By Mark Venning, ChangeRangers.com
Special to the Financial Independence Hub
“We’re on a bit of a crusade to change the way our society thinks about retirement.” — Jonathan Chevreau & Mike Drak
Mike Drak and Jonathan Chevreau, co-authors of Victory Lap Retirement (published, October 2016) are not the first to head out on this crusade. Apart from the material on the larger subject of aging and longevity, in my library I must have at least 19 books, in addition to the stacks of reports, studies and new models on the subject of Retirement.
Over the twenty years in the career services industry, where I worked directly with business executives in their later life transitions – leaving the corporate crow’s nest, as I call it, I can appreciate where Mike and Jonathan are coming from in their take on this. I have produced three retirement programs since 2001, and in the process suffered from metaphor madness, developing novel ways of reframing the concept of retirement and our later life journey.
However, this Drak & Chevreau volume is a welcomed new addition to this crusade. The book, by way of its novelty, weaves the conversation from the threads of a concept called Findependence, as the cornerstone of a Victory Lap Retirement. So here we go. Rather than a traditional book review, here in this blog post, I present views of the authors as shared through interview questions with them in late October.
Mark’s Q: Your co-authored book, early on, takes a shot across the bow at the “financial media & financial services industries” in the way they persist to push “Retirement” as if it were some final destination. (There seems little shift between the 1970’s London Life’s Freedom 55, to Prudential’s 2016 Race for Retirement campaigns for example.) What one new key message should marketers take from reading Victory Lap that could become a differentiator in their marketing?
Mike: The industry is using the same commercials that they used 40 years ago. The only difference is that they are now in color. The world of retirement has changed significantly over the years and most people cannot afford nor do they want to live the lifestyle portrayed in their commercials.
Banks assume more money equals better retirement, which is wrong thinking. Banks are good with the investment piece but they need to become more involved with the lifestyle piece. How can you ever know if you have enough if you do not have a firm handle on what type of retirement lifestyle you want in retirement and what that lifestyle will cost?
Mark’s Q: At one point in Chapter 3, you make the point that: “Compounding the problem is the lack of financial education our children receive in school.” You also say in Chapter 4 that the importance of financial independence is a prerequisite to the new stage of life you call “Victory Lap Retirement.” Let’s play here. What do you think about an opportunity for you to design/deliver a “Findependence” course relatable to high school teenagers that didn’t use the word Retirement? What then would the main message sound like to them? Read more
By Robb Engen, Boomer & Echo
There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests postponing retirement – even by just one year – can lead to a longer, healthier life. The reality is that we’re living longer and saving less. Something has to give. But another year or two spent pushing paper in a cubicle is probably not the holy retirement grail we’ve been searching for.
Indeed, if you’re healthy and can afford to stop working, the idea is to find something else you’re passionate about and do that instead – whether it’s switching to a new career in an unrelated field, writing a book, starting a blog, or simply volunteering at your favourite charity. Call it your work-optional years.
Victory Lap Retirement
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
By Mike Drak
Friday July 29th will be a day that I will remember for the rest of my life. After thirty-eight years, I finally packed in my banking career. I suppose my co-author Jonathan would call this my Findependence Day!
To be honest, it will take some getting used to as my banking job played an important role in my life. It provided financial security for my family and gave me a good reason to get out of bed most mornings.
My career, like most careers, had its good and bad points. Overall though, it was a good ride and one that I will miss to some degree, but I had to leave in order to publish Victory Lap Retirement and create my blog.
Banks really don’t like it when employees write books or blogs because it might not align with the story that they are trying to convey. Banks get nervous when employees stand out and don’t fit in, when employees invent something that is outside the approved message.
Banks are very protective of their brand. They want the customer experience to be the same in every branch across the country. They want every employee to talk, walk and act the same. They desire a high degree of predictable sameness, as it’s easier to control.
Why banks still sell the old version of Retirement
This is not a bad thing at first blush, but it tends to stifle individual creativity, which is costly long term both to the bank and its customers. The danger is that you end up being like every other bank selling the same story and nothing much happens out of the ordinary. Maybe this is why the banks continue to sell the old version of retirement, as it’s easier to sell to the masses. Marketing to the few is not very cost efficient.