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February 2007
Vol. 8, no. 2

Perspectives on Labour and Income

Young pensioners
Ted Wannell

  • Although public retirement pensions cannot be collected until one's seventh decade (age 60 for the Canada and Quebec Pension Plans, and 65 for Old Age Security), many private pension plans allow long-serving employees in their 50s to draw benefits. Tax data indicate that about one-fifth of workers begin collecting benefits from such plans before their 60th birthday.
  • The pension take-up rate is very low (less than 1%) from ages 50 to 54. It spikes at age 55 (5% for men and 4% for women) as many plans commence unreduced benefits at this milestone, given sufficient tenure. This peak is not surpassed until workers exit their 50s.
  • About half of young pensioners worked for pay the year after they began receiving their pension. However, much of that work was either part-time or intermittent since only 30% earned at least $5,000. Men were more likely than women to surpass the $5,000 benchmark (34% versus 26%).
  • The probability of non-trivial re-employment falls as the age at retirement increases. Those who retired at 50 were almost twice as likely as those retiring at 59 to earn at least $5,000 in the following year.
  • Very few young pensioners turn to self-employment as a significant source of income. Less than 1 in 10 earned some self-employment income, and 1 in 20 or less earned at least $5,000.
  • Early pensioners generally retired from high-paying jobs. Their average earnings in the year before retirement were about 50% greater than those who did not retire. Among women, the post-retirement income of young pensioners exceeded the income of those who remained in the workforce.
  • Young pensioners typically bring in about two-thirds of their pre-retirement income the year after they begin collecting their pension—very close to the 70% replacement rate recommended by many financial analysts. Pension income accounts for a greater proportion of the total income of women in this group (66% in 2004 compared with 61% for men).

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Ted Wannell is with the Labour and Household Surveys Analysis Division. He can be reached at 613-951-3546 or

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