Travel High on Retirement Wish List, But Snowbirds Flocking Closer to Home: RBC Poll

Retirement realities differ from expectations

TORONTO, December 13, 2011 – Retired Canadians are living lifestyles that are worlds apart from how nearly retired Canadians think they’ll be spending their retirement years, according to the 2011 RBC Retirement Myths & Realities Poll.

Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of the nearly retired (age 50 and over) think they’ll spend their days travelling – an increase of two per cent from last year. In reality, only 58 per cent of actual retirees spend their time away from home, down one per cent from 2010.

As for becoming “snowbirds” (wintering in the south and spending warmer weather months in Canada), the number of nearly retired with this expectation has risen to 30 per cent from 28 per cent. In reality, the number of retirees who actually flock south each winter has declined, dropping to 14 per cent this year from 17 per cent in 2010.

“Many expectations that Canadians have about retirement turn out very differently in reality,” explained Jason Round, senior manager, Financial Planning Support, RBC Financial Planning. “Having a financial plan in place can help you work through a number of options before you retire and give you the flexibility to enjoy whatever your retirement years offer to you.”

According to the RBC poll, differences also show up in how women think they’ll be spending their retirement years compared to men. The biggest gap shows up in attitudes toward volunteering. Of Canadians who have not yet retired, six-in-ten women (60 per cent) expect to do volunteer work compared to 53 per cent of men. Once retired, the same difference holds true, but only four-in-ten women (41 per cent) and 35 per cent of men actually volunteer their time.

In addition, while slightly more women than men think they’ll retire as snowbirds (30 per cent compared to 29 per cent), in reality, more men than women report actually taking up the snowbird lifestyle in their retirement years (15 per cent compared to 13 per cent).


So, how are Canadians actually spending their retirement years, compared to how pre-retirees they think they’ll be spending these years? Here’s how they responded to this RBC poll question:

2011 RBC Retirement Myths & Realities Poll
Top 10 ways to spend retirement years Retirees Pre-Retirees
1. Taking time for myself 74% 70%
2. Spending more time with my spouse/partner 59% 63%
3. Travel 58% 74%
4. Spending more time with my family 48% 50%
5. Improving my health 46% 35%
6. Spending more time with friends 41% 47%
7. Volunteer work 38% 56%
8. Making contribution/giving back to community 26% 38%
9. Improving my knowledge about finances 23% 12%
10. As a snowbird 14% 30%

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About the 2011 RBC Myths & Realities Poll

The 2nd Annual RBC Retirement Myths & Realities Poll, which examines Canadians’ expectations and experiences in retirement, was conducted by Ipsos Reid from February 25 to March 7, 2011. For this survey, a national sample of 2,245 adults aged 50 and over with household assets of at least $100,000 from Ipsos’ Canadian online panel was interviewed online. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100 per cent response rate would have an estimated margin of error of �2.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20 of what the results would have been had the entire population of adults in Canada been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to, coverage error and measurement error.