Set against the backdrop of an ageing population and the discourse surrounding old age, risk and the welfare state, this paper draws on 51 semi-structured life-history interviews to examine how mid- and late-life Canadians discuss and allocate responsibility for the provision of social, financial and medical supports in later life. Whatever their personal circumstances, most individuals articulated sentiments of personal responsibility for later life. Individual planning and preparation were defined as necessary to secure against the perceived individual and collective risks associated with becoming and being old. The role of the state was intimately connected to individual responsibility, as ‘deserving’ citizens were understood to have legitimate claims to state-supported pensions, health care and social programmes. Although some participants cited the provision of pensions, the least consensus concerned employers' responsibilities. Meanwhile, with the exception of emotional support, most participants had minimal expectations of their relatives or family members. Most rejected the notion that family members should provide housing, financial support or personal care. It is concluded that individual perceptions of risk and responsibility have profound connections to state support, public policy and normative patterns of familial and employer assistance in later life.