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Retirement is 'a sacred time for friendship' and was so long before the pandemic came along, says psychologist Marisa Franco.AJ_Watt/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

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Retirement is a time for picking up old hobbies, trying new activities and travelling the world (when there’s no pandemic to worry about). But amid all of these life changes, maintaining one key constant makes the difference: relationships with friends.

Retirees without close connections with friends and family are at greater risk of physical and social isolation, a recent Edward Jones survey notes. It cites a Statistics Canada report showing that one in four adults over the age of 65 is socially isolated, with too little contact and interaction with others. The pandemic has prompted more Canadians to pause and think about what matters most to them in life, the Edward Jones report says, and relationships with friends and family are at the top of the list.

Retirement is “a sacred time for friendship” – and was long before the pandemic came along, says psychologist and friendship expert Marisa Franco. Not only is there more time to spend with other people, but friendships tend to be more fulfilling during a person’s retirement years. Josie Kao reports

Can this couple afford to retire in a few years in their late 50s?

Wesley and Claire want to retire and travel while they are still relatively young. Wesley is 54 and earns $144,000 a year, Claire is 53 and earns $76,000 a year. Both are professionals with defined benefit pension plans.

Short term, the couple are planning some renovations to their Southwestern Ontario house costing $25,000. They’re also thinking of buying a recreational vehicle. Longer term, they aspire to a comfortable retirement with plenty of travel during their “active retirement years,” Wesley writes in an e-mail, “say until age 70.” They also want to make sure they have enough money for health care in their old age.

They wonder whether they can afford to take early retirement at age 57 with a budget of $110,000 a year, including $24,000 a year for travel. “We’ve recently got married and need to look at combining our finances,” Wesley writes. They’re a blended family with two children, 18 and 21, the younger of whom lives with them part of the time. They also ask about splitting income after they have retired.

In the Globe’s latest Financial Facelift column, Ian Calvert, a vice-president and principal of HighView Financial Group in Toronto, looks at their situation.

In case you missed it

Why more advertisers should be targeting baby boomers

Baby boomers’ words and actions are powerful, given they account for a huge chunk of the population and have more financial might than younger generations after decades of accumulating wealth from co-operative stock markets and rising real estate prices. It’s a generation with a lot of influence – but you wouldn’t know it by watching mainstream advertising, where the focus is overwhelmingly on youth.

A concentration on younger demographics may have made sense decades ago when brand loyalty was a thing and advertising could create a customer for life – but that kind of devotion is long gone. “Once you hit 55, it’s like you don’t see any creative briefs, a media buy or research targeting anyone that old. It is like you fall off a cliff,” says Jeff Weiss, chief executive officer of Age of Majority, a consulting company for marketers looking to tap into older consumers in Canada and the U.S.

Marketers are missing out on billions of dollars in sales by neglecting the 55-plus “active agers,” according to research from the consultant, who splits his time between Boston and Toronto. Paul Brent reports

How seniors can ensure they’re getting the health care they deserve

Arlette Adams didn’t waste time when she felt that her family doctor wasn’t properly addressing the bouts of dizziness she was experiencing. At a nutritionist’s appointment days later, the 82-year-old Torontonian was told the symptoms were likely caused by a lack of water intake. She immediately started drinking more water. “Within three days, the feeling of dizziness was gone,” she recalls. “I thought: ‘A doctor couldn’t have told me that?’”

She has since switched to a new family doctor who has been more supportive and attentive. “If you’re not happy – you just have to do that,” she says of the change.

Seniors like Ms. Adams are realizing the value of advocating for their health, instead of brushing off symptoms as standard with age. Too often, seniors don’t realize that because of vision, hearing or cognitive issues, they’re at the highest risk of adverse drug reactions, medication mix-ups and simply not having their health issues addressed. Anna Sharratt reports

What else we’re reading

Why are CPP premiums getting a bigger bump than planned in 2022?

January will feel like Groundhog Day for all those paying into the Canada Pension Plan. Like last year, contributions are going up again by more than originally planned, and the reason again lies with the unique impacts of the pandemic on the labour market. Jordan Press of The Canadian Press provides a rundown of what’s happening.

