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More Canadian workers postpone retirement

Goodbye, "Freedom 55." More cash-strapped Canadians are being forced to work longer before retiring.

Freedom 55 was a Canadian financial corporation's advertising slogan, referring to being able to retire at age 55 — before recessionary and taxation impacts of recent years.

Now, more than two-thirds of Canadians say they have set back their retirement plans because they can't save enough to quit working, according to a survey by the Canadian Payroll Association.

The survey said 57 percent of Canadians live from paycheck to paycheck, and about half save less than 5 percent of their annual net pay for retirement, not the 10 percent recommended by planners.

It is "particularly troubling" that 74 percent of workers say they have been able to save less than a quarter of their retirement savings goal, said Dianne Winsor, association chairwoman.

Even with Canada's socialized, "free" medical care, financial planners recommend keeping at least three months of expenses available as an emergency fund.

Despite strong dollar, price gap lingers

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he is as "irritated" as shoppers over the price gap that continues to exist across the Canada-U.S. border.

With the Canadian dollar strengthening for five years and worth more than the U.S. currency, consumers "deserve to pay a price that reflects the strength of the Canadian economy," he said.

Flaherty wants to know what's behind higher prices in Canada and asked the Senate finance committee to investigate.

He asked the committee to look into how prices are impacted by the size of the smaller Canadian retail market, transportation and freight costs, tariffs on consumer goods, real estate costs and other factors.

The Bank of Montreal said Canadians now pay, on average, 20 percent more for many items.

News in brief

• In a tight battle for customers with Tim Hortons, McDonald's is spending $1 billion to renovate its Canadian locations for a "cozier" look. The fast-food giant will tear out the old plastic interiors at the 1,400 restaurants and install leather furniture, plasma televisions and even fireplaces.

Facts and figures

Canada's unemployment rate rose in August to 7.3 percent from 7.2 percent in July with the loss of 5,500 jobs — the first setback in five months.

Concerns over a struggling economy at home and abroad helped pull the dollar lower Friday to $1.0033 U.S. The U.S. greenback returned 99.67 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada has again kept its key interest rate unchanged at 1 percent, while the prime lending rate is 3 percent.

Stock markets were lower Friday, with the Toronto Stock Exchange at 12,391 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 1,781 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 10, 15, 29, 32, 34 and 40; bonus 6. (Sept. 3) 14, 15, 25, 32, 41 and 42; bonus 49. Lotto Max: (Sept. 2) 2, 3, 8, 13, 18, 20 and 23; bonus 10.

Regional briefs

• The Liberals seeking re-election on Oct. 6 in Ontario want to give a tax credit of $10,000 to employers who hire professionals who have immigrated to Canada. Calling it a "bizarre scheme," Conservative leader Tim Hudak said it is merely an "affirmative action program to hire foreign workers" when 500,000 people in the province can't find work.

• Vancouver police want an end to massive outdoor parties that led to violence and $2 million in damage after last June's final Stanley Cup playoff hockey game. A review said festival-style public gatherings need to keep the size of crowds manageable and ban alcohol. A government review found the police were not prepared to handle the 150,000 people who were in the streets that night.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

More Canadian workers postpone retirement 09/10/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:09pm]

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