Weekend Reading: Retirement Heaven or Hell Edition

Weekend Reading: Retirement Heaven or Hell Edition

Retirement isn’t just about the numbers (have I saved enough, how much can I spend). It’s a new chapter in your life that can last 30 years or more. You need to consider what you’re retiring to, not just what you’re retiring from. That’s exactly what author Mike Drak explores in his latest book, Retirement Heaven or Hell.

Mr. Drak was a self-proclaimed workaholic, winning sales contests and focused on his decades-long career in banking. Then he got packaged out and forced into early retirement. Mr. Drak discusses how he was on the path to retirement hell – unhealthy, overweight, and missing the purpose that drove him throughout his entire career.

Retirement Heaven or Hell draws on the author’s previous book – Victory Lap Retirement – that he co-authored with Jonathan Chevreau. The Victory Lap is a re-birth of sorts. Rather than a full-stop retirement, it’s about finding a new purpose or passion to fuel the next stage of your life. 

Mr. Drak found his Victory Lap in writing two books and a blog, plus holding retirement seminars to help new retirees unlock their own passion.

His new book identifies nine principles for designing your ideal post-career lifestyle:

  1. Nurture strong relationships
  2. Foster good health
  3. Achieve financial independence
  4. Reignite your sense of adventure
  5. Tap into your spirituality
  6. Find your tribes
  7. Make the most of your time
  8. Adopt the right attitude
  9. Discover your purpose

Throughout the book, Mr. Drak discusses retirement trends and research, shares his own experience transitioning from Retirement Hell, and offers some relevant lessons from the current pandemic.

The end of each chapter asks thoughtful questions for self-reflection, and readers will get the most out of this book if they play along and answer them.

My favourite part of the book was Chapter 17 – Retirement Lifestyle Design: Creating a Good Ending to Your Movie. This is where you really define who you are, what you want to do, and create meaningful goals for your retirement. The author emphasizes creating retirement goals, rather than retirement simply being “the goal”. Define your purpose.

There was one quote from the book that resonated with me:

“The three components of happiness are something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.” – Gordon Livingston

Retirement can be challenging for those who haven’t given much thought to how they plan to spend the next chapter of their lives. Spouses aren’t on the same page. Career-driven individuals lose their sense of purpose. Prolonged leisure time gets boring.

We need a book like Retirement Heaven or Hell to highlight these challenges and force us to think about how we want to spend our retirement years. That could mean becoming a ‘Retirement Rebel’ who plans to travel the world, climb mountains, run marathons, start a business, and never stop working. But it could also mean a more relaxing retirement surrounded by friends and family.

How do you plan to spend your retirement years? Are you and your partner on the same page? Leave a comment below for a chance to win a free copy of Retirement Heaven or Hell.

This Week’s Recap:

Check out this short interview I did on the Moolala podcast with host Bruce Sellery.

Last Friday I looked at your human capital versus your financial capital.

On Sunday I shared the beginner’s guide to RRSPs.

On Tuesday I reviewed the TurboTax Full Service Self-Employed software.

And on Thursday I featured Eirene Cremations, a new online funeral arrangement service.

A reminder to join our private Facebook group – Personal Finance Canada – where close to 1,000 members are having daily discussions about everything from saving, investing, and retirement planning. Get your burning questions answered by industry experts.

Promo of the Week:

CDIC is giving away $10,000 in prizes in this ‘Earn and Learn’ contest. My friend Barry Choi shared this with me and if you enter the code “BarryChoi” you’ll get an additional five entries.

This daily contest runs until March 22, 2021 and is offering 10 cash prizes ranging between $100 and $5,000 each.

Make sure to click ‘Login’ and then register an account before you start playing.

Weekend Reading:

Our friends at Credit Card Genius shared the best credit card offers, sign-up bonuses, and deals for February.

Global News reporter Erica Alini says Canadians opened 2.3 million DIY investing accounts in 2020.

On CBC Go Public, a class-action lawsuit against TD Bank alleges employees were pressured to drive up profits by selling customers services and products that were unsuitable or unnecessary.

With the recent rise and adoption of Bitcoin, central bankers around the world (including the Bank of Canada) are pushing to develop their own digital currencies.

Do you really want to be a landlord? Larry Swedroe shares a host of reasons why investing in individual real estate might not be the best idea:

“When you purchase a property, you become a landlord, with all the attendant headaches of property ownership. This is not a trivial issue. The “cost” of the time you would spend renting out and managing the property should be factored into the net returns expected.”

For dividend investors, here’s how the dividend snowball works.

The Canadian financial advice industry is a mess. That’s why young investors are turning to Reddit.

