How Much Do I Need To Retire in Canada: 5 Simple Steps

Worried about not having enough money to retire in Canada? You’re not alone.

A CIBC survey showed that 79% of Canadians aged 35 – 54 are concerned about not having enough money to retire.

My parents have both recently retired, and I used my past experience as an advisor to help them plan their investments.

This article is for you if you want the answer to “how much do I need to retire in Canada?” 

Average Spending of Canadian Retirees

The 2017 Survey of Household Spending by Stats Canada found that the average spending per household for Canadians over the age of 65 was $60,359 (including taxes). 

If you assume that you and your partner will retire at age 65 and live until age 82, this will work out to be $1,026,103 total spent during retirement.

Keep in mind that these are average numbers, and yours could be much higher or lower. If you’re looking at that number and thinking that it’s way too high, continue reading to see how you can save and invest to reach your goal. 

Simple Retirement Saving Rules

how much do i need to retire in canada infographic

Rules are a way to simplify a complex concept, and might not suit your exact situation. But they are a good place to start if you’re not sure how much to save.

1. 50/30/20 Rule

A popular rule of thumb is to use 50% of your money on needs like housing and food, 30% on wants such as travel or entertainment, and 20% on savings

Is 20% savings a reasonable amount? I wasn’t exactly sure, so I did some calculations. I assumed that you would invest all your money at a 4% investment rate of return, a savings period of 40 years (age 25 – 65), and zero taxes to keep things simple, and also to assume that people would take advantage of their TFSA and RRSP accounts. Here are the results: 

50/30/20 rule:

Average Salary$       50,000$      75,000$    100,000
Savings/Year (20%)$       10,000$      15,000$      20,000
Length (years)404040
Rate of Return (%)4%4%4%
Amount Saved$950,255$1,425,383$1,900,510

As you can see, even with only a $50,000 average salary throughout your whole career, if you save 20% and invest all your money, you’ll almost have a million dollars by the time you retire. The 20% rule seems like it would be good enough for most people then. 

2.Savings By Age Rules

Fidelity came out with an interesting rule of thumb, which states that you should have a multiple of your salary saved by the time you hit a certain age:

  • Age 30: one times your annual salary  
  • Age 40: three times your annual salary 
  • Age 50: six times your annual salary 
  • Age 60: eight times your annual salary 
  • Age 67: ten times your annual salary 

You can likely achieve this goal if you start saving 15% of your income at age 25, and investing at least half of your money into stocks over your lifetime.

How Much Do I Need To Retire in Canada
Source of image: Fidelity article

3.Years Multiplied by Expenses Rule

Figure out how many years you will live and multiply it by your annual expenses to get the amount you will need to retire. The older you are when you retire, the fewer years you will have for retirement:

Example: Jeff will retire late, at age 70. He calculates he will need $80,000 a year when he retires and wants to have enough money to last him until age 85, or 15 years. 15 times $80,000 is $1.2 million, which is what he wants to have when he’s retired.

4. The 4% Rule

First, figure out how much you need in annual income to live your life. Then, multiply that amount by 25, and that will be how much you need to retire, no matter how old you are. In theory, even if you’re only 30 years old, you can retire and have enough money to last you for the rest of your life. 

The 4% rule has been popularized by the Financial Independent, Retire Early (FIRE) movement, but it can be used by people at any age, not just young retirees. 

Example: Susan wants to retire at age 40. She needs $40,000 per year when she retires. Multiply that by 25, and you’ll get $1 million. $40,000 is 4% of $1 million. She can withdraw $40,000 every year without having to worry about having enough money.

5 Steps to Figure Out How Much Money to Retire in Canada

For those who want to dive deeper into how much to save for retirement and don’t just want to rely on a simple savings rule, follow these steps:

Step 1: How Much Money Will You Spend Per Year in Retirement? 

Here are a few ways you can estimate how much money you’ll spend when you retire:

1. 70% Pre-Retirement Income Rule

A rule of thumb is you’ll need about 70% of your pre-retirement income to spend every year in retirement. The rule states that if you made $100,000 before you retired, you would need about $70,000 per year after retirement.

2. Variable % Pre-Retirement Income Rule

Some find the previous 70% rule too rigid and does not apply well to all income levels. This variable rule states that the more pre-retirement income you make, the less percentage you’ll likely need when you retire:

  • Lower-income earner (Less than $50K per year): Will spend 80% of pre-retirement income per year.
  • Middle-income earner ($50 – $100K per year): Will spend 65% of pre-retirement income per year.
  • Higher-income earner (Over $100K per year): Will spend 50% of pre-retirement income per year.
How Much Do I Need To Retire in Canada
Percentage of pre-retirement income needed per year for low, middle, and high earners.

3. Detailed Budgeting

The closer you are to retirement, the more detailed you can get with your budget. By this time, you’ll have a clearer picture of what your life will look like after retirement. Some things to consider are:

  • What type of property do you want to live in
  • What kind of travelling do you want to do
  • Will there be high health care expenses
  • Is your mortgage paid off
  • Do you have grandchildren or children to care for

Step 2: How Many Years Will You Be Retired?

