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Nick De Carlo is a senior climate activist and one of the founding members of Seniors for Climate Action Now.Peter Power

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When Nick De Carlo retired it wasn’t the life of leisure that beckoned, but a return to the frontlines of activism from his younger days.

“I was involved in the anti-war movement and anti-racist and the civil rights movement in the 60s and 70s. That’s what first got me started,” says Mr. De Carlo, 75.

Today, the climate crisis has the former union employee’s attention.

“I felt the need to take up this issue because it’s so urgent,” says Mr. De Carlo, co-chairperson of Ontario-based Seniors for Climate Action Now (SCAN). “Governments, not just in Canada but around the world, are not taking the type of action that’s needed. There’s going to have to be a movement similar to the movements that happened in the 60s and similar to other movements that have happened since to force that change and we see ourselves as part of that movement.”

Founded in January 2021, SCAN has grown to 175 members who range in age from their 50s to 80s. It is one of the dozens of climate action groups for seniors that have sprung up across the country.

These groups make up just some of the army of seniors dedicating their retirement years to social causes including the climate crisis, reducing homelessness, food bank support and myriad others. Boomer activism, whether on the frontlines of the climate protests or combatting homelessness, has the potential to be quite impactful. Dene Moore reports

‘When I retired, there was no sense of loss...there was a sense of freedom,’ says this 72-year-old former journalist

In the latest Tales from the Golden Age article, former journalist Don Butler, 72, talks about his decision to retire after more than 40 years at the Ottawa Citizen. “The job wasn’t as rewarding as it used to be, given the ongoing cutbacks in the newsroom, which was common across the industry,” he says. He was able to take advantage of a buyout package being offered.

His mother had also moved to Ottawa and needed more help, especially after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She passed away in January 2021. “I treasure the time we spent together in her final years, even though she wasn’t in the best condition near the end of her life,” he says.

Leaving work wasn’t as hard for Mr. Butler as it is for many retirees: “When I retired, there was no sense of loss that some people feel when they leave a job, especially one they’ve been in for a long time. Instead, for me, there was a sense of freedom,” he says.

After the husband is laid off, can this couple afford to retire with the income they want?

Bob, 62, had been planning to retire from his sales job this spring, but he was “packaged out” – laid off with a severance package – early last year. His wife, Roberta, 59, is planning to work until February, 2023.

“With this unexpected transition, and change in income, we thought it was time for a financial checkup as we begin the next chapter of our lives,” Bob writes in an e-mail. Since he was laid off, Bob has been working part-time, which he enjoys.

Because the couple married late in life, they have had a number of major expenses over the past few years – buying their Alberta house for cash and spending a substantial sum renovating it, joining a country club and buying new vehicles. To pay for it all, they both made large withdrawals from their investment portfolios and “cleaned out” their tax-free savings accounts.

Bob, in addition to his defined benefit pension of $20,580 a year, is drawing Canada Pension Plan benefits of $12,000 a year, for a total of $32,580. Their retirement spending goal is $120,000 a year after tax. “Can we retire as planned with our income target and not have any financial concerns?” Bob asks. How can they keep income taxes to a minimum?

In the latest Financial Facelift article, Matthew Ardrey, a financial planner and portfolio manager at TriDelta Financial in Toronto, looks Bob and Roberta’s situation.

In case you missed it:

Why money is just one piece of the retirement puzzle

For the past few decades, the typical retirement was marketed as the end of people’s working days and the beginning of their golden years – a well-deserved, fun-filled time with family and friends.

The path to get there may seem simple. Work hard, get married, buy a home, pay down your mortgage, save and invest consistently during your prime income-earning years, and you can retire at 65 with enough money to downsize, relax, and travel. Yet, life doesn’t follow this seemingly linear path. The only certainty we have is the bumps and turns we experience along the way, portfolio manager Alexandra Horwood wrote recently in an article for Globe Advisor.

She says people getting close to retirement may want to consider a “rewirement” of how they think about, plan, and live this final stage of life – particularly in today’s shifting workplace and economic environment. Read the full article here

Tips on keeping your marriage together in retirement

When it comes to retirement, most couples plan for the places they’ll go and the people they’ll see, but don’t spend enough time thinking about how they’ll pass the rest of the time with their spouse.

“People have conversations about things like, ‘where are we going to travel’ [but] they don’t really get into the day-to-day of life,” says Amy D’Aprix, founder and chief executive of Toronto-based consulting firm Life Transitions by Dr. Amy.

Failing to communicate how to handle a major life transition like retirement can test even the most solid relationships, especially if each person’s vision of how to spend their days is different.

“Even a positive change like retirement puts stress on a relationship,” says Saunia Ahmad, director and clinical psychologist at the Toronto Psychology Clinic. Kathy Kerr reports

Ask Sixty Five

Question: As a newly retired couple in our mid-50s with a pension, when is the best time to start withdrawing from our registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs)?

We asked Simon Tanner, principal financial advisor with Dynamic Planning Partners at iA Investia Financial Services Inc. in Vancouver to answer this one:

Planning the timing of RRSP – or registered retirement income fund (RRIF) – withdrawals can be a daunting task and often depends on several factors and variables. It can require some detailed planning – and a bit of prognosticating.

For instance, your pensions, which are taxable sources of income, need to be part of the equation when determining when and how much RRSP income should be withdrawn.

You also need to consider future sources of taxable and non-taxable income, such as the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and (Old Age Security) OAS, along with any non-registered investment accounts that may exist or arise from things like future inheritances, selling an asset like a cottage or downsizing of home.

It’s important to remember that, when contributing to your RRSP, you saved tax at your top marginal bracket during your working years. When you withdraw from your RRSP (or RRIF), you want to take the income in a lower tax bracket than you saved at the time of contribution. By doing so, you’ve taken advantage of the RRSP as a tax-savings vehicle in your retirement years, and not just a tax deferral vehicle in your working years.

If you anticipate your taxable income to be higher later in retirement (from things like taxable investments, CPP and OAS) then withdrawing more RRSPs early may be advantageous from a tax perspective. This may be a case of planning to withdraw your RRSPs now while in a lower tax bracket even if you don’t need the income. Reinvesting those withdrawals in a tax-free savings account (TFSA) or non-registered account can be a great way of continuing to have them invested while not subjecting them to higher tax on withdrawal in the future.

In the situation where you need to supplement your pension income with RRSP withdrawals for lifestyle purposes – particularly to enjoy your retirement in the early years when we typically want to be more active – then sooner rather than later is the best time to withdraw the RRSPs. However, be careful not to withdraw too much, too soon at the risk of not having enough income later in life.

Those are the not-so-simple answers to your question. The simplest answer is to start when you need the income, or when it makes the most sense from a tax perspective. As with most financial planning questions, it’s best to work with an adviser to determine what works best based on your personal circumstances.

Have a question about money or lifestyle topics for seniors? Please e-mail us your question at sixtyfive@globeandmail.com and we’ll try to find an expert to answer it in a future newsletter. We can’t answer every question, but we’ll do our best. Note: questions may be edited for length and clarity.