By LOVINA D’SOUZA
It feels like just the other day many of us were busy in the process of immigrating to Canada with our young children and after that, engaged in finding jobs and trying to settle down in our new country.
But time flies.
In the recent past, two of my brothers and other relatives who immigrated from India and the Middle East as well as some of my co-workers retired. With others getting closer to retirement, the realization dawned that the clock is ticking and we are also getting closer to retirement. Our kids are growing, graduating and starting to work and becoming independent young adults. Soon they will be settling down with their own life and starting their own families.
I began to wonder what it feels like to retire. Is it something to look forward to or is it scary? How does one prepare for retirement? And if retirement is approached differently by immigrant desis and Canadians.
Retirement is not just a word but a life that many people wait for and dream about, counting the years, months and days that bring them closer to it.
But for some, it is a dreaded word and not something they are prepared for or ready to accept.
Mandatory retirement, also known as enforced retirement, is the set age at which people who hold certain jobs or offices are required by industry custom or by law to leave their employment. In Canada, there is no mandatory retirement age. In India, where I come from, the normal retirement age is 60. In Canada, it is 65, and that is when federal Old Age Security pension benefits begin, and most private and public retirement plans have been designed to provide income to the person starting at 65. The standard age for beginning to receive benefits of Canadian Pension Plan is the month after the 65th birthday, but one cannot be forced to retire at 65.
Someone wrote that retirement is supposed to be the best period of your life and most people think retirement planning is about saving enough for the future; but I would say that an essential part of retirement planning is not only understanding where your income will come from but taking into consideration what is more important in your new phase of life and making changes accordingly.
Planning for retirement has three important components – financial planning; utilizing time wisely, developing and enjoying hobbies; and living a healthy lifestyle.
Money to retire
It is said, good planning makes all the difference. It is essential to know your sources of income in retirement. Typically, the best place to start is to find out how much money you will get from your company pension, Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS), Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), and the spouse’s allowance which makes up the benefits you will receive from the Canadian government in retirement. Once you have that, you will need to figure out how to supplement your income with Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), Non-RRSP Investments and income from work. It used to be that retirement meant not working but now that’s not the case. Now more and more retirees are working part time or full time during their retirement. Some work for others while others work for themselves. Some work for money while others work for other reasons like keeping busy, maintaining social relationships or just for fun. Whatever the case may be, the key to working in retirement is to work because you want to and not because you have to.
The opportunity to have a tax free retirement account has opened up another avenue for retirement income which is tax free when withdrawn.
What to do with all that time on hand!
Sometimes no thought is put into how to utilize the extra time that becomes available. That can lead to boredom, stress or unnecessary anxiety. Responses to retirement run the spectrum from looking forward – “I will do that when I retire” – to wondering what to do with themselves. You might hear, “There’s nothing to do, it’s so boring,” or “I am babysitting my grandchildren”.
Rarely is the response, “I am too busy, I have no time,” but many Canadians seem to have the right approach and will present a long list of things they wish to do or achieve.
“I will go to the cottage or trailer.”
“I will buy a boat.”
“I will spend half the year in Florida.”
“I will go on vacation.”
“I have so many chores to do around the house and my wife wants me to fix up the house when I retire!”
Some postpone their health matters and keep knee surgeries, etc., for when they retire.
My brother Alwyn retired recently from Royal Bank and is living life to the fullest. He is a great role model for us. He enjoys nature, camping, travelling, watching shows and so on, many of which he had no time for when he was working full time. He loves to spend quality time with his two lovely daughters and a grandson. Alwyn and his wife Sharyn, who also retired recently, also from Royal Bank, have travelled to many places like Africa, Australia, Holy-land, China, Hong Kong and India. He says retired life is also busy but relaxing and he enjoys the freedom to do things at his own leisure.
It may be tempting to just laze around at home once retired life sets in. As much as we need to keep fit while working, it is even more crucial to live a healthy lifestyle after retirement when our active living may be slowing down. Making sure we get regular exercise, going for daily walks, getting fresh air, eating healthy, getting routine health check-ups and continuing to be independent are some key factors we need to follow. The fitter we are, the better we’ll be able to reap the benefits of retirement.
