Random thoughts on retirement


I seem to have writer’s block this week. Or it could be that my brain is fried because we are doing a kitchen reno and the smell of glue and the sound of drills is making it very difficult to think.

So instead of writing a well-thought out piece with a beginning and an end, I decided to simply share some random thoughts on retirement.

On mortality…

…I interviewed Jonathan Chevreau last week for savewithspp.com. I told him I am wrestling with the desire to continue doing interesting work and make money versus the fear that if we do not retire soon, unexpected poor health or bad luck could mean we will never get to enjoy the golden years we have saved for. Jon’s very astute response was, “Well retirement planning would certainly be a lot easier if we know when we are going to die.”

On phased retirement…

…There is a lot of talk about workplace flexibility for employees at all ages and stages of life, but even some top companies are not walking the talk. My husband has been working for 45 years in software design (7 years with his current employer) and asked if he could work three or four days a week to phase into retirement. The request was denied. Then the four-month sabbatical from June to October he asked for was also turned down by senior management. He has opted to leave the company at the end of June and seek contract work in the fall.

On pensions…

…If you are one of those lucky people who will be able to collect a Defined Benefit pension, you will be presented with options at retirement. I elected to purchase a bridging benefit to age 65 when CPP and OAS kick in and a small amount of indexing with the money in my flexible pension plan account. If I had it to do again, I would buy as much indexing as possible instead. I began editing a magazine immediately after I took early retirement and four years later I started freelancing so I really didn’t need the additional money from age 55-65.

On debt in retirement…

…A December 2014 survey from Manulife revealed that almost half of Canadians expect to be in debt in retirement. Another 18% — nearly one in five — plan to access home equity to supplement their retirement income. Eight percent intend to sell their home and 10% plan to stay in their home and borrow against its value, the poll by Manulife found. If you are in debt or you owe a significant amount on your mortgage, you are not ready to retire. Rising interest rates could blow your budget out of the water.

On staying healthy…

Whether we enjoy good physical and mental health in retirement is dependant in part on good luck and good genes. But maintaining a gym membership and using it regularly is one way we are trying to grow older in good health. Our dog is also a great little aerobics machine. I have seen the impact of inactivity on the health and mobility older family members and it is a great incentive stay active.

On continuous learning…

Since I “retired” the first time 10 years ago I have never stopped learning. Although I had pension and benefits expertise when I left law for writing and editing I didn’t know anything about running a magazine but I learned quickly because there was no other option. Designing and operating two websites and using social media over the last few years has been really fun. When I retire I plan to schedule at least one activity a week I didn’t have time for when I was working like lectures, concerts, movies and theatre.

On travel….

I am looking forward to having the freedom to travel more. I am a planner and until now we have paid top dollar for many vacations because I typically book early. My goal is to slow down enough to take advantage of last minute specials and off season sell offs. Also, I’d like to do more road trips in Canada in the U.S. to get a better feel for so many places we have only flown over until now. I’d also like to be away from winter for a month or more every year.

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