In Tales from the Golden Age, retirees talk about their spending, savings and whether life after work is what they expected.
Sal Borg, 69, Toronto
I retired in 2015, at age 61, after running a wholesale fruit and vegetable produce company, Sanci Tropical Foods, in Toronto’s Kensington Market. It was a family business started by my grandfather in 1914. My mother took it over in 1949, and I started working there in 1975 and began running the business in 1984. We sold it in 2015.
The new owners wanted me to work for them for two years to help with the transition, but I didn’t want to do it any more. I was burned out. For decades I would start work around 1 a.m. by heading down to the Ontario Food Terminal, the produce distribution centre. It was a grind, especially as I got older.
My mother, who passed away in 2019 at age 95, retired at age 60. When I turned that age, she kept bugging me to retire, but I needed another year to get my finances in order. I was able to retire partly from the sale of the business, but I also have RRSPs and earnings from running the business over the years. I follow the markets a bit, but I don’t have to. I have a financial adviser who handles that for me. I also took CPP starting at age 61. Some people recommend taking it later, but I invested it and have made more money than I lost by taking it early.
People talk a lot about the importance of transitioning into retirement, but the first morning I didn’t have to get up at 1 a.m. was enough of a transition for me. I slept in until 7 a.m. The second night I woke at 2 a.m. because I couldn’t sleep and started watching a movie on Netflix. I remember thinking, “I can stay up and watch this movie until 3:30 a.m. and then sleep until 8:30. It doesn’t matter.”
I was also lucky to have a hobby: I play guitar, write music and play in local bands. Two months after I stopped working, I grabbed two guitars – an acoustic and an electric – and a bunch of clothes, got into my SUV and drove down south to the U.S. For years I would go to open mikes and jam sessions all over the States, in cities such as Memphis, Austin and New Orleans, until the pandemic came along. I still jam at the Black Swan Tavern in Toronto and belong to a few bands. I get some cash for these gigs, but it’s mostly tips.
Retirement is great, but it can be a bit lonely sometimes. I’m divorced with three kids and one grandkid and have been in two long-term relationships since I retired. I’m single again and have been doing a lot of online dating. I’ve found that being in a relationship with somebody who’s not retired is difficult. It’s also difficult to date someone who doesn’t have children; they don’t see that your kids will always be more important than someone you just met. My advice: If you have a good partner, stick with them. Also, enjoy your children and grandchildren. Be good to them and they will be good to you, which is important as you get older.
As told to Brenda Bouw
This interview has been edited and condensed.