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Prospect Of "Freedom Sixty-Eight" Increases Focus On Personal Finances

Facing longer working years, Canadians look for improvement in employer retirement communication and planning tools

TORONTO, Dec. 4, 2012 /CNW/ - Global professional services company Towers Watson today issued its latest Defined Contribution (DC) Retirement Age Index (the 'Index') which shows the effect of changes in capital market returns and annuity purchase prices on the potential retirement age of a Canadian worker in a benchmark DC plan. According to the Index, securing a comfortable retirement is going to take Canadian workers more time to achieve.

Today, if a 60-year old DC plan member  wanted to match the retirement benefits of a benchmark DC member who retired at age 60 at the end of 2007, after 20 years of contributing, this plan member would need to work until the age of 68 and a half —  a remarkable extra eight and a half years. Michelle Loder, Canadian DC Business Leader at Towers Watson said, "From a retirement planning perspective, the Index results really demonstrate the risks that DC plan members face in trying to juggle long-term investment assumptions with what we call "end point sensitivity."

End point sensitivity refers to the impact that the timing of a decision to retire can have on the funds available in retirement due to changes in both investment returns and annuity prices. According to data in the Index, the benchmark plan member who contributed to the plan for 20 years and retired at age 60 at December 31, 2007 experienced an annualized average investment return of 7.2%.  In contrast, a plan member with the same length of contribution history, but who retired on September 30, 2012, experienced an average return of 6.3%. As Loder notes, "0.9% may not sound like much, but it actually can translate into tens of thousands of dollars that will not be available to the second plan member to secure in retirement income through an annuity. That means the plan member needs to work longer to make up the difference, contribute more during that delay, or be satisfied with less income than their counterpart who retired in 2007."

John McIntosh, Towers Watson's Canadian Plan Design Issue Leader added, "DC plan members need to keep a long-term focus, and periodically review and adjust their levels of contribution and investment choices — or they may find themselves unpleasantly surprised."

Help Wanted With Defined Contribution Retirement Planning

As employer-sponsored DC plans play an increasingly important role in the retirement future of Canadian workers, findings from Towers Watson's Retirement Attitudes Survey show that a majority of employees see room for improvement in their employer's retirement communication and planning tools. Overall, less than 40% of responding workers think their employers are doing a good job of providing retirement tools and information.  For employees nearing retirement (age 50 plus), the number decreases to 30%.

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