In Tales from the Golden Age, retirees talk about their spending, savings and whether life after work is what they expected.
Laurie Armstrong, 75, Victoria
I retired at age 67 after a career as a litigator. I had my own law firm in Victoria. I wasn’t trying to escape; I loved my work, but I didn’t have a succession plan for the business, so I decided to close the doors. It wasn’t traumatic. It was a new phase I was happily heading into.
I had several interests to keep me busy in retirement. For instance, I have always been obsessed with building wooden boats. I always have a boat on the go, and I started volunteering at a tribal school here in Victoria, teaching kids about boat building.
When I turned 70, I took up Olympic-style weightlifting. I think the key to a successful retirement is taking on something that’s really hard, which for me was weightlifting. I believe it’s important to be strong. I had strong legs from cycling to work – 30 kilometres round trip for several years – but my upper body needed work.
I joined a gym and got a trainer. One day, I saw a young woman doing a snatch [one of two Olympic weightlifting movements alongside the clean and jerk], and I was blown away. I said to my trainer, “I want to do that.”
Now, I compete in the sport. I can’t win anything because I’m competing against twentysomething Hercules types, but I enjoy it. I’m just lifting small weights compared with many of the younger competitors, but they’re heavy for me. And I’m a litigator, so I don’t mind being the centre of attention. It’s fun; everyone is routing for me. It’s quite heartening, and the competition keeps me motivated.
I also wrote a couple of novels in retirement. They’re legal thrillers. I tried to find a literary agent. In the end, they’re sitting in a drawer. My novel-writing career is over, but I have no regrets. I think everyone has at least one novel in them, whether they get published or not.
I’ve been married for 52 years to a wonderful, smart woman. She is also a savvy investor and handles the finances. We have two adult children, a daughter in Los Angeles and a daughter and two grandkids in Kelowna, so we go back and forth there quite regularly. I’ve also biked to Kelowna from Victoria a couple of times across the Coquihalla Highway. That’s a big hill!
Retirement gives me a lot of freedom to do the things I’ve always wanted to do – and to try new things. I know a lot of lingering retirees who work as consultants or part-time, but doing it cold turkey worked for me. There’s a lot of fear of how people will fill the days, especially in professions such as the law, where people work 10 or more hours a day.
I’m not saying I have it all figured out but doing things to help others and getting healthy are good ways to start. Volunteering gives you purpose, a reason for getting out of bed, especially for people who worry about being irrelevant. Once you can afford to retire and have some interests to help fill the days, don’t wait.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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