My second brother Franklin worked in the Middle East while his family lived in India. Now that he is retired, he is settled back in India and making up for all the lost time with his family. He goes for walks to keep fit and routine check-ups ensure he enjoys good health. Daily chores like shopping for groceries keep him busy, he laughs. He loves his newfound freedom to travel, exploring other parts of India and he also visits Canada frequently. He has signed up for several courses to gain knowledge on different subjects. Mingling back into the community takes some effort after being away from one’s country for many years, but Franklin is integrating into the routine of life and making new friends. He has joined organizations and is involved in community service to make life better for others. Franklin also finds life busy after retirement, but enjoyable and relaxed.
“I am doing the things I like to do at my own pace and leisure; and with the people who are close to me,” he says.
“We were always waiting for retirement, for a normal family life. As I spent most of my life in the Middle East, working far away from home, my friends were my family. Retirement meant a new life for me. I experienced the joy of joining my wife Juliet and our two sons. I enjoy the relaxed feeling of not having to wake up at a set time and rushing to the office. Lying in bed until I feel like and going for walk when I wake up is very comforting and has became a new routine.
“I go to my native place Puttur and Mangalore quite frequently, especially to attend weddings and family functions. And travel to Canada frequently to see my mom, siblings and their families and spend time with them.”
Finding ways to enjoy retirement, engaging in activities and community service is a good way to spend your retired life. Some retirees volunteer, join social clubs, assist others, babysit their grandchildren and look after their families; a job that never ends. Some join community and religious groups, etc. Many continue working or find part-time jobs.
However, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Canadian winters can also make life and the commute difficult for those who do not drive and depend on others for rides. It is often too cold to even walk to a park or visit a neighbour for a chat and a cup of tea. Usually the children grow up and move out of the house, accentuating the feeling of an empty nest for parents. And when everyone around them is busy with their own work-life routines, retirees can become homebound and depressed. They do not know what to do and how to spend their time. They are bored. With age catching up, some of them also start developing health issues.
That’s when retirement hits them badly. And that’s why preparing mentally, financially and having a plan in place well before retirement is very important. Making some commitments and following through, will bring fulfillment and can make retired life satisfying and encouraging.
Personally, for me, ‘Retirement’ means being free from a routine job and thinking about the freedom I’ll enjoy to spend time in any way I like makes me happy. However, along with this comes the thought that I am getting older which means I may not be able to do all the things that I could do as a younger person – losing opportunities to utilize my skills and potential that I have developed over the years; getting behind on learning new technology and gaining knowledge that a work desk and office environment provide; the daily routine and discipline of time, commute; and most of all meeting and greeting co-workers and having work friends.
But when I do retire in a few years, I know there are many positives to look forward to. I know time will fly with household chores, on the computer and probably doing some activities and community service.
If I get a decent retirement benefit, health and circumstances permitting, travelling the world would be very exciting as well.
I may even do some part time job. I know it is going to be another life, probably more time to spend with other seniors who need company and by then should we have some grandkids, it would be a bonus if we get to spend some time with them and continue to live a healthy life. After all it is this retired life that we long for when we are all so busy working!
As one of my friends said, “The best thing about retirement is that as senior citizens, we are now eligible for the seniors’ discount!”
So make the best of it, retirement is a new beginning. Retirement is not only a time to ponder on old memories; it’s a time to make new ones. Shift gears – give the open road a try!
Get all the info
More info on public pensions at www.canada.ca.
“Retired life can be busy, find the time to relax!”
By LOVINA D`SOUZA
My Canadian friends who have retired embrace it with enthusiasm and those who are close to retirement are looking forward to it.
Some of my co-workers even have a countdown calendar on their desk or computer! Many of them play or coach hockey, soccer, baseball and sports teams. They also prepare well financially and some are already working on developing their hobbies as a small business. I enjoy watching some of the retired people walking in the malls as a group or team of friends or attending religious service and then sitting at Tim Hortons, McDonalds or other coffee shops/bakeries, socializing and enjoying their time meeting and greeting friends; sipping coffee with muffins/breakfast and reading newspapers.
My friend Patricia, fondly known as Pat, is originally from Goa. She immigrated to Toronto from Mumbai in 2002 with her husband Socrates, popular as Socs, and their two beautiful daughters. She worked with the provincial government in the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care for a few years. Pat and Socs have enjoyed their life in Toronto and celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in 2016.
