All posts by Michael Drak

Time to stop following the Retirement herd

We are all social animals: we crave interaction and generally don’t like being alone. We crave that feeling of togetherness and being part of something bigger,  the added comfort and safety that comes with being part of a group or a  herd.

The herd protects individuals from being singled out, and in the animal kingdom provides safety from being killed by a predator.

Many people have developed a “herd” mentality in life deriving comfort by going with the flow and if everyone else is going in one direction they must know something that we don’t. It is easier not to complicate things by forging our own path based on what we learn or believe. What happens if we are wrong and the herd is right?

When it comes to retirement the “herd” has been doing this retirement thing for a long time. So they must be right, right?

I used to be a follower, part of the herd if you will. I was willing to put my fate in the hands of others and follow along blindly. Then I realized the retirement herd was heading in the wrong direction, and this wasn’t going to work for me. Let me explain.

Retirement worked when life expectancy was much lower

When the concept of retirement was created just over a hundred years ago, it worked.  The reason it worked was because life expectancy was much lower and if you were one of the lucky ones to reach the retirement finish line, you could expect to enjoy a couple of years in the proverbial “rocking chair,” watching the world go by.

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Me, retired? No way!

The other day I was at my local bank branch doing some business and the teller asked me how I was enjoying my retirement.

Hearing that surprised me but then I realized they had a message on their computer system that identified me as a retired employee of the bank.

For some reason I felt the need to defend myself and started to explain that I in fact was not retired, that I was busier than ever running my blog, selling my book, serving as a retirement coach and doing public speaking. But then I had a sudden change of heart and decided to stop what I was doing. I realized that defending myself was the OLDME raising its ugly head again and I don’t like OLDME anymore.

Label Me Anything But Retired!

The word retirement is being thrown around these days, describing so many things from the old style “full stop” retirement to everything but the kitchen sink. I believe lack of clarity is causing confusion for a lot of people these days.

Why should we automatically label someone retired just because they decided to leave a job which in my particular case lasted for 36 years? Continue Reading…

Why Baby Boomers like me can’t retire

Mike Drak

After having talked to numerous Baby Boomers lately, I’m convinced more than ever that the majority of we boomers really don’t want to retire, we just need a change, and some help figuring out what to do with the rest of our lives.

In this article I would like to share my thoughts on why some people feel the need for a significant change late in their careers and why traditional retirement is not the answer. I know these feelings because it happened to me. And I’ve been telling the story at a number of presentations Jonathan and I have conducted at various branches of the Toronto Public Library in recent weeks.

The photo shows  one such presentation at the York Woods branch on Victory Lap Retirement, followed by a Q & A session. I love doing these presentations, as it gives me an opportunity to present to my fellow boomers and find out what is going on out there in the real world.

I Started Feeling Antsy Late In My Career

There were a number of reasons for the change I made and here they are in no particular order:

1.) I became very good at doing my job. This naturally happens when you do the same job for twenty plus years. You get comfortable, there is little challenge and you plateau.

2.)  After 36 years of work I was tired of taking orders and being told what to do.

3.) I became bored with my job. That is what happens when you turtle and continue to play safe. I wasn’t learning anything new and I didn’t derive any satisfaction (happiness) from my job. The thrill was long gone and winning more sales contests and trinkets didn’t matter to me anymore. I remembered laughing a lot more earlier in my career. I knew I needed to laugh more before it was too late.

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In pursuit of Boomer happiness

Mike Drak and Heather Reisman

I was at my local Indigo bookstore the other weekend and look at who happened to stop by.

I’m really starting to believe in this karma thing as more and more chance encounters like this are happening to me since writing the book.

Through this chance meeting I had the chance to talk to Heather about Victory Lap Retirement and my concern that we had miscategorized the book by putting it into the personal finance/retirement section. Heather was kind enough to share her thoughts and now I’m convinced that our book should be in the self improvement section.

Not really a retirement book

Victory Lap Retirement is really not a book about retirement; in fact we make a strong case about the benefits of not retiring in the traditional sense. It really is a book about lifestyle design with the goal of helping people create their own low-stress healthy fulfilling lifestyle, one based on their own unique needs and wants. We know that through proper planning and intentional living, we can substantially improve the quality of our remaining years, which is not a bad way to go out when you think about it.

Stress is the main risk in our eyes and prolonged exposure to stress can really mess a person up and in some cases actually kill them. I don’t know if it’s just me but I’m seeing more evidence of this each and every day; examples seems to be everywhere. Is it just me or are you seeing it as well?

We discussed the role of stress in a recent blog post called “The Big Dip.”

Stress inversely correlated with Happiness

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The Big Dip in Financial Freedom

There is something very wrong with the work world today. It is far too common to find employees who are tired, over-worked, stressed out, and living in fear of an uncertain future.

As a result, people are eating too much, watching too much television, and complaining too much, often self-medicating with drugs and/or alcohol or taking prescription medication to cope with their stress.

How can it be that in North America, with two of the most prosperous societies in the world, people are taking more medications for anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders than ever before?

Blame it on the big dip.

The graph above represents a typical person’s (mine) working lifecycle. I call it the “big dip” as it’s only fair to recognize Seth’s influence on the development of the concept.

You will note two axises, the vertical one representing personal freedom and the horizontal one representing time spent in years. The graph isn’t to scale but it does get the point of the story across. Be warned, it might scare you: it gave me the jitters when I first drew it so you might want to sit down for this one.

Entry point A is when you leave school and start working, maybe in a “corp.,” like I did. It’s a happy time. Life is fun and exciting and you do not have any significant worries. You are finally making some real money for the first time. One could reasonably say a person at this point is financially independent. They carry no personal debt, their parents still provide them with a roof over their head and food on the table. Life is as simple as it could be. Work-Eat-Have Fun-Repeat.

Everyone’s goal at this point is similar. Work hard, get promoted and make more money. This was the path to success as taught to them by their parents and teachers and every kid wants to look successful in the eyes of their parents, right? Continue Reading…