Nearly one in five Canadian workers (17%) expect they will never be able to afford to retire fully, according to study released by global bank HSBC.

Of the 15 countries surveyed for HSBC’s report, The Future of Retirement: Life after work?, Canada had one of the largest proportions of workers who thought this, just behind the United Kingdom (19%) and United States (18%).

Encouragingly, more than half (54%) of today’s retirees said that their preparations for retirement turned out to be at least adequate. That said, two fifths of retired Canadians (40%) said that they had not prepared adequately or at all for a comfortable retirement, and 4% of those retirees said they would have to go back to work to cover their financial shortfall (compared to 14% globally).

The findings paint a particularly bleak picture for those living alone in retirement, with almost a quarter of those who are divorced or separated (24%) saying they don’t think they will ever retire (compared to 20% globally).

However it’s not all bad news, as many semi-retired Canadians cited largely positive reasons for staying in the workforce. For example, nearly half (47%) of respondents say they would like to keep active physically and mentally, 41% say they like working, and 35% say they feel it will ease the transition into retirement.

Betty Miao, executive vice president, retail banking and wealth management, HSBC Bank Canada, said: “People want to slow down in later life and, while some welcome the chance to continue working, many may not. Where some people regard a comfortable retirement as a natural entitlement, for a growing number this is not the case.

“Today’s workers should prepare for retirement as early as possible to have some certainty for retirement. Life is full of reasons to prioritize short-term spending over longer-term planning, but the sooner people start saving, the less likely they are to have to rely on working in retirement.”

HSBC’s study suggests that even those who have retired may not be able to achieve the retirement they want. Over half (54%) of retired people surveyed in Canada who said they have been unable to realize their plans for retirement believed this was because they have less money to live on than they had expected.

Life after work? is the ninth in the series of studies conducted for HSBC’s The Future of Retirement program and is based on an online survey of 16,000 people in 15 countries between July 2012 and April 2013 (1,046 Canadian respondents).