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Janet Salian in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, where she lives six months out of the year and has been coping with the destruction wrought by Hurricane Ian.Martin Le Blanc/Handout

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

Janet Gottlieb Sailian, 69, Fort Myers Beach, Fla.

I officially retired in 2019, at the age of 66, from a career as a communications and marketing professional in the education sector, including at Laurentian University in Sudbury and Branksome Hall in Toronto. I also worked for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in Washington, D.C., and for the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education in Toronto. I am a dual Canadian-U. S. citizen who lives in the west end of Toronto and spends about six months a year in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., in a home on a canal owned by my partner.

I spent the first part of retirement promoting a book I co-wrote with my partner called A Warrior of Last Resort, which is based on his time in the military in the Vietnam War and Cold War eras. The self-published book came out in January, 2020, and we had our first promotional event in mid-March that year, just before the pandemic lockdowns. The timing was unfortunate because it meant we couldn’t go out and promote the book in person, as we had hoped.

My plan was also to do a bit of freelance writing in retirement but, with the pandemic, there wasn’t much work at first. Thankfully, things started to pick up again in late 2020. Freelance writing not only keeps my mind sharp but also keeps me engaged in something I really care about, which is educational advancement. Also, let’s be honest, I need to freelance for financial reasons. My investment portfolio has taken a serious hit over the past year, which has been the case for many people, and the cost of living has also increased.

My retirement lifestyle was also upended last fall when our Florida community was devastated by Hurricane Ian. Our house survived but, like every other building, the ground floor was filled with storm surge. The contents inside were ruined, and the area had to be gutted down to bare studs and then treated to mitigate mould. Our cars were also destroyed. I’ve never been in a war zone, but this is what I imagine it might look like. The next several months will be spent rebuilding our own home and helping others in our community rebuild, too. It means spending more time in Florida and less time back in Ontario this year, including missing both of my grandsons’ birthdays.

I’ve realized that many things I planned to do in retirement are an illusion for the foreseeable future. Still, the hurricane has forced me and others here to re-evaluate what’s important in life. It used to be upsetting if the dishwasher broke or the car needed servicing, but people here have lost their homes and businesses, and many people have lost their lives.

My advice for others in retirement, or in general, is to try to build as much resilience in your life as you can because the unexpected can happen – whether it’s a severe weather event, illness or divorce – and could affect you in many ways, including financially and emotionally.

As told to Brenda Bouw

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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