Canadian pensions weathering the coronavirus pandemic: report

While the coronavirus pandemic has taken a heavy toll among the elderly, retirees have seen their pension payments and entitlements well protected in Canada and other member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), according to a new report from the organization.

According to recent coverage of the report in Benefits Canada, the OECD report says the average retirement age in Canada is 63.9 years for men and 62.6 years for women, and that capital – mostly consisting of private pensions – accounts for 40 per cent of all income sources for older people. Pension contribution rates to earnings-related schemes are roughly 10 per cent and the mandatory pension contribution rate for the average public worker is 5.25 per cent each for employee and employer.

Five winter hazards to pay attention to as you age

Sometimes aging feels like it comes with more downsides than benefits, writes Rebecca Norris of MarthaStewart.com. Take winter, for example, which brings all kinds of hazards with its icy conditions and shorter days.

“Ultimately, the colder months are tough, whatever phase of life you’re in,” Ms. Norris writes. In this article, she spoke to several doctors for advice for seniors to help them tackle the common winter hazards that can come with aging.

Ask Sixty Five

Question: We have three daughters and have split our assets equally between them in our will. We have concerns about one daughter’s relationship with her third spouse. How do we protect her one-third of the inheritance from her current spouse? Is there a way to have our daughter’s one-third portion go to her two children (from two previous marriages) and not be contested? (We are residents of B.C.) Are we correct to assume that life insurance with stated beneficiaries would stand and not be contestable? What about the estate residual? We would appreciate any suggestions that you may have. Thank you in advance.

We asked Jag Gandhi, vice-president of wealth planning at Gluskin Sheff to answer this one:

It’s hard where there’s a breakdown of a relationship between a parent and child. The protection of inheritance is governed under provincial jurisdiction. As such, the legislation and case law in the jurisdiction will play a major role in what steps can be taken to ensure that your ultimate beneficiaries are the ones that will inherit.

The protection of inheritance on a breakdown of a marriage or relationship will depend on the provincial laws of the jurisdiction where the couple lives. For example, in Ontario, if you inherit during the course of your marriage and you keep your inheritance separate and apart and don’t use the inheritance on certain assets, such as the matrimonial home, the amount of the inheritance and any income earned on the inheritance can be excluded from a net family property calculation on the breakdown of the marriage.

You may want to also consider providing your daughter with the benefit of her inheritance through a testamentary trust under your will as opposed to an outright gift. The testamentary trust may provide some matrimonial protection depending on the laws of the jurisdiction in which the child lives.

If you decide to create a testamentary trust for your daughter under your will, who you choose to act as the trustee is a very important decision. Trustees often require knowledge of income taxes, accounting and investments. Their actions and records may be subject to scrutiny not only by beneficiaries, but also tax authorities, creditors and potentially the courts.

You can directly provide to your grandchildren and not provide to your daughter under your estate through testamentary autonomy. However, you must be aware of the Wills Variation Act in B.C., which permits your child to challenge your will after your death, making it difficult to exclude your daughter from inheriting from your estate. A wide range of issues (beyond the scope of this article) need to be taken into consideration to determine whether you have any obligation to provide for your adult child under your estate and whether your decision to exclude her from inheriting is valid with rational reasons. A document detailing exactly your reasons for not including your daughter under your estate, with specific details and examples, would be helpful if your decision to exclude was challenged.

You should consult with a qualified legal professional to ensure that your decision to exclude your daughter from your estate and the documentation you have would stand up against a potential challenge by her against your estate after your death.

While you would ultimately like your grandchildren to inherit your daughter’s one-third share of your estate, if your grandchildren are minors you will likely be limited to them receiving their inheritance directly. You will need to consider creating testamentary trusts for them in your will.

Life insurance can play an important role in achieving your estate planning goals and can be a solution to providing for various individuals outside of your estate. How you structure your overall estate plan may have an impact on whether the proceeds of such policy should be included as a part of your estate.

Before changing beneficiaries on an existing policy, you should consult a qualified legal professional to navigate this complex issue and if possible, communicate your wishes to your family so that there are no surprises down the road.

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