a 26-per-cent chance of living 30-plus years.

Based on these numbers, most Canadians today would want to plan for a retirement of 30 years, to be conservative.

In a related note, how many Canadians expect to actually have put in more than 40 years in the work force? Given how many people don’t even start careers until their mid-20s, that means that effectively, each working year must cover not just today’s expenses, but provide for nine months of retirement as well.

That is a daunting thought.


The purpose of this little walk through Retirement 101 is not to scare people, but rather to encourage people to think differently about their future or current retirement.

Questions that need to be asked might include:

• If still working, do I need to think about ways I can work beyond my early 60s?

• If retired, am I going to be OK if I/we live into our 90s?

• Am I saving enough towards retirement?

• What is my world going to look like in 25 years?

To help with some of these questions, below are a few websites that provide some depth on the topic.

They include:

• How long will I live calculator – from University of Pennsylvania

• A great article and site with a variety of longevity charts, from a Cambridge mathematics professor

• How much money will I have at the end? This is a calculator my firm put together. It assumes that you live to a full life expectancy.

Not surprisingly, the world has changed an incredible amount since 1921. In fact, it feels like the rate of change is increasing. It is because of this rate of change that a 30-year retirement can bring a lot of unexpected situations. The more you understand your own situation, lifestyle, income, and longevity, the better prepared you will be.

Who knows? Maybe the Ford Motor Co. plant will be hiring 75-year-olds in 20 years.