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Savers must adjust retirement plans amid low interest rates: Poloz

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, July 13, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

The governor of the Bank of Canada says Canadians must be ready to readjust their retirement expectations in the face of continuing "ultra-low" interest rates.

In remarks prepared for a speech on Tuesday to economists and people in finance in Quebec, Stephen Poloz said that low interest rates can generally mean higher prices for stocks and bonds, and lead to higher values for real estate.

"I realize this may be cold comfort to those people who have to adjust retirement plans to a lower-for-longer world," Poloz said. "But the difficult reality is that savers must adjust their plans."

- ANALYSIS: The high cost of the low-rate war on savers

The central bank head said that could mean a combination of putting aside more funds, working a little longer than planned or changing their investment mix.

"There are no easy answers, particularly for some who have already retired," Poloz said.

He also noted that with people living longer these days, the low interest rate environment means somebody starting to save today would have to set aside much more to generate the same retirement income as a person who began saving 25 years ago, if both wished to retire at the same age.

The central bank's key interest rate has remained unchanged at 0.5 per cent since the summer of 2015, and Poloz's speech gave no indications that position will be changing any time soon.

"It is quite evident that our economy is still facing strong headwinds, and we need stimulative monetary policy to counteract them and move us closer to full capacity," he said in his prepared remarks. "We also need to watch the full effects of the government's fiscal stimulus unfold."

On pause until 2019, TD predicts

An economist at TD Bank said he was inclined to agree with Poloz's statements.

"Population aging and slower productivity growth mean that the 'cruising speed' of the Canadian economy will continue to tick lower in coming years," said Brian DePratto.

He said TD believes the Bank of Canada is unlikely to increase interest rates until early 2019.

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