By Michael Drak
Special to the Financial Independence Hub
Recently the book Jonathan and I co-authored — Victory Lap Retirement — was discussed on BNN. Since I’ve described this with tongue in cheek as a “retirement book about not retiring,” one of the first questions asked by the show’s announcer was “will a person earn less money during their Victory Lap?”
I was not surprised by the question, as it comes up in almost every seminar we give on VLR but every time I hear it I tend to feel a little sad about what we have become.
Why are we always so fixated on making more money so we can buy more stuff in order to prove to others that we are worthy? Wouldn’t it be better if we focused our attention on making a more meaningful life? Or as Jonathan’s Hub slogan puts it, “While You’re Still Young Enough to Enjoy It.”
We believe most people need to keep working but we need to do work for reasons other than for just more money. The opportunity to help somebody, the opportunity to make a difference and the opportunity to create a legacy. We need to stop defining the importance of our work in terms of how much money we make or by how much stuff we can buy because of it. We need to start thinking and living differently.
For most of our lives we have been told what to do. We are taught by our schools and parents how important it is to work hard and get good grades so we can get a good job that pays lots of money. Money was and still is the focal point for most people and that way of thinking needs to change.
The deal with the “Corp”
Starting our careers we made a deal with the Corp, trading our freedom and dreams in exchange for the lure of security. The Corp said, “Do what you are told, work hard and we will provide your family with a good living. If you continue to play your cards right in forty years you will retire with an excellent pension and a beautiful home fully paid for.”
The corporate world’s definition of success was programmed into our heads from day one, based on a person’s wealth, status and the accumulation of material things. We were taught the importance of following our bosses’ order; if we conformed and became a useful part of the system we were awarded with prizes and shiny trinkets (which take up a significant part of this writer’s garage). The lure of the shiny trinkets and prizes resulted in us forgetting that true happiness is derived from achieving our dreams, our personal goals and having a loving family.
For a period of time everything worked out the way it was supposed to in accordance with the deal that was offered and accepted. The Corp demanded a high price for its promises of safety and wealth. It demanded that we give up who we were, became compliant, obedient and accept their version of the dream.
While it came at a high personal cost the deal with the Corp seemed like an acceptable one for a while, as most of us crave safety, predictability and a job with a reasonable future. One day we realized the rules had changed and that working for the Corp was no longer normal nor safe. People went into full blown survivor mode trying to survive the new competitive challenges, with restructurings, downsizing and mergers becoming commonplace. Even long-term boomer employees and those with outstanding track records went on the chopping block. “That business” as they are fond of saying.
Boomers cling to beliefs that no longer are true
Today there is no reward for loyalty to a Corp but many boomers still cling to expectations and beliefs that no longer hold true. They continue to go to jobs that no longer excite them; in fact in many cases a job that is slowly killing them but they continue to hang on until they can begin to collect that fat pension promised so many years ago.
We disciplined ourselves to stay within our comfort zones and become invisible so one day we could reach an artificial finish line created by someone else and then stop and do nothing. Believe me: spending lots of time doing nothing sucks bigtime!
So why try to hold on and do something that you do not like doing? The frustration that you feel about the Corp is only going to increase so why wouldn’t you choose to do something else while you still can? Life is empty without risk, without change, without passion and something to work towards. Why squander an opportunity to do something exciting by not taking action? Choose to do work that matters to you not work just for money.
VLR provides hope for the future
VLR [our acronym for Victory Lap Retirement] gives us hope for the future; without hope we eventually just give up and perish. There is hope when you realize you hold the answer for yourselves and VLR is that answer.
Why do it? Because you know inside that you must and more importantly because you can. The only thing holding us back is us. At some point we become tired of pretending to be something that we are not. VLR is the solution for when your inner voice starts to say it’s time to become you again. The time to take some risks, to stop pretending to be someone that you are not, to stop being invisible and obedient, to stand out and do something different, something for yourselves and for others. You have paid your dues, your obligations have been met. VLR gives you your last chance to decide for yourself what to do next.
Findependence opens doors
We are all capable of so much more. Through achieving findependence we have earned that once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something extraordinary instead. Findependence (Jon’s contraction of Financial Independence) opens a door for us, a door to a world where we can make a difference, where we can stand up and stand out by doing fulfilling work, and helping others if we choose to. A chance to give back and contribute to a world that needs so much help now.
VLR is a period where you are capable of making a difference, a period where you can become bold again, take risks and squeeze every last drop out of the life that you have left. It’s scary but exciting at the same time as it requires us to move away from our comfort zones and enter into the unknown. It allows us to stop complying and start living again on our own terms.
We’ve not allowed ourselves to feel this way for a very long time, but now we can choose to expose ourselves to it once again, the excitement of possibility, learning new things and risk taking. We are finally “alive” again, it feels so very good and feeling this way has very little to do with how much money we make.
So will you make less money in VLR? Probably, but the quality of your life will improve substantially. What’s more important to you?
Mike Drak is part of the Komitas Mastromartino Wealth Management Group at RBC Dominion Securities, based in Toronto. He can be reached at email@example.com and tweets as @_mike_drak. Mike has co-authored a book with Jonathan Chevreau about some of the themes mentioned in the above blog and at the Financial Independence Hub in general. It’s titled Victory Lap Retirement and should be available in 2016. Jon will be giving a talk in Calgary this weekend titled “From Findependence to Victory Lap” that provides a sneak peek of the book.