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Lifelong learning

January 25, 2014

After a career in education that spanned four decades, Franka Lowe shares some of the lessons she learned when she decided to retire.

Born in Trinidad, Franka moved with her family to Montreal when she was 13 years old. When she completed her undergraduate degree, her mother, a teacher, asked Franka what she planned to do with her life.

"I told her I would like to travel," says Franka. "And my mother said, ‘You can travel, but only after you go to teachers' college.' You didn't argue with your mother, so I went. Afterwards, I needed to earn money and I started teaching."

Once Franka started, she didn't stop until almost 40 years later.

She spent the first nine years of her career teaching primary school in Montreal. During that time, Franka got married and had two sons. In 1981, she and her family relocated to Mississauga, Ont., where she continued to teach primary school. Eventually, Franka became a principal.

"I believe that every day you should learn something new. My career afforded me the opportunity to interact with many interesting people, parents and colleagues, who I could learn from. That's what I loved the most about working in education," says Franka.

In 2009, she qualified for an unreduced pension. "It hit me. This could be it. I started thinking about retirement, but when the time came to submit my letter of resignation, I couldn't do it. I wasn't ready."

Franka's not alone. Knowing when to retire is not just a financial decision; it's also an emotional one.

Words of advice

Are you thinking about retiring? If so, Franka offers these tips:

  • Start researching a few years in advance.
  • Sign in to our secure member website, and use the pension calculator to create and compare different scenarios.
  • Discuss your pension estimates with your family and write down any questions you have.
  • Factor in any major purchases or investments, a new car or home renovations for example, that are on the horizon.

"The pension calculator really helped me decide when a good time to retire would be. It helped to clarify the decisions and planning I had to do in those last few years leading up to retirement," says Franka.

Also, consider whether or not you plan to work part-time in retirement. If so, learn the re-employment rules.  If you're unsure whether the role you're interested in is considered re-employment, call and ask the experts. "I didn't want to work as a substitute teacher or go back into the classroom, but I did want to work with adults who are studying at teachers' college," says Franka.

"When I called the contact centre, the Pension Benefits Specialist spoke to me about my personal situation. She was very knowledgeable and I found the experience to be very reassuring."

In 2011, Franka decided it was time to call it a career. "Writing my resignation letter wasn't easy. Handing it in was even harder."

But, with the research she had done leading up to her decision, Franka knew exactly what to expect.