All posts by Michael Drak

Introducing the inaugural winner of the Victory Lap Retirement [VLR] Award

Author Ernie Zelinski

Picking the first winner of the VLR [Victory Lap Retirement] Award was easy for me. Some might consider me a little biased, but how could I not give the award to my friend and mentor Ernie Zelinski?

After all it was Ernie’s books How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free and The Joy of Not Working that basically salvaged my life and gave me the courage to leave a 36-year banking career that was slowly killing me.

If I had read Ernie’s book earlier, I would have probably exited my corporate job even sooner than I did.

Ernie is an interesting guy, who learned early in life that he wasn’t cut out for the corporate world.

He’s a true free spirit, always has been, always will be and I just love his personal story. At the age of 29 he bailed (some might say was fired) from his job as a professional engineer. I say bailed because subconsciously we sometimes do things that will end up giving ourselves the result that we really want, as in “I know if I do this they will probably fire me” and in Ernie’s case they actually did.

In Ernie’s own words: “I Truly believe that had I not left corporate life, I would either be dead today, or suffering from some serious stress-induced illness.” Yours truly was also on this path. Thanks for showing me the way Ernie!

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Considering a Sale Leaseback on a principal residence

Quiet street with new houses and condo buildings on the background.This idea came to me while away fishing and the more I think about it the more appealing it becomes.

Sale leasebacks are common in the commercial property arena but I can’t recall seeing it discussed with respect to residential property.  I googled “sale leaseback residential property” and was pleasantly surprised to find that some people are already doing it.

Based on what I know, and my own particular situation, here is how it should work in theory.  My wife the Contessa would like to live downtown by the waterfront in Toronto one day. Austin is our only son still living with us, with our other two boys somehow managing to escape. So when Austin eventually, leaves the house will be largely empty. There is a good chance that Austin will move into residence in downtown Toronto when he goes to university in three years.

My mother, who is 92, is in a nursing home close to my house and I wouldn’t consider moving while she is there. Why move, complicate my life further and create unnecessary pressure?

My idea is to sell in the spring if residential real estate prices stay high and the market stays hot. I would negotiate a minimum five-year lease, which will allow me ample time to simplify and de-cumulate, getting rid of a lot surplus stuff accumulated over the years.

My Options

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Financial Independence, Zen and the Art of Wealth

zenw_fr_500_773I was recently asked to review a new book, Zen and the Art of Wealth, by Warren MacKenzie. It’s the story of two friends who chat while one helps the other build his drystone wall.

It’s a good book and reminded me of some important life lessons that I had forgotten over the years. The book also triggered some memories about how I was first exposed to the world of Zen.

My first exposure to Zen was as a child, when I watched the TV show “Kung Fu” starring David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine. In the first episode, Caine is accepted for training at a Shaolin monastery, where he grows up to become a Shaolin priest and martial arts expert. Caine fights for justice, protects the underdog and has a strong sense of social responsibility, something that is sadly lacking today. Flashbacks were often used to reveal specific lessons from Caine’s childhood training in the monastery, from his teachers: the blind Master Po and Master Kan.

I loved the lessons from Caine’s training in the monastery and those lessons have stuck with me for some reason over the years: Continue Reading…

Time: your most valuable asset

Everyone is born with an expiry date; the problem is that date is kept hidden from us, and when it happens, it just happens. But everyone also has a best-before date, a date up to which you are still physically able to do most things you enjoy: studies have shown this period can be influenced to a large extent by a person’s lifestyle.

When I think about the word “retirement,” and my definition for retirement is admittedly very narrow, I tend to think about that period that lies after a person’s best-before date up to their expiry date. This is the period where a person is no longer capable of being independent, and are dependent on others for care and support for their remaining years.

My main focus in my own Victory Lap is to make good investments of my time to create an optimal lifestyle with the goal of pushing back as far as possible my own best before date.

Each day has only 24 Hours – Use them well!

It’s important to understand how limited our hours are on this planet and to get a good feel for the problem watch the You Tube video “You have 28,835 days. Here’s how you will spend them.”

The video was a real eye opener for me. After watching it, I began to really appreciate the value of my remaining time. I promised myself  I would take the appropriate corrective actions, but habit change is never easy and it is a work in progress for me. Please be assured that I will talk more on this important subject in future posts.

It takes ten years to become an overnight success

One day at a yard sale, I bought some old poker chips with the intent of using them to help track the time invested in pursuit of some of my goals. I came up with this idea after reading the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell and his chapter on the 10,000 hour rule, which is the hours of practice required to achieve mastery in anything.

A key component of my Victory Lap is the job I created for myself (my reason for getting out of bed in the morning) and creating the VLR community. To succeed, I need to improve my writing, blogging and public speaking skills. I also need to get healthy again so I will have the energy to get it all done.  I have committed to investing 10,000 hours on this project, which equates to 1,000 hours per year over a 10-year period.

Those poker chips I bought? I counted out 520 chips, which represent the number of weeks covering a 10-year period and keep them in a glass jar in my home office. Each Sunday night after reviewing what I accomplished with my time that week I throw that week’s chip away and replace it with another one from the jar.

Watching that jar of chips shrink over time makes me focus on the important things in my life. It creates awareness especially as I carry the current week’s chip around in my pocket. When I hold it, it reminds me to focus on doing what I need to do in order to make things happen.  Sometimes I might write something on the chip to serve as a theme for the week. It helps me to focus on what’s important and to forget about the rest.

The most important decision that you make each day is how you are going to invest your time. If you can’t see a reasonable return from your time investment don’t make the investment period.

Drak 2014Mike Drak is an author, blogger and speaker based in Toronto. He can be reached at michael.drak@yahoo.ca. Victory Lap Retirement, co-authored with Hub CFO Jonathan Chevreau, is now available for is now available for orders online. It’s also available now as a Kindle e-book, and on KoboThe paperback edition will be available in bookstores in the second week of October. This blog is reprinted from Mike’s site with permission.  

The Great Retirement Con Game

many water bottles on blue backgroundI 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

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