Listening to Canadians
New Year Reflections on our Research Journey
Happy new year, dear readers! Wherever you are, I hope you are as happy and as healthy as you can be in this challenging start to 2022.
Like many of you, our holidays were a time of reflection: on what we value, the world’s big issues and how we can possibly make a difference where those things intersect. We’re reading about Covid, and climate, and social change and I’ll be honest, some days, we’re overwhelmed. But we are also resolute about the opportunity we have to improve retirement outcomes for Canadians and inspired by the potential for simplicity, disruption and positive change.
Last summer, we began a conversation with Canadians about the meaning of retirement – we want to understand what would have to be true for a pension to be a product you would buy? Over 100 of you participated in an online survey, sharing details of your employment status and pension coverage, your preferences on key product topics and your ideas of how to make pensions better – thank you! (You can download an infographic summarizing our findings here.) Several of the participants in our survey also went on to join deeper discussions in our behavioural study, the results of which will be published later this year.
This is only the beginning of our research – our commitment to listen to Canadians and learn from what pension customers need to live secure, meaningful lives in retirement. There is a lot we already know; and we believe there is even more we can learn by asking new questions in different ways, understanding the answers and the meaning behind them, and being willing to be surprised.
To that end, we wanted to share three highlights from our recent survey that we’ll be exploring further in our continuing work:
1) Canadians value pensions. We weren’t asking our participants about their place in the hotly-debated Great Resignation, but 1 in 3 Canadians surveyed told us they were thinking about changing jobs. (Our result was higher at 33% than the 19.2% median answer to a similar question in a recent Bank of Canada survey.) What’s more, 40% of those said it is important to them that their next job offers a pension! This is higher than we would have expected given the product’s reputation and a strong signal for employers. For more on this opportunity, we recommend a great report published recently by our friends at HOOPP and CommonWealth, The Business Case for Good Workplace Retirement Plans. At fuse, we will be focused on how pensions can evolve to reflect the changing dynamic between employees and employers.
2) We must do more to reach diverse members and retirees. We expected to see high levels of financial anxiety among our participants: concerns for Canadians’ high household debt and low retirement savings are well documented. And our survey reflected this, with 50% of respondents reporting they were meaningfully unsure about their retirement security (regardless of whether or not they had a workplace pension plan). What jumped out though was the unfortunate reality that this situation is worse for respondents who identify as diverse. This insight echoes the findings of Colour Coded Retirement, a June 2021 study from the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives that highlights the gap in income and poverty levels among seniors from First Nations and racialized communities when compared with those in white communities. Our diverse respondents had lower confidence, fewer instances of workplace pension plans and lower familiarity with those plans than non-diverse respondents, highlighting an important opportunity for the industry to do better!
3) Canadians have great ideas and are open to change. We weren’t sure what we would find when we asked our respondents an open-ended question about how to make pensions better but we were overwhelmed by the creativity, breadth and energy of the ideas shared. An incredible 80% of respondents answered this optional question, with suggestions to improve pension coverage, governance, portability and innovation. We heard proposals for improving financial literacy, implementing Universal Basic Income, more effectively engaging retirees in society, and better integrating retirement with related issues in housing, education and healthcare. Even some of the surprising responses to our behavioural trade-off questions may signal openness to change; for example, respondents overwhelmingly defined Fairness as “giving people what they deserve” rather than “giving people the same as everyone else” perhaps opening the door to a new dialogue on difficult plan design issues like intergenerational equity. The goal of our research is to engage a broader set of stakeholders in challenging industry orthodoxies and foster an inclusive, creative conversation on how to improve retirement outcomes for Canadians.
We are excited to continue our research in 2022, to see where it leads us and how it impacts us, as individuals and as an industry. You’re most welcome to join the conversation by subscribing or getting in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.