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Future retirees: Education workers eyeing career changes, opportunities in retirement

More than half of Canada’s classroom educators and administrators, within five years of retirement, plan to continue working full- or part-time once they retire. More than a third of classroom educators and administrators are considering or have decided to retire sooner than planned, with the top two reasons being working conditions and health/mental health. These findings are among the results from RTOERO’s 2023 Future Retirees Survey.

“While these two key findings may on the surface seem to contradict each other, what it suggests is people don’t want to stop working; they want more control over their work—flexibility, freedom, change—and that’s something retirement can offer,” says Jim Grieve, CEO of RTOERO.

RTOERO’s second annual Future Retirees Survey captures input from more than 1300 future retirees from Canada’s education sector, with the majority of respondents residing in Ontario. Eighty-eight per cent of respondents are retiring within the next five years. The survey results provide a snapshot of how people feel about their readiness for retirement, the information they need and how different factors influence their plans.


infographic with statistics that are listed in the article
  • Over half of the respondents plan to work part- or full-time in retirement, signalling that retirement is not the end of work.
  • More than a third of respondents are considering or have decided to retire sooner than planned. The top two factors influencing the decision are working conditions and health/mental health.
  • Respondents said health insurance information and practical to-do tasks to help them prepare are their top needs for retirement planning.
  • Most people feel they’re emotionally ready for retirement.
  • Learning remains a priority as people approach retirement. Personal growth remains the number one topic of interest, and navigating a career change has moved up the list.

Who responded

The survey was sent to education sector workers across Canada who subscribe to RTOERO’s email list. Of the 1374 respondents[1], 46 per cent are classroom teachers, and 30 percent are administrators. Most respondents are within five years of retirement. The majority live in Ontario.

Classroom teacher – 46%

Administrator in a school or school board – 30%

School or school board staff (e.g. business, admin, support staff) – 12%

Other respondents were from early years, post-secondary institutions, public service and non-profit associations.

Time to retirement

Retiring within the next 12 months – 33%

1 to 5 years – 55%

6 to 10 years – 10%

Retirement plans include working

More than half of survey respondents said they plan to continue working in some way during retirement. Working in retirement has many benefits, including social connections, the ability to use skills and build new ones, and the financial stability it can offer.

“We’re living longer, healthier lives, and so there are many possibilities for what can come after retirement,” says Grieve. “We know from RTOERO members that many will find part-time opportunities within education, and others will move on to something unrelated—it could be a part-time job or an entrepreneurial venture.”

Plans to work in retirement

We asked respondents to what extent they disagree or agree with the statement: “I plan to continue to work full-time or part-time in retirement.”

Strongly agree – 21%

Agree – 35%

Neutral – 20%

Disagree – 10%

Strongly disagree – 9%

I don’t know/haven’t thought about it – 6%

“I have an opportunity awaiting in a family business, unrelated to K/12 education, that will capitalize on my experience as an educator.”

“I am an entrepreneur who already has two side hustles in place that bring me lots of joy and even more financial freedom.”

“I think I’ll retire bit by bit, reducing workload.”

Working conditions, health among influences of retirement timing

The 2023 survey provided a list of factors that may influence the decision to retire. Respondents could select more than one factor. Working conditions and health/mental health were the top two factors influencing the timing of retirement.

Factors influencing timing of retirement

Working conditions – 50%

Health/mental health – 42%

Economy/inflation – 33%

Caregiving for loved ones – 16%

None of the above – 16%

COVID-19 pandemic – 9%

Changes to retirement timeline

In 2022, we asked how the pandemic had influenced retirement timing. This year, we asked about a range of factors. Administrators were more likely than educators to say they’re considering or have decided to retire sooner than planned (43 per cent vs. 34 per cent). The top factor influencing timing for administrators is working conditions (54 percent), followed by health/mental health (43 per cent).

Changes to retirement timeline 

Considering retiring sooner – 24%

Decided to retire sooner – 12%

Considering delaying – 12%

Decided to delay – 11%

No change – 35%

I worked longer due to the fact that my retirement date originally fell during COVID. I wanted to retire on a high note.”

“Sadly, I am considering leaving a career I have loved and the beautiful community I have served due to the current working conditions.”

Retirement by design

“Freedom” tops the list of words or phrases that come to mind when education workers think about retirement.

One of the most incredible things about retirement is having the freedom to try different activities. When asked what comes to mind about retirement, freedom emerged as the most popular word among respondents.

“Those approaching retirement have a largely positive and optimistic view of their future,” says Martha Foster, board chair of RTOERO. “This fits with what we know about retirees – their happiness continues to grow throughout retirement.”

Flight risks and architects

Some education workers are planners and require great certainty; others are more impulsive or spontaneous. We asked respondents which approach to retirement best describes them. The percentage of respondents who selected flight risk increased by 6 per cent from 2022. Classroom educators were more likely to identify as flight risks (38%), and administrators were more likely to identify as architects (39%).

