By Sheryl Smolkin
A press release I read recently titled “What will you do with your 2,000 hours a year when you retire?” made me stop and think about how my husband and I have spent our time since I left my corporate job 11 years ago and he fully retired in mid-2015.
An RBC survey of 1,500 working Canadians age 50 and older found almost three-quarters (73%) are unsure what they’ll do with that extra time. While the study found nearly two-thirds (64%) have done some planning for how they will finance retirement, less than half have planned for retirement lifestyle decisions, such as where they will live, where they will travel (44% each) and what activities they will do (46%).
I was 54 when I retired from a benefits consulting firm with a reduced pension and post-retirement medical benefits. I never intended to stop working and had a job lined up as editor of an employee benefits magazine working from home. That eventually morphed into a freelance writing business.
My husband had no pension other than government benefits when he retired from his position as a software engineer with a major telecommunications company at age 65. However, over the years he made maximum allowable contributions to individual and Group RRSPs. After a couple of months’ break he contacted his former employer about contract work, but no opportunities have materialized.
We moved to a new “infill” house in Toronto near the subway in 2001 and since then, the value of our two-story plus basement home has doubled in value. We’d love to renovate a large bungalow and stay in the area, but the prices of even much smaller homes have increased so much that we would end up with significantly less house for the same amount of money.
Based on a previous mobility issue, I‘d like to be living on one floor sooner rather than later, but for now we are staying put. We go to the gym regularly and climbing stairs helps us stay fit. When we were both working we paid for regular housecleaning, snow removal and grass-cutting. We now employ outside help less frequently but we are prepared to ramp it up again if one or both of us has health problems.
Vacations are a high priority for us and our favourite mode of travel is cruising. We want to see and do as much as we can as long as we are healthy and able to purchase comprehensive travel health insurance. At least once a year, we try to bring our daughter’s family living in Ottawa on holidays with us so we can spend more quality time with them.
Paying for expensive travel is one explanation for why I continue taking on freelance writing jobs. But the other reason is that I thrive on deadlines and I really love to get paid for something I enjoy doing. My hobbies include reading, working out and singing in a community choir but interviewing and writing provides me with both structure and a creative outlet. I work about 30 hours a week so I have loads of flexibility to fit in personal appointments, travel and family time.
In contrast, my husband has found a whole new creative outlet since he retired. He finished off a coffee table that he has been working on for years and there is a matching end table on the drawing board. He has also designed and a produced a series of beautiful cheese boards, bread boards and cutting boards (see above) that friends and family have received as welcome gifts. While in future he may consider selling a few of his pieces there is no pressure for him to do so.
I can’t say we exactly planned in advance how we would fill up our days when we left the world of work, but once our finances were in order, we had the latitude to make it up as we went along. We know that retirement in our 50s and 60s (the go-go phase) is likely to be different than in our 70s and 80s (the slow-go phase) or even 90s (the no-go phase) but I think we’re on the right track. I’ll know when it is time to send out the last invoice and together we will decide when it is the right time to sell our house and downsize.
Have you thought about how you will spend your time once you leave the office for the last time? Tell us how you are spending your 2,000 hours by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love share your story.