Retirement can be “the best time of your life,” says this former bank employee

Retirement can be “the best time of your life,” says this former bank employee
Retirement can be “the best time of your life,” says this former bank employee

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Karen Sawyer, pictured here with her rescue dog Harper in Mississauga, has been busy since she quit her banking job two years ago. “I never thought I would be this happy in retirement,” she says.Galit Rodan / The Globe and Mail

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In “Tales from the Golden Age,” retirees talk about their spending, savings and whether life after work lives up to their expectations.

Karen Sawyer, 61, Mississauga

I retired in May 2022 – three months before my 60th birthday – after more than 20 years working in customer service at one of Canada’s major banks. My decision was partly due to the impact of the pandemic. My husband has autoimmune diseases and was hospitalized for a while after contracting COVID-19. This made us reevaluate our priorities and reminded us that life is short. My husband retired a month before me.

Before I retired, I was worried about what I would do all day when I stopped working. I was afraid I would get bored and maybe even fall into depression. To avoid that, I did some research on retirement beforehand, mainly to get ideas and learn from other people’s experiences. One thing that stuck with me was the question, “What do you want your legacy to be?”

I’ve always been passionate about volunteering, so I started researching and writing to organizations I wanted to donate my time to. This almost backfired because in retirement I quickly became too busy, volunteering with various organizations and not having enough free time. So I adapted to balance my life – although I still struggle to find more time for myself. My friends say I’m failing in retirement!

Even in retirement, I like to try new things to see if I enjoy them. For example, some friends and I took a painting class and attended some university courses, but these activities didn’t work out. I started working out with a personal trainer, which I still do. I also made a big effort to connect with friends and family, even those who still work, and organize social gatherings. I remember that when I was working, I didn’t have the time to do that, as much as I wanted to. It’s a great feeling to bring people together.

I’m a little worried about finances as there are many unknowns including market volatility and inflation. My husband and I were both married before and have four children between us. The children are somewhat dependent on us as they start their careers. Like many parents today, we are assisting them with housing costs as it is difficult for young adults to enter the housing market.

I’ve always had an advisor to help me with financial decisions. I relied on him to help me figure out when I could stop working and how much I could spend in retirement. Now that I’m retired, I’m more mindful of my finances and make more conscious decisions about what I need to buy. I also spend less now because I don’t have to commute to work, buy lunches, or buy new clothes for the office. I don’t feel financially pressured and I spend less than I expected.

When they say retirement is the time of life, it really is. I can do whatever I want, whether it’s volunteering, meeting friends for coffee, or spending time with my grandson. It sounds a bit like Polyanna, but I didn’t think I would be so happy in retirement.

Recorded by Brenda Bouw

This interview has been edited and shortened.

Are you a Canadian retiree and want to talk about what life is like now that you’re no longer working? The Globe is looking for people to contribute to its “Tales from the Gilded Age” feature, which explores the personal and financial realities of retirement. If you’re interested in being interviewed for this feature and agree to give your full name and have your photo taken, please email us at: [email protected]. Please provide some details about how you have saved and invested for retirement and what your life looks like now.

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