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

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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.

Mary Lou Dickinson, 85, Toronto

I retired at age 65 after working for more than 40 years in a few different full-time and part-time jobs. The last 20 years of my career 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.

I remember thinking at the time, ‘Can I afford to retire? What am I going to do with my time?’ I’m a writer and published several short stories before retiring. So, I knew I would do that, but I wasn’t sure how else I would spend my time and if I had the financial means.

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

My retirement income comes from my investments, including a registered retirement income fund as well as Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits. About 10 years into retirement, I sold my Toronto home where I had lived for more than 40 years and raised my two children as a single parent and bought a condo downtown. The leftover funds gave me a bit more money to live on in retirement. I also get a bit of money from my books, but most of that is eaten up by expenses associated with writing.

What I like most about retirement is that I’m in charge of my time. When you’re working, even if your role has a purpose, you often don’t have time to do what you want for yourself, which is also important.

My goal at retirement was to have a book published by the time I turned 70, which I achieved. I’ve had four more books published since. I am currently working on another novel, a collection of short stories, and I wrote a memoir that was recently accepted for publication. I also wrote a self-help book on retirement that may or may not get published.

As I’m single, I knew retirement also meant making more social connections. I also wanted to stay physically active and learn new things. So, I combined all three of these by taking dance classes and educational courses, which meant I would meet new people, and occasionally, a friend would emerge.

Now, at age 85, I feel like I’m winding many things up. I have some health issues, which means I can’t travel anymore. I still attend dance classes, but I mostly watch or do them on Zoom. I’m lucky to have my writing and my two grown children and three grandchildren – ages 24, 8 and 5 – to keep me engaged in life. I want to live independently for as long as possible with a rich life that includes my kids and grandkids. My advice to others is to love your family and friends; they’re the ones who are with you through it all.

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: Please include a few details about how you saved and invested for retirement and what your life is like now.

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