Ask a friend about their retirement plans. You might watch a spectrum from trepidation to joy cross their face.
Canadians don’t talk about religion, politics, what they earn, and still more rarely, their net worth.
Like death, it seems we shun conversation around the topic of superannuation until we have to. If retirement is the action of leaving one's job and ceasing to work, then that might be either unknown territory or the promised land.
Retirement typically refers to the time of life when one chooses to exit the workforce permanently. The traditional retirement age is 65 in most developed countries, though some are much more generous.
In France recently, there have been riots as their government tinkers with the national pension. Benefits and systems in place to supplement retirees' incomes are under the microscope in times when budgets aren’t balanced and deficits grow annually.
What’s up in Canada? Our definition of retirement refers to a person who is “aged 55 and over, is not in the labour force and receives 50 per cent or more of his or her total income from retirement-like sources.” Oh my, those Freedom 55 TV advertisements with sports cars, sail boats and healthy individuals, and couples, had us believing and chasing the dream.
Is there a more modern and updated definition of retirement?
How does this sound? “Retirement is the withdrawal from one's position or occupation or from one's active working life.” Well, let’s include “phased retirement” where a person may also semi-retire by reducing work hours or workload.
At 75, Dr. Peter Beckett, professor emeritus of Reclamation, Restoration and Wetland Ecology at Laurentian University, and senior fellow with the Vale Living with lakes Centre, likes that he can still contribute and assist in moving projects forward.
“With semi-retirement, I feel liberated,” Beckett said.
On the Friday morning before the Labour Day weekend, he was out with a team volunteering to shift compost to a revegetation test site. It is hard work but valued. Volunteerism is a big part of many seniors’ lives.
There is also the gig economy and something new called “poly-employment”. For some, the question of a pension drives the calendar. For others, there are multiple concerns and considerations, sometimes the most pressing can still be financial. For still others, it is health not wealth that drives decision-making.
Jenny and Jack Bouwmeester are the current owners of John’s Garden Centre on Finn Road in McKerrow. You likely have driven by their business adjacent to Highway 17 many times over its nearly six decades of operation.
“Jack’s Dad operated it for 30 years, and it will be an additional 29 years for us this month,” Jenny said. “On our radar now is an exit plan. In the spring of 2022, we discovered Jack is allergic to the sun. That’s what had us considering what’s next. So we put the business on the market.”
Unlike when Jack and Jenny followed in his father’s footsteps, none of the grandchildren can take it on; they are too young. “Our children have other careers. One is a registered nurse and our boy is a power engineer.”
Where are they in the process today?
“There was what feels like a successful viewing last Saturday afternoon. We are working with an agent who sells farms in southern Ontario. Farm, house, garden centre, the whole thing. We find out soon if things are going to happen. We are excited to be starting a new chapter.”
John’s Garden Centre opens the last Sunday of April and runs to the Friday before Thanksgiving. The Bouwmeesters know the routine well. What will they do with their time?
“The older grandchild plays hockey and has practices in Sudbury. We will gladly drive any of them to appointments, events, activities. We are done with global travel. I think I am just content to mellow out. We are flying by the seat of our pants right now. We will find our new home when it is the right time. The people around us that we know who are also age 65 are all trying to retire.”
If not an entrepreneur during your career, you might have worked for one employer or many. Over the course of three or more decades, your resumé might be pages long or a single sheet. No matter if you targeted the fictional Freedom 55 and dropped work cold turkey, most of us eventually retire.
Or do we? At Fashion Fair Ladies Wear, Sheila Bracken recounts opening her destination boutique in 1975.
“We are in the Walden Plaza , and yes it has always been in that location,” she said. “This past year, I have been working less in the store physically. I run it every Monday and Tuesday full days, and I am in the store on call according to our needs and how busy we are. I manage the office, the accounts and pay bills and most days my husband and I come in for coffee and a visit, and some days have lunch with my business partner, Jocelyn Tait.”
It is more like a “phased” retirement for Bracken. Sounds like her plan is working for her. With her partner being with her for two decades, it really feels she has her ducks in a row.
Clients are one of the reasons Bracken has kept being involved in the business. Many became friends because of the trust they have in her fashion sense.
“Through the years I have met and served many customers and, yes, I have made good friends with many of them. I cannot speak for others in business but I am — and always have been — organized and particular. It’s just who I am!”
Imagine what you will miss, and what you will gain when you actually retire. What does retirement look like for you? Have you thought deeply about your options?
Hugh Kruzel is a writer in Greater Sudbury. Prime features stories about senior living and the issues impacting seniors in our community. It is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.