Preparing yourself for the unexpected in retirement

Shocked senior gentleman looking at his unexpected bills in disbelief seated in an armchair

Image: buso23/

A reminder of surprises individuals may face when entering retirement comes from a study in Canada. The CIBC (Canada Imperial Bank of Commerce) Poll found that among the biggest surprises were unexpected costs and health issues.

Complicating this was the problem that almost half the retirees (48%) surveyed had stopped work earlier than expected. This put pressure on their retirement income and left many regretting that they hadn’t started planning sooner for their retirement.

Of those forced to retire earlier than expected, 33% retired because of health reasons and 22% were ‘asked to retire’ by their employer.

On retirement income, David Nicholson, Vice-President of CIBC Imperial Service, says, ‘Many Canadians underestimate their spending in retirement, or don’t realise that they may have to retire earlier than they expect to, leaving them unprepared to manage higher expenses than expected on a lower income than planned.’

Unexpected expenses

Almost a third (30%) said they had been surprised by ‘unexpected expenses’. These included:

‘Unexpected home repairs or renovations forced me to use some of my savings’ (11%).

‘I spent more money than I thought I would’ (7%).

‘Travelling cost me more than I had anticipated’ (5%).

‘I didn’t anticipate providing financial support for my children/grandchildren’ (5%).

‘While travellers can expect to spend more, those staying put may be surprised by the costs of all that free time to explore new interests or may dip into savings for renovations put off during their working years,’ says Nicholson.

As would be expected from a bank, this research focuses on finances, but its mention of health does broaden it somewhat. And it’s telling that health and job loss were the two main ‘surprises’ among these retirees.

The importance of attitude

This research is a reminder to be ready for anything before and in retirement. The one thing about life is that we never know what’s going to come next. That’s a reality.

It’s the attitude we take to these realities that will help. Psychologist Kendra Cherry recognises that ‘bad things will happen.’ She says this calls for positive thinking, which ‘centres on such things as a belief in your abilities, a positive approach to challenges, and trying to make the most of bad situations’.

She adds, ‘Positive thinkers will look at the situation realistically, search for ways that they can improve the situation, and try to learn from their experiences.’

A positive attitude may not change your experience, but it will help you cope. That’s the point.

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of

Category: Attitude, Finances, Planning

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