In Tales from the Golden Age, retirees talk about their spending, savings and whether life after work is what they expected.
Wendy Bonus, 80, Thornhill, Ont.
I retired 24 years ago from a job in administration at the University of Toronto. My husband, Hal, who is a couple of years older than me, retired a year earlier after working for many years at an oil company.
We had lived fairly frugally and had a good amount of savings, and his pension package made it doable for us to retire in our mid-to-late 50s. A number of friends said to us at the time, ‘I’ll never retire because I love what I do for a living.’ We had jobs we enjoyed, but they weren’t our identity. We wanted the freedom to follow some of our passions and the opportunity to do different things.
There’s a saying that you shouldn’t retire from something but rather to something, and we did just that. But I didn’t want retirement to be one long round of self-indulgence; I was afraid of not being productive, and volunteer work took care of that. I was lucky enough to pursue my passions for history, books and art by being a costumed guide at a historic house in Toronto, reading books on tape for the CNIB, and working as a guide at the Art Gallery of Ontario. I also self-published a family memoir and as a result, ended up hearing from some distant relatives from around the world. That has been enormously satisfying. And I’ve continued my passion for education by taking later-life learning courses.
My husband and I also travelled a lot at the start of our retirement. We spent the first winter in New Zealand, the next winter in Australia and another in South Africa, each time following an itinerary which catered to our birding interests. Eventually we started going to a golfing community in Florida, but decided to rent rather than buy as we didn’t want to be tied to one place. Now, I think that was a mistake.
I spent a year looking after my oldest grandson when my daughter went back to work. It was fabulous, but all-consuming, and I was not inclined to repeat the experience with subsequent grandchildren, much as I love them. We now have four grandkids and two step grandkids, all of whom live reasonably close.
Things happen as one ages, and eventually one realizes the writing is on the wall. We moved from our family home in midtown Toronto, which was not well suited to aging in place, and bought and renovated the perfect bungalow about a 30-minute drive away in Thornhill, close to our golf club, which has become our community. We are still active, playing tennis, golf and cycling, but adjustments have to be made. Maybe we can’t hit the ball as far off the tee as we used to, but we can appreciate other things more, like nature and our own backyard.
As told to Brenda Bouw
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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