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retirement

Barbra Fischer, relaxes in her home in Toronto, April 1.Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

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

Barbra Fischer, 66, Toronto

I worked for 40 years in the financial services industry before retiring in January at age 65. The first two-thirds of my career was with three of Canada’s Big Five banks and the final third at the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

I thought I would retire at age 60, but I loved my job as a director at OSFI. I found my calling there, and I was very good at financial supervision.

It was a very difficult decision to retire. I went back and forth on it a lot. My kids used to laugh at me over it because I kept changing my mind. I wanted to leave when I felt that I was at the top of my game. That was important to me. I also wanted to leave on my own terms.

Working at home during the pandemic helped me decide to retire. I realized that I liked being at home. I was rarely there before that because I worked downtown – a 90-minute commute each way – and I was always out doing different things on weekends.

I always said that once I retire, I’m not going part-time or working on contracts. I know myself very well, and that I wanted to do something completely different.

I knew I would be fine financially but wasn’t sure if I would be fine personally and how it would impact my mental health because I was always so busy with work. I didn’t have many hobbies or interests outside of my job and working out, so I really had to think about what I would do.

Surprisingly, retirement is better than I expected. I think that’s because I planned ahead, with the help of a retirement coach. For instance, I started doing volunteer work before I retired and continue to do that with a few organizations today. Those organizations thank me for what I do, but I also thank them for the fulfilment they give me in this chapter of my life.

I also took a writing course and am writing my memoir. It’s difficult, but it’s going well. It’s not something I plan to publish, but I want to leave it for my two sons, grandchildren, and future generations. If nobody wants to read it, that’s fine; it’s also something I wanted to do for myself.

I believe self-care is important. I work out regularly. I don’t hang around the house in my pyjamas. I want to look and feel good and stay healthy. I’m very independent and plan to stay that way.

I’m probably in one of my best places now, personally. I didn’t realize how stressed I was when I was working. I have this calmness about me, which is really nice. I’ve had people say to me, ‘Barbra, when I retire, I’m calling you, and you’re going tell me what the secret is.’

As told to Brenda Bouw

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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