The Middle-Aged Guide to Growing Up: Turning Over The Odometer

Three piggy banks with retirement savings message

This year and the one that passed everyone I know turned 60. I remember the year everybody got married, 1985, and now, 30 years later, we’re all marking our three score.

At my little celebration, we hit a Bistro, and I had steak tartare and foie gras. On my wife’s 60th, we hit a bistro. I just spent four hours waiting for brunch in a fabulously overpriced bistro for my next door neighbour’s three score. It’s true, a lot of us come from the theatre, we fancy ourselves latter day de Beauvoirs and Camus’, sitting in the corner booth drinking café express and smoking Gauloises. I haven’t birthdayed at every bistro in Toronto, but I’m sure I will before the year is out.

Then the presents. What do you get someone who is 60? Drinkers are easy, just spend a lot. But wives? I got my wife a bracelet, and one for me, but 60 is probably the last birthday you want to publicly celebrate and memorialize until you’re at least 95, maybe 100. I used to buy my wife Lalique cats on significant anniversaries, but the cats kept knocking them over and chipping them. Cats are cute.

One of the important things that happens at 60 is you get your life’s earning and CPP contribution statement from Service Canada, so you can calculate your pension and whether to get it early. My earnings and contributions report was enlightening – it reminded me of jobs I’d forgotten I had, and of years I’d spent off the grid.

I made the choice to take my CPP early, at 60. I would get $200 more a month were I to wait five more years to 65, but, what will $700 buy then that $500 can’t buy now? A terabyte of data for the roaming package on my wristwatch? No, better collect now, I might get run over by a bus.

When I mention early CPP to my friends who are turning over the odometer, most are puzzled. Boomers do not see themselves as pensioners. Yet. My friends are starting to get tired of working, and some are winding down, buying boats or vacation homes, but none has retired yet.

My broker has handed off his key accounts, and his wife, the banker, is doing largely post career work now, but they haven’t moved to Florida full time yet. My neighbor, manager of a huge restaurant, is taking fewer shifts, and spending more weekends up north, but he’s still working. My friend the TV director is still busy as long as there are Olympics and hockey playoffs, but he’s getting awful fond of his yacht.

The point is, we’re not retiring, per se, we’re easing out. No “gold watch, clean out your desk, have a farewell lunch”. No, when our working lives end it’ll be with a whimper, not a bang. We probably won’t notice when it really happens, just awake one day to realize we aren’t working that day, or the next.

You have to be able to afford to retire to retire, though. My broker’s in great shape, so is the restaurant manager and the director. I raided my nest egg during the crash, though, and I’m going to have to work until I’m in a home, and maybe not even then.