Lovina: What does retirement mean to you?
Pat: Retirement to me was God’s gift of the next phase of my life. A time for self-discovery. I can now reflect upon my accomplishments and have the time and freedom to follow and fulfil the rest of my hopes and dreams.
Lovina: Did you plan ahead for retirement and how?
Pat: Socs was very supportive of my decision, which I took after much deliberation. Honestly, I had not planned to retire early, mainly because we came very late to this country and had not much to gain from the monetary benefits that one gets from the government after retirement. Socs decided to continue working a little longer. Before I took the step to retire, I did ensure I had a good plan to support my retirement and enjoy the fruits of many years of service.
Lovina: What kind of feelings did you go through about retiring? Do you worry about your health or is there anything that concerns you about retired life?
Pat: I have to admit that changing your life style leaves you with mixed feelings. Being a people-person, I knew I would miss my work friends and co-workers dearly. Fortunately, they talk to me every second day, it makes me feel good and still connected. Getting out to work also takes your mind off some of the normal life stresses. Adjusting to retired life is not easy; especially as I am an active person. So far, I have not worried much about my health for I believe worries take away your day’s strength. However, I am mindful of the fact that as you grow older; health issues can arise. But being a prayerful person, I am sure that my strong faith will keep me going, for I have learnt that when you totally trust your life in God’s hands, He does what is best for you.
Lovina: How do you spend your retired life? Do you follow a daily planner/schedule?
Pat: I planned my retirement so I could help take care of my grandchildren often and also enjoy my time with them. I have no fixed schedule – every day there could be new challenges. Caring for grandchildren keeps you on your toes, but, the pleasure you derive seeing them grow takes away the aches and pains and helps to stay fit and young. Otherwise, I am busy with chores around the house and other religious and social commitments.
Lovina: What do you like the most about retired life?
Pat: I manage my own time and am happy I have no boss to report to or deadlines to meet! I no longer have to wake up very early. Free from daily stress and hassle of the long commute involved with working downtown – no more TTC delays and disruptions! Though grandchildren can sometimes be demanding, I enjoy being with them. They in turn love the affection and attention they get from me.
Lovina: What advice would you give desis who are retired or closer to retirement?
Pat: It is important to plan your retirement well and financial security plays a major role. Accept that you will not receive your regular pay checks.
Plan to have sufficient funds to manage your daily and future needs.
If possible, try to be mortgage/debt free to avoid anxiety. However, what is most important is that you have a focused plan to keep active and busy.
Try to get involved in community activities; not only you will make a difference in someone’s life, but, you will have personal satisfaction.
Meet up with family/friends/relatives who you lost contact with due to your earlier busy schedules. Take utmost care of your health and most importantly, find the time to relax. Even though you are retired, life can still be busy. Do not let insecurity and fear of feeling lonely or unwanted creep in. Canada offers many facilities for retired people, but it is up to each one to find what is suitable for them.
Remember to fill your life with happy memories and enjoy your retirement!
The road to a better retirement for self-employed people
From NEWS CANADA
If you’re self-employed, you wear two hats – that of an employer and an employee.
You likely don’t have a company pension plan and must rely on your own initiative to fund your retirement.
New changes to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) will help you build a more financially secure retirement.
The CPP is being enhanced and the first step begins January 1, 2019. Most working Canadians will start investing slightly more in the CPP for higher CPP benefits when they retire. Once it is fully mature, the enhancement will increase the maximum retirement benefit by about 50 per cent.
As a self-employed individual, you will experience an increase in the contribution rate from 9.9 per cent to 11.9 per cent over the span of seven years.
Although you will need to bud-get more for the higher contributions, you will get some help at tax time.
When you file, you can claim a tax deduction for contributions made on the additional employee contribution.
The Canada Revenue Agency will update its payroll deduction tables and formulae to help you plan. Your 2019 T1 tax return package will also be updated to include information about the enhancement.
If you file electronically using commercial tax software that is certified for Netfile, or have a tax preparer complete and file your return using Efile, no changes in the filing process are required.
More information, including tables, formulae and other resources at canada.ca/cpp-enhancement-self-employed.