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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.
The survey was sent to education sector workers across Canada who subscribe to RTOERO’s email list. Of the 1374 respondents, 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.
Retiring within the next 12 months – 33%
1 to 5 years – 55%
6 to 10 years – 10%
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.”
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.”
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.
Working conditions – 50%
Health/mental health – 42%
Economy/inflation – 33%
Caregiving for loved ones – 16%
None of the above – 16%
COVID-19 pandemic – 9%
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).
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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%).
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.”
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%).
Health insurance options – 68%
Practical “to-do” tasks to prepare for retirement – 63%
Travel – 58%
Ways to save money – 55%
Retirement financial planning – 54%
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.
Personal growth/learning – 48%
Navigating a career transition – 39%
Wellbeing at work – 38%
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.
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%
Future retiree in the next year
Future retiree in the next 1 to 5 years
Future retiree in 6+ years
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.
 The survey response rate provides a 99% confidence level, with a 3% margin of error.