In Tales from the Golden Age, retirees talk about their spending, savings and whether life after work is what they expected.
Mark Winston, 72, Vancouver
I retired in August last year after working as a professor at Simon Fraser University (SFU) for 42 years. I’m an entomologist with a specialty in bees. For the first half of my career, I led a research lab and taught courses in entomology. During the last half, I was director of SFU’s Centre for Dialogue, which promotes democratic values and positive action through dialogue and engagement.
I loved work, but my perspective shifted, partly because of the pandemic and partly because of my age. I became less interested in accomplishing big things and more interested in relaxing, just being in the world, and enjoying friends and family.
I thought a lot about retiring and had many discussions with my wife Lori about what I would do and if I would get bored. I also read several books and articles on the subject so, when it was time to retire, I was comfortable with the decision. Lori retired when I did, which has made it even more enjoyable.
While many people take on new hobbies in retirement or travel, that wasn’t part of our plan, partly for financial reasons but perhaps more because our life at home is so rich. We spend a lot of time walking and talking together outdoors. Another of my favourite activities is going out for coffee and chatting with friends or new acquaintances. We’re also very fortunate to have a lot of young people in our lives, not just our kids and some of my former students, but the children of our friends whom we’ve watched grow up and are still close with. I’m also a writer (I’ve written seven non-fiction books) and enjoy mentoring young writers.
Rising inflation is a concern for me in retirement. My wife and I are more cautious about our spending now, particularly eating in restaurants, which has become more expensive. That said, we’ve always been pretty frugal. We don’t have a car and don’t go on pricey vacations. My one failing is that I tend to buy a lot of expensive sweaters. But between my pension and what we’ve saved and invested, we’re confident we won’t outlive our retirement nest egg.
The pace of retired life is definitely slower, and, to my surprise, that’s been quite positive. My wife and I have a greater appreciation for life and each other. This will sound corny to some, but Lori and I tell each other how much we love each other several times a day. It’s not like we’re intertwined every moment – we have our own activities and interests – but retirement has brought us even closer.
I do have some anxieties about getting older, particularly having health issues. Even though I’m quite healthy now, I worry about some day becoming frail and dependent on others. However, I am grateful to live in a small building in Vancouver’s west end where people support each other, including younger residents helping the older ones. I hope that continues as I get older.
What I’ve learned about retirement so far is that having strong relationships and being part of a community are important – at least they are for me.
As told to Brenda Bouw.
This interview has been edited and condensed.