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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.
Zarina Decambra, 79, Lindsay, Ont.
I retired at age 69 after years of working at different retail stores in Toronto, starting at the bottom and progressing into various managerial roles. My last job was as an executive assistant at CultureLink, a settlement agency for newcomers to Canada, where I worked for 17 years.
When I was 67, I took three months off to travel by myself around Europe and Asia – I went to 25 cities in 10 countries. When I got back, I didn’t want to return to work. I never had that feeling after returning from vacation before. To me, it was a sign that it was time to retire. I resigned the first week I got back, but my boss asked me to stay on for another year to help train my replacement, which I did.
I was prepared financially for retirement. I have always managed my money well, even while working in retail and raising three kids with the help of my ex-husband. At my last job, I earned about $55,000 a year. I also contributed to the company’s retirement plan and my registered retirement saving plan. I now have a financial adviser who manages my investments.
I’ve always understood the value of saving. A year before I retired, I started cutting back my expenses and trained myself to live off only my Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) benefits. Two years ago, I sold my home in Toronto, where I lived for 40 years. My second husband and I bought a large home with my two daughters in Lindsay, Ont. Now my husband and I live mortgage-free. I can still live off my CPP and OAS and only dip into my tax-free savings account for travel.
I don’t consider myself frugal. Instead, I prioritize my spending. I am happy to splurge on things I enjoy like travel, entertaining and activities that help me learn and grow. For instance, I travelled business class when I went to Australia and New Zealand in early 2020 just before the pandemic lockdowns. It was worth it because, when I arrived, I was refreshed and ready to enjoy the trip.
I was also emotionally ready for retirement. As soon as I decided, I started planning how to fill my days. I joined a travel club and started taking writing courses. I self-published a memoir called The Life of Z about my life as an adopted child growing up in India and coming to Canada in 1975. While in Toronto, I volunteered in the kitchen at a drop-in centre for marginalized women. I also took up drumming the djembe. Here in Lindsay, I belong to a couple of writing circles, am taking painting classes and plan to start a djembe drumming circle with the help of a friend. I am also a mentor at Big Brothers Big Sisters.
I believe it’s important to build and maintain friendships in retirement – keep your old friends, but also make new friends constantly. You can learn new things from those new people in your life. Family has, and always will be, the most important aspect of my life.
People should be excited about retirement. Be grateful that you’ve been allowed to live this long. I’m excited about turning 80 this summer.
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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