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retirement

Maureen Atkinson poses for a photograph at her home in Toronto Ont., on Monday, February 21, 2022.Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

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

Maureen Atkinson, 71, of Toronto

My entire career was in retail. My husband John Williams and I had a successful consulting business called J.C. Williams Group that we founded in the mid-70s. Owning a business was onerous. There were mouths to feed. I was getting to the stage where I wanted to branch out and do something else.

We sold the business 2½ years ago, before COVID, which was timely in hindsight. The option was to sell it or close it down, and we decided to sell it to some wonderful people we trusted with our brand. We agreed that we would stay on as advisers for at least three months to help the new owners through the transition.

About three months after we sold it, John passed away, which was a shock. I stayed on a bit longer at the company because I needed to have that in my life. I didn’t want to become a professional widow. I continue to be an adviser and do some projects today, but I don’t have nearly the same workload I had before we sold the business.

I also started something else, once I felt strong enough after John’s death to make it happen. It’s an online community for women in transition called Lifeshiift. Transition can be retirement. It can be the death of a spouse or something else. With women my age, there’s a tendency to think we’re invisible – and we’re definitively not. We’re travelling; we’re starting new businesses. We’ve got lots to do and contribute.

Lifeshiift is not making money yet, and that’s fine. It may in the future achieve what’s known in business as “monetization” – but that’s not my main goal. It’s a labour of love.

I am also doing more yoga and meditation these days, which I didn’t have much time for when running the business. With my meditation I’ve worked up to 20 minutes a day, which, if you’ve ever tried it, you’d know isn’t as easy as it may sound.

I haven’t done as much travelling as I’d hoped because of the pandemic, but on my list when things open up again is a trip to Malaysia, where one of my nieces lives. I’d love to take her to a yoga retreat there. I also have a stepdaughter in Rome and plan to visit her. I’m also going to Oxford at the end of July and staying on the campus at the University of Oxford. At this stage in life, I’m interested in doing different things and seeing new places. To me, that’s retirement.

A person can spend 20 or more years in “retirement,” and the last thing you want to do is retreat. There’s a lot of opportunity for social life, for having a purpose. To me, retirement should be a time when you look at the opportunity to learn new things. Age is a mindset. I knew I wanted to do something more. The idea of retiring and not doing anything isn’t for me. You can’t keep a good girl down.

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