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  • Golden Years not so bright for retirees

    Everyone anxiously awaits retirement. We have visions of spending our Golden Years golfing every day and spending time at some exotic island with margarita in hand. None of us have any idea what the realities of retirement are.

    First of all living expenses are so high that most retirees would find living within their budget on government pension is a juggling act. Unless you have been wise enough to save extra funds in RRSP, GICs or other form of investment, you will find that you will have to dip into your savings to make ends meet. The government knows this but there priorities are quite different and increasing pension or giving rebates to seniors is not a priority item.

    A report by the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. revealed that in Metro Vancouver, three out of five women over 65 live on a total income of less than $25,000 a year. The report also indicated that, the number of seniors still working for a pay cheque has increased to 85,000.

    I recently bumped into a senior at a Dollar Store who was fishing for bargains. He was filling his shopping cart with cans of soup – his usual dinner -which were cheaper than the grocery or departmental store. I guess his next stop would be the bakery for bread.

    The favourite place of retirees is the neighbourhood coffee shop. Whether it’s Don’s Diner or Tim Hortens, seniors regularly frequent their neighbourhood coffee shop to socialize, exchange news and pass their time. Whether you live in a small town or in a city, this trend seems to be prevalent. Seniors would exchange the town’s news and gossip. One of my young reporters always found coffee shop visits beneficial, as he would get news tips from seniors.

    For seniors themselves, neighbourhood coffee shop visits are also emotionally better as they have someone to talk to instead of locking himself or herself alone in their apartments.

    Many people when they retire don’t know what to do with their time. They are shocked when retirement comes all of a sudden. You have to plan your retirement, financial or otherwise. It’s important to have hobbies ready to plunge in when the time comes. Be it gardening or sewing or something else. Retirement will give time to fulfill and enjoy your hobby to the fullest. A friend of mine who retired last year had these wise words to give: “Now that I am retired, I have all the time to do things that I didn’t have time to do when I was working.”

    I retired as publisher of two weeklies and from active newspaper work in 2005. I was lucky to get a part-time job with a Calgary daily newspaper as a copy editor, which kept me very busy and intellectually occupied. However, the hours of work didn’t suit me so I had to resign. The fortunate part of being a journalist is that while you were working fulltime, your job included writing stories, features or editorials. After retiring, I found that my hobby was also based on writing. Hence, since retirement, I was able to publish a book, write regular columns for newspapers and work on another book, which is almost ready for publication. All this keeps me busy but more importantly mentally occupied.

    The down side of retirement is that close relatives and friends will start taking advantage. They think retirement means you have nothing to do and that you have a lot of time on your hands. So many times, between my wife and I, we are asked to “baby-sit” the cleaning lady who comes to clean the house or let the phone or cable guy into my son’ apartment. Usually the phone and cable staff don’t give you the exact time. “We’ll be there between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.,” is what you are told. They must assume that either you are unemployed or unimportant so that you can waste your time waiting for them. This usually means that most of your day is gone for something that would take not more than half an hour or so.

    Then there are aunts and uncles who call on you to drive them to medical appointments or to Edmonton to see a relative. Frankly, I don’t mind taking them to medical appointments but going to Edmonton to see a relative is a little bit too much – unless of course the relative is very sick or dying.

    Many people leave traveling until they retire. My advice is travel whenever you can because who knows what types of illnesses and weaknesses you may have if you leave it too long. As long as you are strong and your limbs can carry you, undertake traveling and have fun while doing so. My wife and I have pledged to take a vacation every year to some interesting places. So far, we have been able to fulfill our plans without any problems. I would urge everyone to do so and enjoy. While I am on the topic, this would be my last column until mid-May as next week we are off to England and India for a long rest on the beach. See you in May, goodbye!