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Paul Brent, who wrote a cannabis guide for seniors, speaks with employee Marin Gillette at Dutch Love Cannabis in Scarborough, Ontario on July 21, 2021. (Photo by Peter Power for The Globe and Mail)

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Content from The Globe’s weekly Retirement newsletter. To subscribe click here.

It’s been nearly three years since Ottawa legalized the recreational use of cannabis and one of the big surprises has been just how many seniors are utilizing pot products for health reasons — or just plain fun. Statistics Canada found that while cannabis use is still less among seniors than other age groups, it is growing among the 65-plus group faster than any other age cohort, from about 40,000 recent users in 2012 to 400,000 in 2019. Those numbers have likely grown since. For older Canadians who are thinking about using cannabis, either for their health or recreational use, the good news-bad news is that there is a bewildering array of options at the local (legal) cannabis store; from “flower” (dried cannabis that can be smoked or vaped as well as pre-rolled joints), oil concentrates, edibles, creams and other topicals and beverages. Given the overwhelming variety of pot products available, older Canadians might want to seek out some advice from trusted friends, cannabis store vendors and last but not least, medical professionals. Paul Brent sought out some advice for first time cannabis users.

Can this retired senior help her children financially and still retire comfortably?

Lynne, a retired 65-year-old woman with a defined benefit pension and three adult children (ages 29, 32 and 35), is ready to make some life changes. She owns her suburban Toronto home outright, has a tax-free savings account, a registered retirement savings plan and some other investments. According to the latest Financial Facelift column, her goal is to sell the family home and use the proceeds and some other savings to buy a condo closer to the city centre. She has gifted $35,000 each two of her children to help them buy a home and plans to give $35,000 to the third one later. Lynne wants to give her children more money in the coming years, instead of waiting until she passes away. Her retirement spending goal is $65,000 a year after tax. Warren MacKenzie, head of financial planning at Optimize Wealth Management in Toronto, looks at Lynne’s situation.

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In case you missed it

What to think about if you’re getting a ‘grey divorce’

Call them what you want — diamond divorcees, silver splitters or grey divorcees — but data show that older Canadians are ending their longstanding marriages in greater numbers than ever before. According to Statistics Canada, the number of divorced Canadians over age 65 grew by nearly 80 per cent from 2010 to 2020, soaring from 352,000 to 630,000. That’s partly due to the overall greying of the Canadian population, but not entirely (the population of married individuals over 65 grew by only 45 per cent in the same period). “I would say about every one in three people contacting me is a retiree,” Holly Brady, a certified divorce financial analyst in Calgary, tells Matthew Halliday in this article.

How to fight off the risk of dementia as you age

A growing number of Canadians suffer from dementia: There are 564,000 people in Canada with dementia, the broader category of cognitive impairment that includes Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada. It’s estimated that around 40 per cent of dementia cases may result from modifiable risk factors including physical activity, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption and keeping blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight within recommended ranges. Dene Moore reports on how to fight off the risk of dementia as you age

What else we’re reading

A revealing look at how menopause changes women’s brains

The New York Times magazine recently published a fascinating story on women’s brains as they move into menopause. The article cites a study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, where researchers used various neuroimaging techniques to scan the brains of more than 160 women between the ages of 40 and 65. The study examined the organ’s structure, blood flow, metabolism and function, and then repeated the research two years later. The researchers then imaged the brains of men in the same age range. The findings just may surprise you and, as the article states, could create “a crucial window to try to prevent Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases that often accompany older age.”

Can’t stop these Newfoundland seniors from dancing

Residents of a retirement home in rural Newfoundland and Labrador say they should be allowed to dance together again now that they’re all fully vaccinated — so they decided to bust a few moves in a video to make their point. A CBC story says residents and staff at Alderwood Retirement Centre in Witless Bay, N.L. recorded the video based off the 1984 Kenny Loggins hit song Footloose which, for those who don’t remember, is about a U.S. town where dancing is illegal. According to the CBC story, the local health authority is allowing certain activities to resume for the fully vaccinated but says “dancing is only permitted at weddings.” Before the pandemic, Alderwood hosted three dances a week. It’s not clear how much longer the dance ban will last, but all bets are on the seniors being able to cut loose again soon.

Ask Sixty Five

Question: I am interested in learning more about how to make my savings as tax efficient as possible. In a nutshell: I’m 58 years old and won a nice sum in a divorce settlement. I’ve made some good financial decisions: I am mortgage-free, still working in retail and earn a modest salary with commissions of about $70,000 to $80,000 a year. I’m single with adult kids and in a good financial position to retire (although not planning to do that yet) with about $3.7-million investments with a wealth management firm, $200,000 in private equity that pays a monthly dividend and two properties worth about $2-million (one is my principal residence). How can I protect myself from large capital gains and taxes? Should I consider a trust? Any insights would be appreciated.

We asked Rona Birenbaum, founder and certified financial planner at Caring for Clients, a fee-for-service financial planning firm in Toronto, to offer some guidance. Below is her response:

Answer from Rona Birenbaum, founder and certified financial planner at Caring for Clients:

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As a wealth management client with significant assets, you should be receiving comprehensive advice that would include detailed answers to your questions and concerns. I mention this because too many Canadians are paying for wealth management but only receiving investment management. You might be in that camp.

While I can only comment based on the limited information provided, here is what you should know: Tax minimization/deferral strategies come in many shapes and sizes. Some are investment-driven (i.e., generating deferred capital gains versus interest income), some are estate-driven (i.e., gifting assets during your lifetime), and some are ownership-driven (trusts and corporate structures). I love that you asked what the cost of tax planning strategies are: A cost/benefit analysis is an important component of any recommendation.

If you haven’t already, I recommend that you request a comprehensive financial plan from your wealth management firm. Or, if you have one and it’s not been updated in the past year or more, ask for a revision. This should be provided at no cost to you. If you are unsatisfied with your wealth adviser’s response, consider hiring an independent, fee-for-service financial planner to help you maximize your wealth and what it can do for you and future generations.

Have a question about money or lifestyle topics for seniors, or want to suggest a story idea for the Sixty Five series? Please email us at sixtyfive@globeandmail.com and we will find experts and answer your questions in future newsletters.

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