Millionaire Teacher Andrew Hallam explains why you shouldn’t turn your back on diversification now.

Here’s Squawkfox Kerry Taylor and Andrew Hallam on why material things won’t make you happy:

I loved this post by Of Dollars and Data blogger Nick Magguilli, who shares his 10 biggest money mistakes.

Michael James questions the research around spending naturally declining as we age. He suggests this is not a natural tendency but something forced upon us by spending too much early on and having to adjust spending. I can see both sides of this argument. No one is an average. I’d personally rather plan for ever-increasing (inflation-adjusted) spending as I get older rather than assuming my spending will decline in my 80s and beyond.

Jason Heath shares a thoughtful post on financial planning in your 70s.

Romana King explains everything you need to know about refinancing a mortgage.

Finally, Wealthsimple CEO Michael Katchen suggests that regulations around discount brokerage platforms offering advice to investors should evolve in the wake of the recent GameStop (and meme stock) frenzy. I disagree.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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  1. Jon Evan on February 13, 2021 at 12:24 pm

    Having been retired now for 5 years that is great advice in this post!
    The trick is the age of retirement matters. We all have heard of those who retire are dead in six months! There’s truth to that.
    Retiring before 60 means one is still young and resilient enough to re-invent, but retiring after 65 it’s so much harder. Largely because one’s body and mind can’t so easily readjust to a new rhythm. The change in one’s circadian rhythm with all the hormonal cascades involved isn’t talked much in retirement planning. Yet, that is a big deal.
    Much changes with retirement. Much! That change is stressful and is better weathered the younger you retire!

    • B. T. Reid on February 13, 2021 at 5:36 pm

      I’m one of those lucky ones who retired at 55 with a defined benefit pension plan. I took the advise of my father to retire early and take time to adjust to a retirement lifestyle. A bit of a shock at first but glad I was young and fit enough to pursue many leisure activities and travel to some challenging spots. With Covid in full swing glad I took the opportunities early and now am able to concentrate on helping children with their projects and provide support in their raising of grandchildren. No regrets and hope to be in a position to pass on a legacy of opportunity to allow my children to retire at an optimal age.

  2. Michael James on February 13, 2021 at 12:39 pm

    Hi Robb,

    I’d modify your summary of my article a little. Some retirees get older and spend less naturally and some spend less because they spent too much early in retirement. I’d rather model my retirement on the experience of just those who spent as they wished instead of model it on the average of all retirees. This average gets skewed by those who overspent early in retirement.

    • Robb Engen on February 13, 2021 at 1:57 pm

      Hi Michael, that’s fair – thanks!

      • Liliane Dunham on February 13, 2021 at 3:42 pm

        Love the quote by Livingston.. I plan on retiring at 56, luckily with a full pension and enjoying life… you never know what will happen and I want to be be able to be healthy to enjoy my retirement with my husband doing stuff we love. We definitely will create a good ending to our movie

  3. Tariq Jan on February 13, 2021 at 12:44 pm

    Retirement at 60 is best. You need time to spend time with your family and want to travel and do things you want to do in your life. Dragging your self to reach 65/70 for few hundred extra dollars is not worth. My two cents advice.

    • Kevin Rayner on February 13, 2021 at 4:28 pm

      That was exactly my plan. Then Covid hit! Hope we get through it soon so the plan can resume!

  4. steve gaspar on February 13, 2021 at 12:47 pm

    Very relevant book at this stage of a persons’ life.

  5. Dave Quinn on February 13, 2021 at 12:47 pm

    Retired at 59 and back working full time at 61 and still going. I didn’t really plan for retirement so had nothing to fill the void. Haven’t quite learned my lesson yet, as I still haven’t thought out whats next.

    At least I have 2 of the 3 components of happiness referred to !

  6. SVinTO on February 13, 2021 at 12:48 pm

    The questions that book poses are well asked at the start of a career too. As a freelancer I’ve always felt my career was good preparation for retirement. Having saved I now see retirement as the day I can stop worrying about making a living. But the questions remain and need to be pondered regularly with adjustments made as needed.

  7. Paul C on February 13, 2021 at 12:52 pm

    I retired 4 years ago and have no regrets. I found it hard to find a good retirement book that covers the non-financial aspects of retirement. You need to figure out how you are going to keep yourself occupied. It can be hobbies, doing volunteer work or getting a job. Although I never thought about the impact a pandemic would have on my activities. But I’m glad that I don’t have the stress of figuring out managing people while everyone works remotely.

