Name: John Fleck
Retired since: March 2013
Former employer: Town of Ajax
Original answers have been edited for length.
Hi John! Tell us a bit more about yourself and where you grew up.
I grew up in the Orangeville area. My parents owned and operated a grocery store in Tottenham. I graduated from what is now Wilfrid Laurier University (then Waterloo University College) with a psychology major and business minor. I always had my heart set on becoming a chartered accountant; however, in my first-year exams, I could never get my assets to balance with my liabilities on any of my balance sheets, so the transfer to psychology made more sense.
How did you spend your career?
Growing up in a grocery store environment allowed me to become familiar with retail, so the retail sector seemed like good fit to start my career. I began working for Sears, and spent 27 years there, in various roles across the country, before moving to the Town of Ajax. There, I worked in human resources – starting as the manager and then moving to a director position. One of my career highlights at the Town was helping to introduce a flexible benefits plan that allowed employees to select the benefit options that best worked for them.
And now the other chapter of life … retirement! How was the transition from your career to retirement? Do you have any advice for fellow retirees or people approaching retirement?
I retired from the Town of Ajax after 17 years – in February 2013. After a combined 44 years in the workforce, I figured it was time to retire! I was 65 at the time and thought it would be a good idea to start volunteering. So, I called our local hospital, the Ajax Pickering Hospital, and met the director of volunteering, and I started my first volunteer shift as assistant director of volunteering on March 1 (the day after I retired!). So, my first piece of advice: find something to do, and do it right away. And my second piece of advice is to take some time while you are still at work to look for opportunities that are aligned with your interests and passions.
Your volunteer role at the hospital sounds so rewarding. What was that like?
Shortly after starting as assistant director of volunteering, I was promoted to director. I volunteered three days a week and managed 222 volunteers who performed duties in 21 departments. In 2017, our team volunteered over 36,000 hours. I volunteered for five years at the hospital and then retired from that work.
So how do you spend your time now? Do you still volunteer?
Volunteering is an important part of my life; I have something to do that keeps my mind and body active, and I’m giving back to the community. I was previously vice president of the board for a local women's shelter and recently returned to that because it’s a worthy cause. I also volunteer there a couple of days a week.
Like some other OMERS retirees, I also volunteer with the Municipal Retirees Organization of Ontario (MROO). As former public sector employees, we are so lucky – lucky to have the OMERS defined benefit pension plan, which provides retirement income for life. Make sure you take the opportunity to really get to know your pension and the savings opportunities that are exclusive to members, such as Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs). Attending an OMERS information session
is a great first step.
You speak very highly of OMERS AVCs. How have they helped you?
OMERS created AVCs as an additional way for members to save, and it’s something that I took advantage of. Many of us are familiar with RRSPs. Well, AVCs are like that in many ways, but they receive the same rate of return as the OMERS Plan. AVCs have helped us save, so we can do the things we enjoy in retirement.
How does having an OMERS pension fit into your retirement?
Retirement and my OMERS pension have allowed Anne and me to pursue our vacation of choice, which is cruising. We try to do two a year. We do one in the late winter, generally to the Caribbean, and one in the summer to the Mediterranean.
What are some other highlights of retirement?
Our grandkids are a huge part of our life. We have a 15-year-old granddaughter, Maddi, and 10-year-old grandson, Miller (and of course their mom), who provide endless joy. We’re so proud of them and spoil them, but that’s what grandparents do! All in all, we are loving retirement and when it is your time, I wish you all the best in whatever you decide to do!