What else matters?

Study participants identified six themes that are closely related to the meaning of retirement. 

Financial Experiences & Beliefs

While finances are critical to enabling retirement, retirement itself is not a financial state. When talking about pension plans or financial products, as well as their beliefs about investing and experiences with the financial services industry, participants described difficulty distinguishing between types of financial providers, the impact of negative services experiences, and poor product fit with their retirement needs.

Family & Community

The presence of strong, positive relationships was universally considered essential to a happy retirement, while their actual or expected absence resulted in the opposite – a seemingly simple, but profound insight as investments in relationships are not typically considered as part of retirement planning. In this theme, participants discussed their family members or friends, broader social networks, neighbourhoods, and communities and described an inclusive, intergenerational view of retirement.

Travel & Self-Determination

Travel, and its meaning, emerged as a significant theme in our study, with almost all participants leisure travel as a retirement goal – regardless of socioeconomic status or previous experience with travel. Participants defined travel in aspirational terms, described the need for health as critical, and contemplated the trade-off between postponing travel until retirement and integrating it into one’s career.

Nature & the Environment

Nature, the outdoors and distance from urban or human features, and the environment, incorporating the human context and climate change, formed an important retirement theme. Both ideas played a large part in what all participants described enjoying about life now, and what they imagined their retirement to offer. Nature and the environment were valued for their calming effects and participants expressed macro concerns about the health of the planet.

Health & Wellness

Travel, and its meaning, emerged as a significant theme in our study, with almost all participants leisure travel as a retirement goal – regardless of socioeconomic status or previous experience with travel. Participants defined travel in aspirational terms, described the need for health as critical, and contemplated the trade-off between postponing travel until retirement and integrating it into one’s career.

The importance of health, health concerns and wellness needs were a frequently cited dimension of retirement for participants. People do not either get sick or retire; rather, natural processes of changes in health and wellness while aging are intricately linked to the experiences of the life stage that retirement represents. Health was a consistent goal, and health benefits an interesting point of comparison to pension benefits.

Housing

Housing, like the first exposure to retirement, creates an important baseline in life. While investing and owning a home is characterized as a large part of the ideal Canadian retirement experience, home ownership and financing retirement may not always be linked in people’s minds. Participants tended not to describe their home ownership, past, present, or future, in relation to retirement planning – implying housing may be seen as a life plan, not necessarily a retirement plan.

You can learn more about these themes in the full report.