Architect – I’ll go when I’m ready! 35%

Flight risk – I’m outta here as soon as I can manage it! – 35%

Contributor – I’m enjoying my career too much to consider retirement yet! 8%

Procrastinator – I’m putting off thinking about it! – 7%

Pessimist – I can’t leave! 1%

“I’m ready now, so bring it on!”

“I’m a successionist – love my career, excited to pass the torch to capable others.”

Retirement readiness

Financial preparedness for retirement

Financial planning is typically what comes to mind when people think about retirement planning. And while it’s just one part of retirement planning, there’s no denying its importance. The closer people are to retiring, the more likely they are to say they’re ready financially. The percentage of respondents who say they’re ready dropped 3 per cent from 2022. The economy is likely impacting how ready people feel—respondents who selected economy/inflation as affecting their retirement timing were less likely to say they felt financially prepared. 

How financially prepared do you feel?

I’ve done some things to prepare – 35%

Almost prepared – 29%

I’m ready – 18%

I’m just starting to think about it – 12%

Not at all prepared – 6%

“On paper, I am ready… hope the economy/inflation rates don’t mess up my plans.”

Emotional preparedness for retirement

Most respondents say they feel emotionally ready or almost ready for retirement. Those who identified working conditions as a factor in their retirement timing were slightly more likely to indicate they were ready emotionally. Administrators were likelier than other groups to say they were emotionally prepared for retirement (41%).

How emotionally prepared do you feel?

I’m ready 35%

Almost prepared 22%

I’ve done some things to prepare 22%

I’m just starting to think about it 17%

Not at all prepared 4%

“I’m planning and prepping and excited and sad too.”

Love of learning

Which retirement topics do people want to know about?

Insurance and practical support for retirement planning top the list of topics of interest. This has remained consistent year-over-year and is why RTOERO released its retirement planning bundle for education sector workers. Ways to save money and retirement financial planning are new on the top five and possibly reflective of the state of the economy. Information about practical “to-do” tasks for retirement was of greatest interest to people who are 1 to 5 years from retirement (77%).

Top 5 topics

Health insurance options – 68%

Practical “to-do” tasks to prepare for retirement – 63%

Travel – 58%

Ways to save money – 55%

Retirement financial planning – 54%

Which career topics do people want to know about?

Workplace learning doesn’t need to stop as folks get closer to retirement. Interest in navigating a career transition increased 5 per cent between 2022 and 2023.

Top 3 topics

Personal growth/learning – 48%

Navigating a career transition – 39%

Wellbeing at work – 38%

What’s your retirement personality 

An individual’s personality and preferences will likely shape their retirement journey. Here are some of the most common retirement personalities we’ve met and how future retirees identify.

Eight retirement personality types

Respondents selected the retirement personality or personalities they felt best described them.

Globe-trotter – 57%

Bucket-lister – 45%

Athlete – 42%

Philanthropist – 36%

Artist/creator – 35%

Scholar – 25%

Workhorse – 23%

Director – 14%

Your possible next steps

Education employer

  • Read our article about how to help employees prepare for retirement and why you should.
  • Review your current employee support process for retirement and tackle any quick wins.
    • Is the information easy to find?
    • Is the process clearly laid out?
    • Are you showcasing the different options employees have for retirement insurance?
    • Are you clearly explaining the process for working in retirement? (Tip: this is critical if you’re dealing with staffing challenges – make the process clear and simple and people are more likely to do it).
    • What learning opportunities are you offering to employees?
  • Connect with RTOERO if you need support with your process. You can request a customized retirement planning workshop for your organization, and we can also provide template articles to help you with staff communication about retirement. Email our marketing and communications team at [email protected].

Future retiree in the next year

Future retiree in the next 1 to 5 years

  • For a checklist of what you need to do before retiring, see our blog post on everything you need to think about to plan for retirement in Canada.
  • Attend our retirement planning workshop. If you’ve already attended, you can sign up again – come as many times as you want! Reserve your spot here.
  • If you’re starting to look at insurance options, download our insurance comparison checklist for questions to ask.
  • Consider getting a financial planner if you don’t have one already. You have time to review your finances and make adjustments to help you get retirement ready. Learn more.
  • Join RTOERO today and enjoy your free membership until you retire. One of the most popular perks of membership with Venngo MemberPerks to help you save on purchases you’ll make anyway, including shoes, apparel, restaurants, services and more.

Future retiree in 6+ years

  • Join RTOERO today and enjoy your free membership until you retire. One of the most popular perks of membership with Venngo MemberPerks to help you save on purchases you’ll make anyway, including shoes, apparel, restaurants, services and more.
  • Consider getting a financial planner, if you don’t have one already. You have time to review your finances and make adjustments to help you get retirement ready. Learn more.


RTOERO is a bilingual trusted voice on healthy, active living in the retirement journey for the broader education community. With 83,000+ members in 51 districts across Canada, we are the largest national provider of non-profit group health benefits for education retirees. We welcome members who work in or are retired from the early years, schools and school boards, post-secondary and any other capacity in education. We believe in a better future, together!

Your membership is free until you retire. Sign up today.

[1] The survey response rate provides a 99% confidence level, with a 3% margin of error.