So you’re retired. So what?

Originally published in Boomers & Beyond, March 2022

By Terry Carroll

If we don’t look at our hands, or our faces in mirrors, or if we don’t attempt certain things physically, it’s easy for people around my age (early to mid-70s) to feel much younger than they are.

There’s an old expression which covers this nicely: There’s no fool like an old fool.

The fool atop the mountain

Shrouded in the mists of time, back in the late 1960s and 70s, hippies sought enlightenment in far-off lands where wise men in robes regurgitated ancient wisdom. In reaction to these flower-power fads, wise man jokes became common:

A young person once asked a wise man, “What is the secret to a happy life?”

The wise man replied, “If you’re wrong and you say nothing, you’re wise. If you’re right and you say nothing, you’re married.”

A happy life

When you retire, a number of people will congratulate you. But it’s not clear why you are being saluted. It’s not like you completed a senior’s marathon or took gold in freestyle figure skating in Beijing.

Let’s hope the congrats don’t come because you now have the freedom to do nothing. Accomplishing diddly-squat can be much more difficult than it first appears. Having a purpose in life, a reason to get out of bed, may seem hard, but the opposite is true.

Taken to extremes

People like Jimmy Pattison, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger take this to extremes. Pattison, the Canadian founder of the Jim Pattison Group and one of Canada’s richest men, is apparently still working seven days a week at age 93. Americans Buffett (aged 91, net worth over $114 billion US) and Munger (aged 98, net worth $2.4 billion US) continue to work regularly, even though they have a pretty good idea where their next meals are coming from.

Closer to home, a male Facebook friend in his mid-seventies posted the following at year-end 2021. “This year I ran all but 14 days for a total of 1,320 miles (2,124km). In 1982 I ran 1,524 miles. Log total since 1979 – 47,656 miles. Just 2,148 miles from completing my second lap of the Equator.”

The comments on the post were all positive.

He seems exceptional, but why should that be? Why not look at the years between ages 70 and 90 as 240 months of living, rather than waiting around to die?

Here are some quick tips for moving that along:


Get your finances in order, if you can. Some 32% of Canadians aged 45 to 64 say they have no retirement savings. For success later in life, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to up that percentage.

On the other hand, millionaires next door

The average selling price for a home in St. Thomas in January was almost $700,000. All it takes is another $300,000 in RRSPs, RRIFs, TFSAs etc., and a lot of people are paper millionaires. What are these millionaires to do with their wealth? There’s a man in St. Thomas who each year donates everything above the basics of living to charities. He’s a happy man. It’s a model more of us could emulate.

Figure out your purpose

Volunteer work carries as much responsibility and takes almost as much energy as paid work, so that’s one way to put purpose and structure in your life. Or you may want to write poetry, paint landscapes, learn a language, attend university, rediscover your faith, play guitar like Keith Richards. Or get a job, full- or part-time. Lord knows, enough people are hiring.

Get at it

Wise man, the best day to start was 10 years ago. The second-best day is today.