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Mary Lou Dickinson at home in Toronto on Feb. 15.JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

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“I retired at age 65 after working for more than 40 years in a few different full-time and part-time jobs,” says Mary Lou Dickinson, 84, of Toronto, in the latest Tales from the Golden Age. The last 20 years of her career, she says, were spent working as a counsellor on a 24-hour crisis line for women experiencing various types of violence. “I was ready to retire because, after two decades, the work had become emotionally and physically draining.”

Dickinson remembered thinking at the time, “Can I afford to retire? What am I going to do with my time?” She’s also a writer and published several short stories before retiring. So, she knew she would do that, but wasn’t sure how else she would spend her time and if she had the financial means.”

I reassessed my financial situation first and figured I could manage,” says Dickinson. “I was always good with money – budgeting and investing – and consider myself frugal.” She has a financial adviser, but makes her own investment decisions, and doesn’t worry much about the markets going down, as long as she has enough money to live on. “I’ve been through a few market corrections over the years, and they always seem to bounce back,” she adds. “If the markets don’t recover, it just means my kids – who are doing fine financially – will get a bit less of an inheritance.”

And Dickinson achieved her goal, to have a book published by the time she was 70. But, she says, “What I like most about retirement is that I’m in charge of my time.”

Read the full article here.

Are you a Canadian retiree interested in discussing what life is like now that you’ve stopped working? The Globe is looking for people to participate in its Tales from the Golden Age feature, which examines the personal and financial realities of retirement. 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 at: Please include a few details about how you saved and invested for retirement and what your life is like now.

How does your debt compare to Canadians your age?

Perfection in personal finance is zero debt, but the reality of life in today’s world is that people from all generations are borrowers, writes personal finance columnist Rob Carrick. To find out how your own debts compare to others in your age group, use this calculator. The calculator then shows you, with complete anonymity, how you compare to your peers with the same type of debt.

How to manage the mindset around debt as the cost of borrowing increases

In a persistently low-interest rate environment, the often painful consequences of taking on debt are minimized, writes Alexandra Horwood, a portfolio manager and investment adviser with Alexandra Horwood and Partners at Richardson Wealth Ltd. in Toronto.

Borrowing money during the past 14 years or so has felt almost free, she adds, leading borrowers to assume that their rates will stay low and debt payments will remain the same. However, during the past year, interest rates have risen faster than in any other one-year period during the past 30 years. While this sharp increase has affected most asset classes negatively, says Howood, many people are feeling the pain most acutely when it comes to managing debt.

Conversations about debt management are a critical part of managing an overall wealth management strategy. Working with an adviser to look at both sides of a balance sheet can ensure Canadians understand how the amount and type of debt they take on will affect their financial goals.

Read the full article here.

In case you missed it:

Choose your RRSP or RRIF beneficiaries carefully

It was almost 36 years ago that Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral de Camara, of Portugal, left his estate to 70 people that he had randomly chosen out of a Lisbon phone book, writes tax expert Tim Cestnick.

Since de Camara had no spouse or children, he chose 70 lucky people who were named in his will to receive his assets, which consisted of a 12-room apartment in central Lisbon, a house near the northern town of Guimaraes, a couple of healthy bank accounts, a luxury car and two motorbikes. Each beneficiary walked away with several thousand euros.

Wouldn’t it be fun, suggests Cestnick, to do the same with your RRSP or RRIF? Well, hold on – if you do have a spouse or kids, he adds, you might want to consider a different idea. In the latest Tax Matters, Cestnick talks about options for naming beneficiaries of your RRSP or RRIF.

Read the full article here.

Why second marriages require more robust review of estate plans

With one in four adult Canadians getting married for a second time in their lives, according to recent Statistics Canada data, developing an estate plan that works for their new circumstances is becoming more crucial to protect their individual assets, trust and estate, experts say. That’s especially important if both partners have children from their first marriage.

While some may want to set up a marriage contract in advance, others may want to take care of their affairs later with an estate lawyer.

Read the full article here.

Retirement Q&A

Q: My husband contributed to the pension plan of a previous employer he worked for in the 1980s and early 1990s. That company was bought out by a larger company that is still in business. He’s nearing his 65th birthday, but has received no information on any pension, and we’ve had no luck trying to connect with the HR or pension department. Is there any legal recourse we can take in order to find out if there is any pension owing to him?

We asked Level Y. Y. Chan, partner at the law firm Stewart McKelvey’s Halifax office, to answer this one.

All registered pension plans are required to have an administrator. It is often the employer itself, or may be a third party such as an insurance company. The administrator is required to maintain and provide information on pension entitlements and that obligation continues even when a company is bought out. The administrator is also required to have certain information available upon request, such as the plan text and plan details, including the pension formula and what periods of work count for a pension.

Your husband should have been receiving annual pension statements during his employment and received a termination statement if he is no longer employed with them. After giving notice of his retirement, he would also be entitled to a statement setting out his retirement entitlements.

If the HR or pension department of the company and/or pension plan administrator is not responding to your husband, the next step is to contact the applicable pension regulator. This is the government office that is responsible for oversight of pension plans and their administration. In most cases, the regulator will be the Superintendent of Pensions/financial services regulator of the province in which your husband was working when he was contributing to the pension plan. If the employer is in certain industries (e.g. banks and telecommunications), then the regulator may be the federal Office of the Superintendent of the Financial Institutions (OSFI).

Any regulator would have a website with a contact number or e-mail address that is designated for inquiries from members of registered pension plans. Your husband should explain what he is looking for and who he already tried to contact. If possible, his inquiry should specify the name of the plan and its registration number, which is likely printed on any prior member statement he has received.

If it turns out the pension plan was not a registered plan covered by a regulator, and you are not receiving any response from the company and/or administrator, you should consider engaging a lawyer for further assistance.

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.