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For Anne Swan, 59, pictured by the waterfront in downtown Toronto, the pending question of retirement has caused a lot of anxiety.Laura Proctor/The Globe and Mail

In Tales from the Golden Age, retirees talk about their spending, savings and whether life after work is what they expected.

Anne Swan, 59, Toronto

I retired at the end of 2023 after an almost 40-year career in the pharmaceutical industry. When my last project ran its course, I decided to step out of the corporate world. I loved my experience in the industry, but I’m not sure I want to jump back into another full-time career with all the commitments, stress and strain that go with it. Also, I have no interest in climbing the corporate ladder at this point in my life.

I agonized over the decision as I’m not sure if I’m truly finished working. Retirement feels so final. So, instead of declaring myself retired, I’m taking what I call an “adult gap year.” While I’m 90-per-cent certain I won’t return to corporate life, I’m giving myself the space to figure it out. I’m a few months in, and it has been a bit of a roller coaster. Most days are better than I expected, but other days I’m bored and lack direction. I can only handle so much idle time.

For some people, the transition away from work seems easy. For me, the combination of turning 60 this year and the pending question of retirement has caused a lot of anxiety. I am a two-time widow and mother to three kids and two stepkids, all almost adults. I know life is short. I want to live it fully, and sitting at someone else’s desk isn’t going to get me where I want to go. I feel that, as long as I’m healthy, there’s another full chapter ahead of me.

I’m taking this year to get reacquainted with myself and do things I enjoy such as travelling, exercising, restoring old furniture, and spending time between my condo in Toronto and a home in the Muskokas. My partner also recently retired but, unlike me, he has no anxiety over the decision at all. He has a lot of hobbies and is happy with life at a slower speed.

I have the financial means to retire based on careful saving and investing during my 38-year career. I started contributing to my registered retirement savings plan once I got my first job at 21 and kept saving. My monthly expenses are also lower than when I was working. Still, I continue to do the math to reassure myself that I will be okay if I don’t go back to work. I could live another 30-plus years.

I am journalling my postwork experiences on TikTok and Instagram. Not only does it give me something to focus on each day, but I believe there’s a lot to talk about concerning the transition into retirement – or whatever the next phase of life is called.

My advice to others thinking about retirement is to be patient. Give yourself time to ease into your new life before deciding whether to go back to work – or not. It sounds corny, but give yourself some time and space to be in the moment and to roll through the highs and lows.

As told to Brenda Bouw

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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