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Ron Clarkin, a reluctant retiree, in his home studio in Toronto while working on a commission.Christopher Katsarov/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.

Ron Clarkin, 65, Toronto

I retired in 2022 at the age of 63. I wasn’t ready to retire from my career as an engineer and consultant in the health care industry. I felt like I still had a lot to contribute. I was working on contracts and the last one wasn’t renewed. I took my time looking for more work but found that even after getting far along in the interview process, the job always went to someone else. I assumed they were looking for younger candidates. After a while, I realized I probably wouldn’t get meaningful longer-term employment and maybe it was time to stop looking for work and focus on other things.

I was a good artist in high school and started getting back into it in my late 50s, doing mostly acrylic painting and some pencil sketches. People started asking me to paint things for them, like storefronts, cityscapes, people and dogs. Once I had more time to focus on my artwork, the requests increased. A lot of the work I do today is commissioned. I have a website for my work and hold exhibitions once a year.

My ‘retirement’ also includes doing handyperson work in my condo. I also occasionally work as an exam proctor and a photography assistant. While these jobs don’t pay as well as my career did, I thoroughly enjoy them – and they help me stay busy. I also remain active in my community, volunteering for different organizations, including on the board of the Toronto Blue Society. I also volunteered for many years for the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers and as the president of my condo board.

I would’ve been a lot more upset about not being able to find more engineering contracts in my career if I didn’t have a financial safety net. My wife and I have been maxing out our registered retirement savings plans over the years and contributing as much as possible to our tax-free savings accounts. We also work with an adviser to help manage our investments and our retirement and estate plans. We haven’t cut back our lifestyle due to the rising cost of living, but we’re not that extravagant to begin with.

The hardest part of this phase of life is accepting I’m retired now. My engineering career is no longer part of my day-to-day identity. I have a different network of people in my life now. I sometimes feel a tinge of wistfulness for my career days, solving problems and attending meetings and conferences with like-minded professionals, but it passes quickly. Some of my biggest decisions today include which paintbrushes to buy.

My advice to others approaching retirement is to do everything you can to keep that position as long as possible because it can be very hard to find similar work in your late 50s or early 60s. Also, ensure you have a financial safety net just in case you find yourself out of work later in your career.

And lastly, if you do find yourself a reluctant retiree like me, be open to other ways to enjoy life.

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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