How this former food industry business owner is finding new identities in retirement

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Since retiring a little more than a year ago, Tom Mitchell has become more active in the Calgary community, including serving on the board of a local lawn bowling club.Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

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In Tales from the Golden Age, retirees talk about their spending, savings and whether life after work is what they expected.

Tom Mitchell, 69, Calgary

I retired in April, 2023 after 40 years of running my own manufacturers’ agent firm. It’s a sales force for food service equipment manufacturers in Western Canada for factories across North America and Europe.

I had a succession plan for several years before retiring, which saw my daughter and her husband take over the company. She always loved the business; she used to come with me on sales calls when she was six years old. She then worked in the business for 13 years before taking it over last year. I am still a strategic adviser to the business, but she runs the show. I also have two other kids; one is in university, and the other plays in a band.

The first few months of retirement were like a holiday. My wife and I travelled a bit, but she is 12 years younger than me, runs her own successful business and is finishing her MBA, so she has a busy life. Like many men who retire before their wives, I became the house husband, responsible for most of the cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning, which I’m comfortable with because I want to support her and her business.

I’ve also become a lot more active in my community. While working, I was part of a group that helped to build a lawn bowling club in downtown Calgary, and I’m on the board. I’m also chair of the board of the Manufacturers Agents for the Foodservice Industry, and more recently I became the Canadian chief ambassador for the Burnt Chef Project, an organization in the U.K. that provides mental-health support and education for the hospitality industry.

The challenge with retirement is giving up your identity and finding new ones. After 40 years, I can no longer say I’m a business owner, which was hard to get used to at first. I also noticed that some former colleagues have stopped talking to me now that I’m retired, which has been disappointing. Maybe they feel they can’t relate to me now, or I let them down by leaving the grind. It’s like I’m dead to them now. It’s created a feeling of loss that I’ve had to mourn. However, I’ve gone out and made some new friends through other activities and have met some really interesting people.

As for our retirement plan, my wife and I have worked with a financial adviser for about 20 years. I don’t have a pension plan as a business owner, so I had to create my own. I have a business investment account and I’m concerned about how the federal government’s recent increase in the capital gains tax will affect me and other small corporations. I think it will impact a lot more people than the government suggests.

I also have a registered retirement savings plan and receive my Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits. The market’s ups and downs are part of that plan, so we don’t worry about that. Inflation has been a concern, but it seems to be retreating.

My advice to others approaching retirement is to try and let go of the titles you had while working and find new identities. It’s time to put your feet up, relax, and enjoy life after decades of hard work. Be open to this new chapter and do things that make you and your loved ones happy.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Are you a Canadian retiree interested in discussing what life is like now that you’ve stopped working? The Globe is looking for people to participate in its Tales from the Golden Age feature, which examines the personal and financial realities of retirement. If you’re interested in being interviewed for this feature and agree to use your full name and have a photo taken, please e-mail us at: [email protected]. Please include a few details about how you saved and invested for retirement and what your life is like now.

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