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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.

Cynthia McDonagh, for the Tales from the Golden Age feature, She's a Canadian in Arizona. Submitted photoHandout

Cynthia McDonagh, 68, Toronto

I retired in 2013 at age 59 after working for 26 years in various support roles at George Brown College in Toronto. My last job was as a recruiter, where I drove to different schools to make presentations. It was fun, but I thought it was time to step aside for a younger recruiter. Also, all the driving, doing presentations and the late nights started to wear me down. On the personal side, my mother had dementia and was in a home, and my father was by himself in Sudbury, Ont., for the first time, so part of my decision to retire was also to be able to spend more time with them.

I gave my employer about six months’ notice, so it was a long, drawn-out period to retirement. It felt like I was planning for a long summer vacation. Unfortunately, my mother passed away a few months after I retired. Not long after, my father started to have some health issues. In the summer of 2014, we sold his house, and he came to move in with us in Toronto. He passed away in 2019. I was there with both of my parents when they died. I never grieved them because I was there to say goodbye; not everybody gets that.

Once my father passed away, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself, especially after spending so many years looking after other people. It was a challenge. My daughter went off to England on a visa for two years, and I went with her for a couple of weeks. It was the first time I’d ever been to Britain. I went back later for three months and had a fabulous time. We also met up in Paris. I have the travel bug now; I never used to.

My husband and I also have a home in Arizona, which we bought a few years ago. It feels like a nice safe place to be, especially in the winter. The most noise I hear is the Air Force jets practising overhead. Other than that, we can hear the birds singing all the time. It’s wonderful.

I may only have 10 or 12 good years left, so I want to fit in as much as possible. For instance, I may want to go live in different countries for three or four months at a time. We recently sold our Toronto home, so there’s some money there that could help us pay for these trips.

To me, everyone’s retirement choices should be different. Nobody should tell someone else what to do when they retire – or even that they should retire. Some people don’t want to stop working, and if that’s their choice, it should be respected.

As told to Brenda Bouw. This interview has been edited and condensed.

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