When I was 25, I thought retirement meant that at age 65, we get a gold watch and then go home and drive each other crazy. I’d contributed to my RRSP since I was 27 and after a while, I forgot about it. However, in my late 30’s, the bottom dropped out of my life and changed what I thought retirement looked like.
First my parents, ages 60 and 67, and a sister, age 45, died from stomach cancer and heart disease. It left me reeling. How do you plan for the future when your DNA is so flawed? Every day began to feel more precious.
Second, my beautiful daughter was struggling with addiction, despite all the love we gave her. There was some new catastrophe that came up every day that made it almost impossible for our family to function.
The seeds were planted for a life to be lived urgently and joyously. Consequently, after 22-years, I left a successful, but unsatisfactory marriage. I finished a degree in Anthropology. I was single for five years. Then, like waking from a deep sleep, I fell in love again.
I also had an epiphany. There was so much of my life I had no control over. I knew that before, but it really hit me that I had to focus on the things I actually had control over.
I got remarried, I opened a small costume business (which I had long dreamed of), I sold my house, and we began building an arts and crafts home. After the house was built, we intended to sell it, retire, move to Salt Spring Island, and use the proceeds to sail the Caribbean for two years.
Then, we became parents again. Yes, parents.
My daughter and her boyfriend could not cope with parenting, so we stepped in. In 2016, we became legal custodians of a bouncing, fragile five-year old. Our ideas about retirement were turned upside down.
Despite everything that had been happening, we still made every effort to contribute what we could to our RRSPs, but because our situation was unique, we made it a priority to talk with an advisor at our local TD branch.
My husband loved chatting about the different stock portfolios, but I was more interested in investment stability. Most importantly, we talked about how much annual income we’d need to live comfortably and when we hoped to retire. Our advisors listened to our hopes and goals and created a plan to help us move towards the retirement we dream of.
Our advisors also listened thoughtfully as we laid out new retirement desires. They agreed that while most people put money into their investments, ultimately it’s there for whatever that stage of life means to you. They said that since we had great home equity, the best plan was to invest in my spouse’s RRSP. My lower income was then supplemented with withdrawals from my RRSP. We also started to deposit as much as we could afford into separate RRSPs, each with its own unique portfolio. The important thing is that now, I’ll be able to count on that money for whenever my retirement happens. If you want to play with your numbers, TD has a cool online retirement calculator tool you can play with.
It sounds cliché, but there is nothing better to invest in than yourself and your family. The money that I have gratefully accumulated since I was 27, now supports my life choice of writing and costuming and a child who is eager to embrace all life has to offer. It means camping trips and swimming lessons, pizza days, bedroom furniture, books, clothing, and vacations with Grammie and Pappy.
No one knows what the future will hold, but we feel good about it. Because we always kept retirement planning on our minds and had such great experiences with our advisors, we're more confident that whatever life looks like after our granddaughter graduates, we will be #RetireReady.