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Doreen Smith plays the ukulele at her Kelowna, B.C. home.Aaron Hemens/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.

Doreen Smith, 69, Kelowna, B.C.

I retired in 2016 at the age of 62 after working for almost two decades as a certified financial planner. In my work, I came across many people who died years earlier than they expected. Nobody knows how long they’ll live or be healthy, and I wanted to retire while I was still active and able to enjoy life. I ran my own business and only took a week or two of vacation a year. So, I looked forward to spending more time with my husband. He retired two years earlier after selling his machine-shop business.

My decision to retire wasn’t a quick one. I thought about it for years, including what we would do, where we would go and how we would fill the days, weeks and years. I worked about 50 hours a week, and I wrote a weekly column for the local paper, so I knew it would be a lot of time to fill. Unlike your finances, planning personal time isn’t something others can do for you.

To me, it’s important to be social, especially in retirement. It often means stepping out of your comfort zone to meet new people and learn new skills. In 2021, when the pandemic limited socializing, I taught myself to play the ukulele. I had always wanted to try it. A year later, after being unable to find a local ukulele group, a Kelowna seniors’ centre asked me to start one and lead it. I was initially nervous and scared, especially after only a year of self-taught playing, but decided to go for it. Our weekly ukulele group still exists today. It’s a handful of seniors sharing a love of music.

I like to stay physically fit in retirement. I ride my bike almost daily, go to the gym and swim several times a week. My husband and I have also volunteered for different organizations in our community. And we enjoy spending time with our two children (who are also financial planners) and our two grandchildren, who live nearby.

The rising cost of living hasn’t been a problem for us in retirement. We were prepared financially, partly because we have always lived within our means and prioritized saving and investing. We also like to shop for items when they’re on sale, in particular groceries. Plus, we save money in retirement because we’re not driving to work and don’t need to buy lunches or clothing as often.

I feel fortunate that my life has extended into many years of retirement. I think staying physically and mentally active helps. I understand and appreciate that some people will return to work part-time or full-time in their retirement years. It may be financially motivated or socially motivated, or both. I say, if this makes you happy, then do it. Everyone should listen to their inner voice.

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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