A tough part about figuring out how much money you need when you retire is that you’ll have to think about how long you’ll live. It’s not pleasant to think about death, but with retirement planning, it is necessary. 

The average life expectancy is around 82 years in Canada, so unless you have some major health complications, you should plan to have your money last until at least 85 to be safe. I recommend planning for 90, which gives you a lot of buffer room.

The older you are, the less money you’ll need to retire, as you’ll have fewer years to live. A person retiring at age 60 should plan to have 30 years of retirement income, versus a person retiring at age 70 who only needs to plan for 20. 

Step 3: How Much Government Income Will You Receive 

Canadian Government Programs

The two primary sources of government retirement income are from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS). It’s a bit tricky to estimate your exact CPP payments, but know that while the maximum you can receive is $1175.83/month, the average is closer to $672.87/month.

Your OAS payments are easier to estimate. If your income is under $75,910/year, you’ll receive $613.53/month. If your income is too high, you’ll get what’s known as the OAS clawback, and your payment will be deducted.

Step 4: Take Stock of Your Current Assets 

While this will vary significantly by individual, some of the major assets to consider is any equity in real estate you might own, your TFSA and RRSP, and any workplace pensions that you might have.

Step 5: Calculate How Much You Will Need to Retire

By this step, you should have figured out a few key numbers. You should know what age you want to retire, how many years you will be retired, how much you’ll spend in retirement, and how much money you currently have. 

Ballpark Estimation

Here’s a simplified example, which doesn’t take into account any investment losses or gains, plus assumes a 0% rate of return in retirement so it’s likely an overestimation, but this will help give you an idea of how to estimate your retirement number:

Example: Greg is 40 years old. He wants to retire when he’s 60 and hopes that he lives until 90, so he will need 30 years of income. He has calculated he will spend about $50,000/year in retirement.  With CPP and OAS payments and his pension from work, he estimates he’ll actually need only about $40,000/year, or roughly $1.2 million throughout the 30 years. 

His current assets are worth $500,000, mainly in his primary residence, TFSA, RRSP, and workplace pension. He’ll need to increase his assets by $700,000 to reach his goal by age 60, and he has set up a savings and investment plan that will help him reach that goal.

Use a Retirement Income Calculator

After you have your ballpark estimate, compare it to what a retirement income calculator will give you. My two favorite ones to use in Canada are:

  1. Wealthsimple Retirement Income Calculator: Extremely easy to use and understand, plus I love how you can adjust the assumptions easily.
  2. Sun Life Retirement Income Calculator: Similar to the first calculator, but with a different design that some people might find more appealing.

Saving vs Investing for Retirement

If you are only saving your money in a bank account, it’s going to be very difficult for you to hit your retirement goals. Most of the major banks have very low-interest rates well below 0.5%, which won’t even keep pace with inflation. With online High-Interest Savings Accounts (HISA) like EQ Bank, you can get a better interest rate of 1.25%.

Compare this to if you invest in the stock market. The U.S S&P 500 index returned 12.1% on average for the 40 years ended on December 31, 2019 (in CAD), and the TSX index returned 8.8% on average for the same period. 

For a long-term estimate of the TSX and S&P 500 going forward, I would conservatively forecast a 5-7% return, which should still be well above a simple savings account.

Life Changes That Can Affect Your Retirement Income

Retirement planning is all about making adjustments. Life is unpredictable, and chances are the retirement plan you make at age 30 will look nothing like your reality at age 60. Here are some factors that will make you need to revisit your retirement calculations

  • Significant changes in your income, such as landing a higher-paying job or launching a new business.
  • Large changes in your asset value. Real estate is a good example of this; anyone who owned a property in Toronto or Vancouver in the last decade has seen enormous gains in their assets. Albertans have not been as fortunate.
  • Investment gains and losses.
  • Health issues that can cause a change in your life expectancy.
  • Changes in family life such as getting married, having children, or getting divorced.

Mental Tricks to Help You Save More

If you’re struggling to save enough money, try these mindset tips to help you save more:

  • Track your spending: It’s undeniable that if you track your spending, you will become a better saver. I like to use an excel spreadsheet at Squawkfox, or you can also use a mobile app like Mint. I review my spending every day and calculate my net worth every month to see if I’m on track to my financial goals. 
  • Ask yourself this before buying – Will this purchase improve my life in the long-term?This tip has helped me save a lot of money on impulse buys and shifted my spending towards things that actually matter to my happiness. 
  • $100 rule: If  I spend more than $100 on something, I’ll do a lot of research first.
  • Money saved today will multiply with time: A dollar saved today will be worth multiple times that amount if invested and held onto longer, which can give you freedom in the future.


Retirement planning is tough. You’re trying to forecast something that will happen far into the future. There will be adjustments and mistakes made along the way. 

By planning out how much you need to retire, you will increase your chances of hitting that goal. It’s also a relief to have a retirement plan, and it will get rid of some uncertainty in your mind. 

How Much Do I Need To Retire in Canada
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Author Bio - Christopher Liew is a CFA Charterholder with 11 years of finance experience and the creator of Read about how he quit his 6-figure salary career to travel the world here.

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