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The Million-Dollar Retirement Myth

By Renee Sylvestre-Williams

Published August 2, 2023 • 3 Min Read

Planning for retirement can be intimidating with the million-dollar retirement myth hanging over your head. Canadians are told it can take a million dollars to retire comfortably and not outlive their savings. And imagining that elusive six-figure goal looming can be stressful.

More important than the million-dollar retirement goal is a focus on individual needs — deciding how you want to retire and figuring out how much that will cost. Your retirement savings goal may be lower than you think, because the dollar amount isn’t the only factor, it’s also about your expenses and managing your cashflow for the future.

Here are questions to help you reshape how much you think you need to retire.

When Do You Want to Retire?

Not everyone wants retire at the same stage in life. When you leave the workforce you’ll need to consider how you will replace your income for the expenses you still have, for example:

  • Existing mortgages, other loans or consumer debt.

  • Children still living at home.

  • Elderly parents needing care.

  • Pursuing your own dreams, like going back to school or starting a second career.

Canadians have, according to Statistics Canada, an average life expectancy of 82 years. That means your age at retirement affects both how much money you’ll need and for how long: if you decide to retire in your 50s, you’ll need to cover your expenses for approximately 20-35 years, but if you retire in your 60s, you’ll need to cover 15-25 years.

What Do You Want to Do in Retirement?

Now is the time to plan your retirement lifestyle budget, including the cost of food, shelter, hydro, gas, insurance and travel. Then figure out how much you currently spend and compare the two. You may find out that you might need less money than you think for some things like commuting and more for others like prescriptions, home maintenance and renovations.

How Much Retirement Income Will You Have?

This is where you’ll have to do some math to figure out how much income will be coming in from savings, investments, Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security pension (OAS), the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), and any rental income or income from a part-time job.

Will the income generated be enough to pay for your retirement? Will you need to put more money towards your investments? Are you anticipating an inheritance or the sale of property to provide more money towards retirement savings?

Don’t underestimate income from CPP and OAS. CPP’s average payment amount in 2017 for new beneficiaries who retire at 65 is $653.27, up to a maximum amount of $1,114.17 per month. That’s a potential of $13,370.04 a year before income tax. The amount you receive will depend on how much and for how long you have contributed to the CPP, in addition to your age when you want CPP to start.

How Much Will Inflation Affect You?

The Bank of Canada aims to keep the average inflation rate at about the two percent midpoint of a target range of 1 to 3 per cent over the medium term. Your retirement income should factor inflation into costs because while some costs may drop, others like food and transportation typically rise.

Once you know what you have, what you’ll get and how much it costs, you’ll have a clearer picture as to how much savings you may need to retire. You might even be surprised about how close you are already, and while you might not have saved a million dollars, you can still feel like a millionaire.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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