  8. CanTex on February 13, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    “Retired” at 50 after 30 years working inn the corporate world, then 11 more absolutely loving “retirement” in my own business with very happy clients, 44 in all. My wife limited me to 45 hours a week but my clients wanted more. Then we bought a condo in the eastern GTA for summers right after winding down my business. We’re ex-pats living in Texas. Neither of us are running out of things to do and are happy having choices at our ages, mid-70s. Relatives in Canada, grandkids all over Texas. Cruises whenever we can. Many years of “couch potato investing ” helped get us here. Retirement heaven.

  9. Gail Baxter on February 13, 2021 at 1:02 pm

    My husband and I retired and spent our first 15 months travelling in our motorhome. Covid put a stop to that last March so we have taken on a new challenge looking after my 92 year old mother in law. Believe me that’s a full time job juggling home care and doctor appointments. We look forward to the time when we can place her in long term care and start travelling again.

  10. Henry on February 13, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    I think the book would be a good read.

  11. Rose Kitney on February 13, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    Recently reaching the age of 67 I finally just retired from the not for profit/health care industry after 46 years! Recently qualified as a Realtor and planning a part time career in this industry doing as much or as little as I would like to. Enjoying grandchildren with another expected mid year as well as managing the needs of my 89 year old mother. I am somewhat concerned about become bored and trying to make sure this does not occur. My husband (same age) has been retired for almost 10 years. His days are idle for the most part and a perfect example of how I personally do not want to spend my retirement years. I have heard it can be great and looking forward to it. The theme of this book is very appealing and will be ordering a copy.

  12. Dean on February 13, 2021 at 1:37 pm

    My wife and I are both approaching retirement. It is funny how your perspective changes as the dates approach. 10+ years ago we couldn’t wait to retire! However, as it approaches we are getting cold feet! My wife is right on the cusp, but is wondering what is next or should she wait for me (2+ years)? We are both successful at work and it is a big part of our lives as well as one of the few things we do separately – are we ready to give that up? I think a read of this book would be very timely 🙂

    Thanks for the timely article Robb (as always).

  13. Connie on February 13, 2021 at 1:51 pm

    I would like to read the book. I plan to retire from my job at the end of 2021, but keep my cattle while I am healthy.

  14. Sandra B on February 13, 2021 at 1:53 pm

    I retired at 54, 7 years ago. My husband had planned to work until 60, but when he saw how much fun retirement was, he packed it in early. We are financially able to have the lifestyle we want and for now, the health to enjoy it. I’d like to read this book because your summary has piqued my interest, particularly your reference to Chapter 17. I’d like to know how we can maximize our retirement by living it more purposefully.

  15. Tricia on February 13, 2021 at 1:58 pm

    found myself out of work due to covid – so maybe it’s time for an early retirement. This past year has changed my thinking and it sound like I need to read this book.

  16. Sue on February 13, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    In my retirement years, I would like to snowbird. Where? Not sure, will need to explore options. The book sounds like an interesting read for the next life transition.

  17. Carol on February 13, 2021 at 2:25 pm

    Covid has really changed how I think about retirement with not being “allowed” to do much of anything locked in our houses for a year and not knowing what the future reality will be. When will we be able to travel freely, when will we be able to go back to group events…? I really wish I was still working with all this uncertainty rather than just wasting my “good years” waiting for the Covid problems to be over.

  18. Mark on February 13, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    I’m rapid approaching retirement time, though as a recent widower I’m looking forward to it less than in the past. The book sounds interesting and may help with creating focus.

  19. Bill B on February 13, 2021 at 3:32 pm

    All four of my grandparents were at my wedding, so I figure I have a good chance at a long retirement. I just turned 60 and really enjoy my work. After 35+ years of delivering software, my job is now relatively easy and almost stress free. My wife was forced to retire at 55 when CRA moved her job to another part of the country. She keeps wondering when I am going to shut it down, but I am not sure I can, yet. I do dream about a possible career change, once again teaching public speaking and how to help others overcome a fear of public speaking. I once was terribly phobic of public speaking and thorough a number of techniques and experiences I overcame it, but not until I was in my fifties. I would like to help others do the same, but much earlier in their professional careers. I am not even sure I would try and profit from it. But then again, I bought a boat and fishing more also is an option. 🙂

  20. Craig on February 13, 2021 at 4:45 pm

    The quote by Livingston definitely resonates. As a retiree I would definitely be interested in Mike Drak’s new book.

  21. Ryan on February 13, 2021 at 4:50 pm

    Thanks, Robb. Great post and links. I am 10 years or so away from retirement, or at least financial independence and have done some initial reading on retirement. My wife and I are discussing what retirement looks like for both of us as we are considering building a vacation home and want to make sure it will meet our needs and expectations in retirement. A lot of what we plan to do will be based on what our kids decide to do when they leave the house.

