Skip to main content

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

Open this photo in gallery:

Sharon and Tom Scanlan began a podcast in June 2021 called Hidden Gems Toronto. The podcast looks to introduce listeners to people and places that fly under the radar, but have interesting stories to tell.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Tom Scanlan retired three years ago after running his own communications company.

“Retirement was on my mind for a while,” Mr. Scanlan, 71, says in the latest Tales from the Golden Age, feature. He sold his company a few years earlier and worked part-time for the new owners.

“It was still interesting but I felt there were other things I wanted to do. I had more grandkids coming on the scene, and it was a good time financially, physically and mentally for me to stop working.”

Mr. Scanlan and his wife Sharon have been busy, including starting a podcast called Hidden Gems Toronto.

“We had no idea what we were getting into but thought there were some great stories out there that weren’t being told. It has taken off and gives us a monthly project to focus on. Someone recently asked me how I like doing the podcast and I replied, ‘hard work, no pay; best job I ever had.’”

Read the full story here

Calling all retirees: Are you a retiree interested in discussing what life is like now that you’ve stopped working? Globe Investor is looking for people to participate in its Tales from the Golden Age feature, which discusses the realities of retirement living. If you’re interested in being interviewed for this feature, and agree to use your full name and have a photo taken, please e-mail us a few details about your retirement life so far at:

How to build your own pension

Every last point in financial planning and investing can be debated and dissected, but the desirability of a defined benefit (DB) pension is something that unites almost everyone, writes Rob Carrick, the Globe’s personal finance columnist.

DB pensions are offered in few workplaces outside government these days, which means that most people are responsible for their own retirement savings. This brings us to the idea of building your own pension.

A quick take on how DB pensions work, and why people love them: A formula based on your earnings and years of service is used to provide a monthly stream of retirement income for as long as you live. The pension fund managers worry about financial market ups and downs, not you.

The build-your-own-pension (BYOP) retirement lacks the guarantees of an actual DB pension. But in following the blueprint while working and earning, you’ll build retirement savings that could in theory provide a similar cash-for-life experience. If nothing else, the numbers you’ll find below give you an idea of the financial commitment and discipline needed to build pension-like retirement savings.

Read Mr. Carrick’s full story here

Martha wants to provide financial help to her children but worries about leaving herself short

Martha, 66, wonders whether she can afford to give her two children a cash gift now, rather than as part of her estate as an inheritance.

“I am comfortable financially but by no means well off,” she writes in an e-mail.

She owns a townhouse in an Ontario city valued at $525,000 and is considering selling and renting over the next couple of years, or may move in with one of her children. They are both in their early 30s, and are striving to save for a down payment on a first home.

She has a defined benefit pension that pays $32,000 a year, earns $20,000 a year working part time, and collects Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits, for total pre-tax income of about $70,000 a year.

While she would like to help her children financially, she’s concerned about leaving herself short.

“I grew up in poverty and know how tough that is,” she adds. Should she wait until she sells her home to give the children some money? Should she use her line of credit?

Her other goals are simple: to buy a new car and “maybe take a trip of a lifetime to see the Northern Lights.”

In the latest Financial Facelift, Jason Heath, a certified financial planner and managing director of Objective Financial Partners in Markham, Ont., looks at Martha’s situation.

Has the time finally come for reverse mortgages?

If your first reaction to the concept of a reverse mortgage is skepticism, Steve Ranson – CEO of HomeEquity Bank, the largest provider of reverse mortgages in Canada – was once in your shoes. More than 25 years ago, as head of Scotia Capital’s securitization group, he met company founder William Turner while pitching him on business. “I remember going into that meeting thinking, What a dumb idea. Who would want this?” recalls 64-year-old Mr. Ranson, an accountant by training.

To the uninitiated, reverse mortgages – which allow homeowners aged 55 or older to access some of the equity in their properties, but at higher interest rates than conventional mortgages or secured lines of credit, meaning the interest charges are greater over the life of the loan – can be something of a head-scratcher. But by the end of the meeting, Mr. Ranson was a convert.

“At the core, this is an incredible product,” he says. “You don’t have to make any payments, you can stay in your home as long as you want and retain ownership, you have complete flexibility.”

He’s been proselytizing reverse mortgages to Canadians pretty much ever since. Read the full story here in the latest edition of Report on Business Magazine.

Ask Sixty Five


We built our rural home in 1979 and it’s looking tired. In the past five years we’ve made a number of necessary upgrades including a new roof, furnace, windows and doors, among other renovations. Our kitchen remains badly outdated and the outside decks are rotting. We are both 71 years old, have about $450,000 in savings, no mortgage and only government pensions, having been self-employed since 1980. We hope to live in our home as long as possible.

Should we spend the money to do the upgrades to our home, which would likely cost at least $80,000, since it would increase the value of our home? Or should we live with things as they are and sell the house “as is” possibly in 10 years and the let new owners deal with renovating? This decision is very difficult to make for us as spending the savings will of course reduce our future income. We live as frugally as possible, on about $60,000 or less a year. What are your thoughts?

We asked Rona Birenbaum, founder and certified financial planner at Caring for Clients in Toronto, to answer this one:

Without knowing the size of your government pensions and the current market value of your home, I can’t make a firm recommendation but here’s my general feedback.

For your home to remain a safe place to age, the $80,000 in upgrades are necessary. Ten years of additional wear and tear without the renovation will make the property less marketable. Assuming that the operating costs of your property are minimal overall as compared to renting, investing in the property now is attractive on two levels: One, you enjoy your home in style and safety for another 10 years and two, it has greater value when you sell.

That leaves $370,000 to supplement your pensions until you sell your house. If we assume that on a combined basis, you both receive full Old Age Security benefits (a total of $1,334 a month) and an average Canada Pension Plan benefit (a total of $2,000 a month) you need to withdraw approximately $25,000 per year from your investments to reach $60,000 net to spend annually. Ten years from now, assuming a conservative 3 per cent rate of return and withdrawing $25,000 per year increasing by 3 per cent annually, you will have approximately $130,000 of investments remaining. You could continue to live there, if practical, or sell at that time.

Renting is likely more expensive than owning, even considering the renovation budget, but that depends on where you live. Also, renovation budgets have a habit of expanding during the project, so be very clear with your tradespeople that your budget is not flexible. Assume that you will spend 20 per cent or more than planned on unexpected requirements that arise during the project. If you budget $80,000, you’ll likely spend about $100,000 or so.

Bottom line:

  • Enjoy your home for as long as you can
  • Invest in it prudently to make it a safe and pleasant environment
  • Include accessibility enhancements as part of your renovation so that it remains safe and physically manageable as you age.
  • Manage the project/budget tightly and assume overages
  • Invest conservatively given the short timeline for capital use (laddered GIC strategy makes sense)

All the best to you both.

Open this photo in gallery:

Interested in more stories about retirement? Sixty Five aims to inspire Canadians to live their best lives, confidently and securely.The Globe and Mail

Have a question about money or lifestyle topics for seniors? E-mail us at and we will find experts and answer your questions in future newsletters.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe