By Sheryl Smolkin
Today I’m interviewing Michael Drak for savewithspp.com. He is an author, blogger and speaker based in Toronto and co-author of Victory Lap Retirement with Financial Independence Hub CFO Jonathan Chevreau. Thank you for joining me today, Michael.
Mike: Thank you Sheryl.
Q: First of all tell me, what made you decide to write this book?
A: The stress at work was affecting my health, and I was reminded of this each morning as I took my blood pressure pill. I began to look into the possibility of retiring and got my hands on every retirement book that I could. I found out that most of them were just filled with numbers and rules of thumb about how much money I would need in order to retire. None of them really told me anything about what I might actually do in retirement. I think Victory Lap Retirement fills that gap.
Q: What exactly does the phrase “Victory Lap Retirement” mean to you? How does it differ from full stop retirement?
A: To me Victory Lap Retirement means freedom. It’s freedom to do what I want to do when I want to do it. In contrast, full stop retirement means pulling back — disengaging, sitting on the sidelines and becoming a spectator. It wouldn’t work for me at this point in my life because I still have a lot of game left in me.
Q: Is Victory Lap Retirement essentially a synonym for an encore career or an encore job?
A: No, not really, because Victory Lap Retirement is all about lifestyle design. The goal is to maximize the quality of your remaining years by creating a low stress, fulfilling lifestyle based on your own unique needs and values. An encore career is really work either paid or unpaid. But it can be an important component of the victory lap lifestyle. Part of my own victory lap contains a component of paid work, which I view as my fun money to fund new experiences for me and my family.
Q: Your coauthor Jonathan Chevreau coined the expression “findependence,” which is a mash up of the word “financial” and “independence.” Why is findependence the cornerstone and prerequisite to victory lap retirement?
A: Having financial freedom is what allows you work and live on your own terms. In other words, you can do what you want to do with your time and energy, not what someone else on whom you are financially dependent says you have to do. In short, “findependence” equals personal freedom and freedom is what life is all about in the end.
Q: How can people calculate how much they’ll need to be findependent and then reach that objective? Read more
My recent blogs on Semi-Retirement seem to have struck a chord. After I wrote this online piece for MoneySense.ca: Semi-Retirement is the Future (and a version here on the Hub, under the headline The Next Boomer Wave: Semi-Retirement), I was interviewed by Peter Armstrong at CBC TV’s On the Money Show.
The context of the CBC’s Tips for Boomers segment was in part my new book Victory Lap Retirement, written with Mike Drak, who describes it as a “retirement book about NOT retiring.” The first of several excerpts ran in the Financial Post a week ago Monday, and the second on October 31st.
After the CBC segment aired, Peter published his own blog covering similar territory, which you can find under the headline You’re Never Going to Retire — and Here’s Why. He picked up on my statement that the Millennials are going to live a long time and therefore will have an 80-year investment time horizon. I mentioned that a few weeks ago, when I gave a talk to T.E. Wealth in Ottawa about financial advice for Millennials.
Long-lived Millennials need to be mostly in stocks
Citing the book The 100-Year Life (reviewed on the Hub here by Mark Venning of ChangeRangers.com), I suggested that anyone with an 80-year time horizon should be 100% in equities and certainly avoid fixed-income investments that pay virtually zero rates of interest net of inflation. I subsequently wrote a blog for Motley Fool Canada that came out of the T.E. Wealth session: it features an investment veteran in his late 60s who is himself still 100% in stocks and sees himself as having a 50-year time horizon even now. See Stock Pickers Rejoice: Markets aren’t Efficient, Investors aren’t Rational.
As I write an early draft of this blog, I am in Dublin, Ireland, at the midpoint of the second week of a two-week holiday. Readers may recognize this blog’s headline as the subtitle of the new book I’ve recently published, Victory Lap Retirement.
It was written with ex-banker Mike Drak, whose blogs have been regularly posted or republished at sister site, Financial Independence Hub.
I believe it was our editor, Karen Milner, who came up with this inspiring subtitle but whoever first articulated it, we all agreed on it once it came up. I often think of it when I’m working and really playing, or vice versa.
For example, right now I’m working on writing this blog while officially “Playing” at being on holiday. The ostensible reason for the trip was to tack on a week’s vacation to a business trip my wife took to attend the FIATA 2016 World Congress in Dublin. That’s Ruth on the extreme right of the photo, along with colleagues and a spouse at a reception at Dublin’s Trinity College.
Such “Work” came at the end of a solid week of being a tourist elsewhere in Ireland, with the couple with whom we’ve been travelling.
I suggested to them in jest that the job of being a “tourist” would be a tough one if it meant 49 weeks a year, eight hours a day of “touristing,” however much it might seem to be a dream job. Come the end of any week of touring historical sites, art galleries and such – much of it on one’s feet, either walking or standing – you’d greet the arrival of the weekend and the cessation of tourism for a few days with some relief!
Playing while you Work
So that’s an example of working while you play. What of the opposite: Play while you Work? Well, this is quite common as well, as anyone who has used an office computer to sneak a peek at Facebook can well relate to. In fact, Victory Lap Retirement describes the four-hour day that I used to write about when I was fulltime at the Financial Post. While many employers may believe they are getting seven or eight hours a day of productivity from their workers, you could argue that a few hours of that is preliminary or post-work activity that’s not really the core activities for which they’re being paid.
I don’t like to admit it, but over the years and due to circumstances largely beyond my control, I have turned into a skeptic.
I wasn’t born that way, but who here can blame me for turning into one with all the crazy stuff going on in this world? Today people seem to say anything they want. They just make stuff up. If you want proof of this, just watch the race for the presidency in the US. Enough said.
I discovered I was a skeptic one day while drinking bottled water. I used to get clean drinking water at several places in or outside my house. I just had to pick up the hose and there it was, as much as I wanted and best of all, it was free. I think we can all agree that when healthy things are free that’s a pretty rare and good thing, especially these days.
But things changed after I married the Contessa and became “sophisticated.” Water was no longer free and I began a new routine of driving to the grocery store to buy bottled water. It didn’t stop there, because I now drink a particular brand of water called “Smart Water,” probably not a very smart thing to do as it costs more than regular bottled water.
Have you read about what’s inside your bottle of water? The nutrition label is all zeros, because there’s nothing in it besides water.
It’s incredible how advertisers have been able to convince us to start drinking bottled water when we all have free clean water to drink at home. I would love to meet the person who came up with the idea that we need to drink eight 8-ounce bottles of water a day in order to stay healthy.
In North America bottled water is a $170 billion dollar industry. I don’t know where all this bottled water is coming from, but I can’t get this image out of my head of a couple of people sitting in a bathtub somewhere filling up water bottles. That’s what being skeptical does to you.
Beware The Spin Doctors
All joking aside, it’s important to understand advertisers have over the years developed the ability to put a spell over us. They can make us believe something is good for us when it really isn’t, as with bottled water, or even when that thing is harmful. A good example is how they used to manipulated us into accepting cigarette smoking was safe, cool and even sexy. Even now I cringe when I think about it.
Back in the day, cigarette companies were worried about how the growing health concerns over smoking would negatively affect sales. How they duped the public into thinking cigarette smoking was safe is just incredible, if not criminal. The spin doctors knew people trusted their doctors and would follow their advice. They began to use medical research and physicians to convince the public that cigarette smoking was not harmful. They advertised that cigarettes were “physician tested” and “approved.”
One of the most famous campaigns was the “more doctors” campaign for Camel cigarettes. It stated that more doctors smoke camels than any other cigarette. It made cigarette smoking seem safe, which it wasn’t. The reason they could truthfully say that most doctors smoked Camels is that the company was giving away free camels to all the doctors who smoked.
You see more and more examples of this type of manipulation every day. Is fracking really safe for the environment? Weapons of mass destruction anyone?
Remember, everything is created for a reason
By Michael Drak
How did the Victory Lap concept originate? I smile every time I think about the fact that Jonathan and I have written a retirement book about not retiring. I know it’s weird, but weird seems to work in today’s world …
It all started about five years ago: the day I woke up and realized I didn’t want to do my corporate job anymore. Thinking like this was strange for me because I had always liked my job. I was good at it and it paid well, providing security and a good living for my family.
But truth be told, over the last few years the job was starting to have a negative effect both on my health and on my personal well-being. The stress of performing at a high level year in and year out was getting to me. I was reminded of this every morning, when I took my blood pressure medication.
For a long time I hadn’t been taking proper care of myself. I wasn’t in a good spot mentally or physically and was out of balance. I had been so caught up in the competitions, titles, and salary increases along the way in my career that I had lost track of who I was in the process.
Material success doesn’t guarantee happiness
I had bought into the idea that material success would eventually bring me happiness, but believe me on this, it doesn’t! I really didn’t know what would make me happy, I just knew that I didn’t like how I felt anymore. I used to laugh a lot more and I didn’t understand why that had stopped. I yearned to get rid of that nagging feeling and the sense that something needed to change. I had to slow down the pace of life and get out of the rat race.
But what was I going to do? Was retiring my only alternative? And if I did retire, to what would I be retiring? I had no idea, but I knew in my heart that a full-stop retirement just wasn’t in the cards for me: I get bored easily and the thought of possibly spending more years in retirement, with nothing to do, than I had spent in my working life scared me a little—no, make that a lot. I didn’t want my story to be, “He went to school, married, worked for a company for thirty-plus years while raising a family, then retired.” I had worked and sacrificed too much over the years to have it all end abruptly like that. My corporate job had served its purpose, but I wasn’t done yet and I knew my best days were still ahead. I wanted more — much more — out of life.
In my search for answers I visited the local library and read every retirement book I could get my hands on. Most of them were limited to the financial aspects of retirement. But then I was lucky to get my hands on a copy of Ernie Zelinski’s book How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom that You Won’t Get from Your Financial Advisor.
Zelinski’s book sparked it