Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Trend Watch: Meet Two 60+ Canadians Who Are Choosing Work Over Retirement

The village of Hanstholm, in northwestern Denmark, may not be everyone’s idea of a dream destination when they’re in their 60s. With a population of approximately 2,100, this remote commercial fishing port is right on the frigid North Sea, but Brian Dickens, a 62-year-old from Parksville, British Columbia, doesn’t mind. He’s come for one thing only –  to retro-fit a commercial fishing boat so he can launch a new chapter of his career back in Canada.

 “Classic images of retirement don’t resonate with me. Working on new business projects keeps me feeling vital and engaged…that I’m doing something worthwhile. I never want to give that up.”

Dickens, who first ventured out on a commercial fishing boat at the age of 8, intends to extend his fishing career – not slow down. That’s why the Nanaimo native is determined to retrofit his older boat, known in the industry as a herring packer, and increase its capacity so he can take it out onto open ocean waters. That’s what brought Dickens to Hanstholm.

“You could say that this venture is borne out of economics. To retire you need to watch your money and I’ve never been good at that,” he says half-jokingly, “but it’s more than that. I just can’t see myself retiring and sitting in my living-room and not being active. I like the challenge of commercial fishing. I was born into it. It’s what I’ve been doing since I left school at 15. Even then I couldn’t sit inside a classroom.”

Brian Dickens opted for a new career rather than retire. Photo: Courtesy of Brian Dickens.

Dickens acknowledges that some of his friends have asked him when he’s going to retire. “I’ve no intention of retiring,” he says. “That’s what I tell people. What would I do? Join my pals on a golf course, trudge through the muck just to beat a ball around in the pouring rain? Nor am I planning to ‘slow down.’ Quite the opposite: I’m hoping this retrofit expands my business. If something is in your blood, if it truly drives you, why would anyone stop doing that? I’m extremely blessed. The fishing business has given me the option of working as much or as little as I want. And right now I plan to continue fishing.”

Toronto business executive David Morrison also plans to continue working. “I’ve no plans to retire – ever,” says the 63-year-old, who, after a 30-year career in finance is doing something completely different. In May 2018, he co-launched an app called FOOi, a digital application that facilitates peer-to-peer and peer-to-business financial transactions: “I had no experience whatsoever on technology start-ups. But I was fascinated with the cashless society we’re moving toward, and I had an idea that I wanted to act on.” And so he did.

“The classic images of retirement that we see in TV commercials – fishing, golfing, walking on a beach somewhere – have always struck me as somewhat trivial activities. Certainly, I like to hike, bike and ski – but doing any of that full-time wouldn’t keep me feeling vital and engaged. I want to feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. I don’t ever want to give that up.”

Not only is Morrison working on a new type of venture, he’s also spending huge chunks of his day in a working environment that’s far removed from his familiar world of finance: “I now spend most of my days surrounded by millennials. The oldest employee on my FOOi team is half my age. Some are the age of my children. In fact, one or two are friends of my own children. They come from a different working background from me – totally different. So I occasionally spend time managing workplace interactions, as well. It’s different from managing financial risks in the mortgage business.”

“I want to feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. I don’t ever want to give that up.”

Morrison had no experience developing an app. “I’m completely old school in terms of technology,” says Morrison. “Now I spend a lot of my day discussing front end, back end, and coding bugs. My original plan was to oversee the development of this app for a few months and then have someone else take over. But here I am overseeing a team of 12 of developers – with five of them working in my office on a daily basis.”

Embracing this “second career” has posed risks for Morrison. “I spent three decades of my life in my finance company engaged in secure transactions. There was a safety net to my business,” he explains. “And here I am at 63 working on a start-up venture that has no security. Either we’ll succeed or we’ll fail. There’s no in-between.”

Embracing new challenges is important to Morrison, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in his mid-50s. “I started my working life as a lawyer, a fairly safe career path, before I left to start up my own finance company, which I’ve run successfully for 30 years. And now I’m overseeing an app that will help equip consumers in the cashless society.”

Both Dickens and Morrison represent Canadians who are saying no to retirement because they enjoy working. One in five Canadians is now doing some kind of work, either full or part time, paid or unpaid, past age 65, according to the latest available Statistics Canada numbers. The number of post-retirement workers has doubled since 1995. While some continue to work because of economic reasons, others have made the choice to remain employed later in life.

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Doug O'Neill
Doug O'Neill
O’Neill, formerly Executive Editor of Canadian Living, writes on all manner of topics for a variety of Canadian publications – but has a preference for storytelling that gets to the heart of things. “Writing about journeys has always fascinated me,'” says contributor Doug O’Neill, “whether I’m scribbling about my own travels around the world or about other people’s inspiring journeys as they navigate from one life stage to another.”