Good news, boomers (and some bad)

Globe and Mail Update
Posted on Wednesday, November 24, 2010 6:22AM EST

Talk about your good-news-bad-news scenario: In a new poll about what Canadian boomers think about retirement, the results are both cheering and depressing. Simply put, Canadian boomers have a positive view about how they want to live, but they also have a lot of financial fears.

The good news first: Of the respondents between the ages of 45 and 64 – boomers all – 61 per cent say they are looking forward to retirement as an exciting stage in life. They envision a retirement without work pressures (58 per cent say that will bring them great enjoyment), full of travel (61 per cent) and hobbies, recreation and fitness (64 per cent), as well as community involvement (36 per cent).

Sixty-six per cent of those surveyed say they have a clear vision of their retirement lifestyle and 54 per cent say it will be comfortable.

Harris/Decima conducted the poll for Investors Group, a Canadian financial-services company.

So far, so good. The “lifestyle” component of this poll was so upbeat, I was feeling pretty good about being a boomer, something that doesn’t happen too often.

Then came the bad news: It turns out that 55 per cent of respondents said they don’t think they can afford their dream retirement lifestyle. I mulled over that statistic for a while and dismissed it. Who, at any age, can really afford their dream lifestyle? Right now, for me, that would include a penthouse apartment in New York – preferably with a nice, big ballroom. I would really, really love a chauffeur. And none of my shopping would take place at a Buffalo mall on Black Friday, my plan for later this week.

My daydreams were shattered when I saw the next statistic: 30 per cent think they won’t have enough money to pay their basic living expenses. Now that’s scary.

“That was discouraging,” admits Debbie Ammeter, the Winnipeg-based vice-president of advanced financial planning for Investors Group. While Ms. Ammeter says she was pleasantly surprised by the positivity of the lifestyle results, “one of the biggest surprises to me was the negative financial side.”

She says that anyone who falls in that scary category, no matter how close to retirement, should see a financial planner, get a review of his or her financial situation and figure out a way to get on track. “Because the earlier you start making adjustments, the easier it is to match finances with what you want to do at the time you want to retire.”

Investors Group, Ms. Ammeter says, thought it was important to survey boomers’ lifestyle plans and financial means because “we really believe that a big part of financial planning is actually articulating your life goals and that’s really the first thing before you can even decide what you need to meet those goals.”

In other words, know what you want and then figure out how to get it.

The survey also has an interesting statistic that can serve as an important lesson to younger people: Boomers who are already retired were asked what they would do if they could go back in time – and 36 per cent said they would start saving earlier.

Whatever you think of boomers, try to take that advice.

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