Planning key to happy retirement

May 12, 2005, vol. 33, no. 2
By Diane Luckow



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Three times a year, SFU retiree Elizabeth Carefoot and her marine biologist husband Thomas enjoy a two-week, all expenses paid vacation aboard Celebrity cruise lines.

Three evenings a week, Elizabeth teaches Middle Eastern dance in White Rock, where the couple built their retirement dream home. She's also active in the community, organizing artists' salons, clothing exchanges, and volunteering.

Over the next 10 years, 579 SFU staff and faculty are scheduled to retire. Will they all be having as good a time? Not if they don't plan, says Elizabeth Carefoot, who was a featured speaker at a recent retirement planning seminar for SFU faculty and staff.

Take Douglas Cousineau, for example. The retired associate professor of criminology, a self-described “teaching addict,” refused to acknowledge his impending retirement and is just getting over the shock of it now, two-and-a-half years later.

“I went into retirement screaming like hell,” says Cousineau, who also spoke at the seminar. “I picked up some bits of teaching to keep my identity in shape, but I'm learning to give up the addiction to teaching.” He says his first positive retirement move was this spring when he enrolled in two undergraduate archaeology courses. “I'd encourage everyone to think about continuing the learning process,” he says. “As retired staff and faculty, we have enormous resources at SFU and no tuition fees.”

Carefoot took a different approach. She and her husband have always had a five-year plan and they used that approach for retirement, too, beginning with wise investments in real estate during the 1970s, which have left them now without financial worries.

Five years before retirement, the couple moved into their retirement dream home in White Rock, giving them enough time to make friends in the new community before retirement.

A year-and-a-half before leaving SFU, Elizabeth Carefoot took an extra day off without pay each week in order to begin volunteer work and make connections that would carry over into retirement. She began by volunteering for the SFU art gallery, sat on the Surrey public art gallery's advisory committee and volunteered in her new community. She also returned to work on a contract basis at SFU for several months, but is now fully retired. Then, several years ago, she and Thomas created a multimedia marine life presentation that they present on Celebrity cruise ships three times a year, in return for free cruises.

“I would do everything the same way again,” says ElizabethCarefoot. “I have a great life.”

Cousineau has some last words too. “Follow Elizabeth's advice."

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