Photo: Property of Heather Setka

See those two crazy kids. They’re my olds, and this photo was taken in 1972 – in their first year of marriage. Since then, they’ve had three daughters (who’ve provided two grandkids, so far, for serious spoiling), several different career and job changes between them, a big move from Saskatchewan to Alberta in 1990, and many financial gains and losses.

They retired last week. They – but especially my dad – have anticipated not-working since they were about 40.

We were out for dinner last week, and I started questioning them about whether or not they’re ready. As in, are they financially prepared to live without employment income for a significant period of time? Say, another 25 to 30 years? (They’re both well below the current Canadian life expectancy of 80 years.)

My boyfriend was with us, and he told me afterwards that he empathized with them. He’s been on the receiving end of such interrogations from me, so he knowns the trapped animal feeling they inspire. Perhaps I overstepped the boundaries I should have with my elders. However, I reserve the right because:

a) they grill me about my financial life all the time (when I broke up with my daughter’s father, the first thing my dad said was, “OK, so how do you plan to support yourself now?”)

AND

b) if they’re not able to last it out financially, the responsibility will fall to me and my sisters.*

My parents don’t love when I write about them – especially in regards to their financial life – so I won’t go into much detail. I will say that I believe they’ll be OK. They sold their house, and they’ve been saving.

They’re lucky too. They’re from the generation that can retire on their real estate investments (aka selling their primary home). They’ve both paid into the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP), and they’ll also have Old Age Security (OAS) to add to the pot when they turn 65.

But us – you and me? We’re not so fortunate.

For one, our homes are not investments. They’re debt. And OAS? Well, I’ve heard since I was 13 that there won’t be anything left for us once the Boomers burn through it. That may or may not be true, but it’s a sobering thought. With the changes slated for 2023, the age of eligibility will rise to 67. Who knows what else will happen to it before we’re ready to retire? The age of OAS might be well into our 80s – especially if life expectancy keeps increasing. CPP will save your ass, you say?  According to Service Canada**:

Here’s an example of a monthly retirement pension: If you have lived and worked in Canada most years between age 18 and 65 and earned about the average Canadian wage ($39,100 in 2002), at age 65 you would receive a CPP retirement pension of about $788 a month.

A cool $788 a month sounds like sweet livin’, hey.
So, here it comes, my friends. (You knew it was coming, didn’t you…) Anyone who isn’t saving for their golden years is somewhere between delusional and downright dense. I’m sorry. I don’t usually resort to name-calling, but I’m worried about you and I want your attention.

We’re not nearly as obsessed with retirement as the Boomers are. We are lucky in that we’re allowed to pursue our dreams. Unlike the Boomers, who had to work hard for their young families, we have the privilege of delaying adulthood until well into our 30s. We get to “follow our bliss”, as Joseph Campbell said. The only people I know my age or younger who are fixated on retirement are also the same people who talk about winning the lottery.

We’re not in a rush to quit our dream jobs. Many of us are still trying to get them. What we need to build are funds to care for ourselves in the event that we are no longer able or willing to work. The government isn’t going to take care of us. Maybe – if we’re good to them – our families and/or friends will. But ultimately, our well-being is our own responsibility.

Even after this little pep talk (did you have the urge to gnaw off your arm, just to get away?), you might still be intent on “living in the moment” and believing it will “all turn out in the end”. I guess you can always hope for the Zombie Apocalypse. Either way, you’ll be foraging for food.

~HS

* I don’t have a problem with this, in theory. I just want to be fair-warned if it’s coming my way.
** For more terrifying news, visit the Service Canada retirement planning site.

Are you sure you’re ready to retire?

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