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In Tales from the Golden Age, retirees talk about their spending, savings and whether life after work is what they expected.
Pauline Scott, 72, Burnaby, B.C.
I retired in 2015 at age 63 after a 35-year career at Parks Canada. I worked in various remote locations including Dawson City, Yukon, Selkirk and Churchill, Man., and Haida Gwaii, B.C., before spending the final 14 years of my career in Iqaluit.
I planned to retire at age 65, but a few factors forced me to stop working sooner. First, my sister’s husband was dying of lung cancer and she wanted me to move back to the Lower Mainland are in British Columbia, where we grew up, to support them. I had also started to feel sluggish at work and no longer seemed to have the stamina for my very demanding job (my co-workers used to call me the ‘Energizer Bunny.’) As it turned out, I had uterine cancer, and between the pain and fatigue, I felt it was time to stop working. Thankfully, I had worked long enough at Parks Canada to be able to retire with a full government pension.
Throughout my career, I thought I would retire in my early 60s, but in my early 50s, I was diagnosed with macular degeneration and was losing my vision. In 2005, I decided to take a year off work to travel. I figured that if I truly wanted to see the world, it was now or never. It wasn’t the smartest financial move – I maxed out five credit cards on that trip and paid them off using most of my registered retirement savings plans. It took me three years to pay it all back, which also meant I needed to work longer before retiring.
I’ve never regretted that trip and still think about it daily. I’ve also travelled a lot since including a retirement trip in the summer of 2015 to Iceland, Faroe Islands and Greenland. In 2017, I celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday with a trip from Newfoundland back to B.C. via trains, planes and automobiles, staying with friends along the way. I also travel once a year to visit my son, who lives in Ontario with his dad.
I still have some of my eyesight, although I’m not able to drive, which makes returning to the Lower Mainland a wise move given the proximity to several amenities, including excellent health care services. In 2020, I was diagnosed with multiple breast cancers (I’ve had three lumpectomies), and during one of those preoperative visits, doctors discovered I had atrial fibrillation in the upper right quadrant of my heart. I’ve also had knee replacement surgery on both knees this year. I take a lot of medications and use a CPAP machine for my sleep apnea. Otherwise, my health is excellent.
When I’m not recovering from knee surgery, I’m very active. I walk as much as possible, take tai chi classes and volunteer for various organizations. I also enjoy going to the symphony, movies and the occasional play. Another bonus of living in the Lower Mainland is that I’ve been able to reconnect with my sister (although she has since moved to Mission, B.C., a few hours away) and my brother, who lives nearby in Burnaby. My brother and I drive out to see my sister once a month. We are all very different, but we share a family bond, and I love having them in my life again. We laugh a lot. It’s so much fun.
I worry a bit about money, especially because living costs are high here in the Lower Mainland. I have cut back on buying gifts and am buying less stuff for myself. Most of my money is spent on rent, groceries, and medical needs. My indulgences include books and online subscriptions.
Retirement has taken some adjusting, especially moving back to the city after living in remote communities for more than 40 years. Still, it has been wonderful to have more time to read, think and have more in-depth discussions on various subjects. My advice for anyone approaching retirement is to figure out what really interests you and do it. Also, keep learning. And while you need money to retire, money isn’t everything. Surround yourself with people you enjoy spending time with – and keep them close.
As told to Brenda Bouw
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org Please include a few details about how you saved and invested for retirement and what your life is like now.
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