Retirement is a fairly new concept, a historical blip that has really only been around for a couple of generations. It used to be you worked until you died \u2014 from a heart attack, childbirth, the flu, or a whole host of illnesses and afflictions that, thanks to leaps in healthcare and improved living conditions, simply don\u2019t exist anymore. Yet, even though it\u2019s a relatively new concept, we all have a common idea of what \u201ctraditional\u201d retirement means: you stop working at 65 to do crosswords, play golf, enjoy senior discounts, dote on your grandchildren, eat dinner at 4 pm and occasionally migrate to warmer climes. This made sense when the age of retirement was more closely aligned with life expectancy. That\u2019s obviously not the case anymore. Now, for most, there is a whole other stage of life after 65. Most people have a good 20 \u2014 or substantially more \u2014 years to go. Now retirement can mean pretty much anything, from freedom 55 to working part-time in your 70s. How are you supposed to prepare financially and psychologically for that? And if that\u2019s not hard enough, how should you help your employees prepare? A \u201cGREYING\u201d POPULATION The statistics around retirement tend to incite a general atmosphere of panic, and with good reason. The population is aging in a historically unprecedented way. The life expectancy at birth of Canadians jumped from 57.1 years of age in 1921 to 81.7 years of age in 2011, according to Statistics Canada data. People are living longer, and that, in combination with the large demographic bubble of baby boomers, is leading to a \u201cgreying\u201d of the population. Undoubtedly, this will have consequences. A recent study from the Fraser Institute, \u201cCanada\u2019s Aging Population and Implications for Government Finances,\u201d estimates that by 2045, increasing costs due to the aging population could lead to federal and provincial deficits of an estimated $143 billion. Another November 2017 report released by the Fraser Institute highlights that Canada is the only G7 country with no plan to increase the retirement age. Britain and Ireland intend to raise the age of eligibility to 68, while France, Germany, Italy and the United States plan to raise the age to 67, and Iceland is moving it to 70. Meanwhile, in Canada, although there is no mandatory retirement, the age of retirement for calculating government pension will remain at 65. This is just one of countless bad news examples \u2014 the news cycle is full of stories about the dire future of retirement and how unprepared Canada and Canadians are for it. A 2014 Conference Board of Canada report, \u201cA Survey of Non-retirees and Retirees in Canada: Retirement Perspectives and Plans,\u201d reveals that 60% of Canadians surveyed believe they have not saved enough for retirement. FINANCIAL WELLNESS If you\u2019re like the majority of Canadian employers, you want to help your employees prepare. A September 2017 Conference Board of Canada report, "Money on the Mind: The Design and Impact of Employer-Sponsored Financial Wellness Programs\u201d states that almost three-quarters of organizations feel responsibility to help their employees with their financial wellness. We spoke with Monica Haberl, Network Manager and Research Associate at The Conference Board of Canada about retirement and financial wellness. Haberl, who co-authored the report, has some tips for how organizations can effectively help their employees with financial wellness. One of the main takeaways from the study Haberl emphasizes is that \u201cit\u2019s not just about the endgame. It\u2019s not just about that retirement moment. It\u2019s about learning to manage finances throughout the course of one\u2019s career. And that involves debt management, day-to-day budgeting \u2014 the retirement contributions are just a part of that.\u201d Providing employees with financial wellness resources and tools, so that they are equipped to deal with whatever the future might throw at them, is the best way to help them prepare. Haberl stresses that in addition to financial planning, it\u2019s also important to address the psychological aspects of retirement. \u201cOne of the main components that I think is a little more neglected but that is very important for employees involves offering psychological preparation for retirement,\u201d she says. \u201cIt\u2019s important to look at the psychological aspects of retirement \u2026 For many employees that may mean working part-time in retirement, and that\u2019s fine if someone is comfortable with that, but not everyone wants to do that either. be an iterative process to figure out what the best plans are on an individual basis for someone going into retirement.\u201d A TOUCHY SUBJECT Financial wellness is a tricky subject to broach. When counselling employees on retirement and financial wellness, it\u2019s important to remember that for most people, finances are a private affair. \u201cNobody wants to talk about money, especially with their employer,\u201d Haberl says. \u201cOne of the things we would recommend to employers is to normalize the idea of improving financial wellness. Demonstrate to employees that they\u2019re not alone. Regardless of the fact that your circumstances may be unique, the fact that you\u2019re struggling financially or worried about finances is not unique.\u201d In the interest of maintaining privacy, Haberl suggests that employers partner with their benefits providers. For example, when it comes to pension programs, obviously an employer can\u2019t look at an individual employee\u2019s savings, but a pension provider can provide an aggregate number or baseline demonstrating how an organization is tracking compared with others. To provide employees with a more personal assessment, Haberl suggests administering a test or quiz to employees to assess their financial preparedness, which will give them a specific, individualized picture of how they can improve. Haberl stresses it\u2019s important to individualize financial wellness education, while still maintaining privacy. EDUCATION IS ONLY HALF THE BATTLE Financial literacy and financial education are fantastic, but \u201cit\u2019s important to focus not just on the education piece but on actually inciting behaviour change,\u201d says Haberl. \u201cWe did some case studies, and interviewed some organizations that have fairly sophisticated financial wellness programs, and a lot of them are looking at building that behaviour change. Reminding employees that they have access to matching programs and tools, helping employees to budget, those kind of things really can help incite behaviour change.\u201d Beyond that, she says that it\u2019s imperative for organizations to consider addressing various demographic groups differently. \u201cLess than half of the organizations that we surveyed are currently doing this, but it is something that\u2019s fairly low-cost with a high benefit \u2014 employees that are significantly higher or lower earners often have very different challenges that they\u2019re going through.\u201d Financial wellness is about doing what you can with what you have. An employee who is the highest wage earner does not necessarily have the biggest retirement fund. If you want to help your employees prepare for retirement, it\u2019s important not to focus just on retirement but on the day-to-day finances, debt management, budgeting and other skills that prepare employees to be able to do the most with what they have, regardless of what the future holds.