  22. Phyllis on February 13, 2021 at 5:06 pm

    Sounds like a great read at my stage of the game, a few years before retirement:)

  23. Paul Wiebe on February 13, 2021 at 5:13 pm

    I’m just heading into retirement and the ideas presented in this blog post sound intriguing. I need to read the book.

  24. Alex on February 13, 2021 at 5:14 pm

    I’ll have to pick up both of these books. I’m on target for retirement at 45 or 46 but I feel the question of “what to do with myself” looming. Thanks for putting me on to these books Robb!

  25. Trevor Louden on February 13, 2021 at 6:28 pm

    My favourite topic- not what the numbers add up to, but what one does when their time is exclusively theirs. Nice work Echo!

  26. John Buchanan on February 13, 2021 at 7:57 pm

    This book would be a very timely read indeed.
    I’ve been pretty much retired due to “corporate downsizing” for a number of years now and my wife is planning to retire in the next few months. I’m 65 and she’s 61. It’s still not too late for me to read this book retroactively and for her to read it proactively and then we’ll both be able hopefully make the very best of our retirement time together. Fingers crossed for retirement heaven…as opposed to the alternative!

  27. Judy R on February 13, 2021 at 8:49 pm

    I have the first book. It was an excellent read. Now that I have been out of work for a year and a half, I have started a small business, which I love. My husband has been retired for close to three years and he still doesn’t have a hobby. I would definitely like to add Mike Drak’s new book to my retirement reading resources.

  28. TraceyH on February 14, 2021 at 5:56 am

    My husband retired before his 60th birthday in the summer of 2019. I was already home. We spent 2-3 years talking about what we thought his retirement would look like–how our days would be shaped, how much (and when) time we would spend together, how much travelling we would do. I recommend everyone do that (with flexibility to change things once retirement happens, of course). It’s been a very seamless, easy process and we’re both very happy. COVID threw a wrench in the travelling part, but we did get to go on an amazing trip to Egypt with friends (4 of us and a guide–what a great way to see things there). I’ve always had a lot of hobbies and my husband has 2 or 3 and has added gardening (though neither of us enjoys that–it’s outside housework to both of us!). If anything, COVID has brought us closer and we’re quite content to just be the two of us at home (though we are looking forward to seeing friends and family again and travelling).

  29. David S on February 14, 2021 at 7:53 am

    Covid-19 gave my company the cover it wanted (needed?) to terminate about 200 of us in 2020, including myself at age 55. So I have been retired (?) since May and enjoying it, for the most part. However, I am finding myself to be somewhat restless at times, especially of late having been in lockdown in the dead of winter for several weeks (or is it months now?).

    I’ve been looking for WFH part time gigs that will utilize some of my skillset, not for the money, but for keeping engaged, but not having any luck so far. Most recently I have switched gears and am looking at volunteer opportunities as I know I have lots to offer, including my time.

    Perhaps reading this book would be beneficial at this time to help provide me with more direction.

  30. Gary on February 14, 2021 at 8:15 am

    Involuntarily retired at age 54 and can attest that one of the keys is to keep busy. Not that hard to do, but make sure you think about it

  31. Gary on February 14, 2021 at 8:59 am

    Hi Robb: My wife said to me yesterday: “Do you ever think that we are close to the end of life”. Crap, yes I do. I’ll be 75 this year — the body knows it but the mind is ready to go. 15 years of retirement on government pensions (OAS & CPP) and savings. I love your favourite passage from the book; they are words to live by! Sorry I’m rambling but they are just thoughts as we’ve missed out on two winters of travel. Bummer. Life is still great.

  32. Anne-Marie T on February 15, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    The main essence of this book is so relevant for us. Shift work is getting more difficult for my 56 year old husband and he is anxious to leave it behind when he retires next year. I will follow suit the following year however as I am self-employed and COVID has decimated my (events) industry my days are already flexible and I am not working full-time already (aided by a widow’s pension from my previous husband). We have plans to retire to our summer home but haven’t really discussed our “purpose” beyond travel and snowbirding. It’s exciting but also very scary!

  33. Brian on February 15, 2021 at 7:07 pm

    My wife and I retired recently, at 58 and 60 respectively. We were immersed in the early go-go stage of retirement and fortunately did get some travel in before the pandemic arrived. We have now focused on more house projects. Retirement is a major transition in one’s life and certainly requires reflection and preparation.

  34. Erin D on February 16, 2021 at 2:04 am

    I was forced into retirement at age 44 due to the fatigue caused by my MS diagnosis and then waited for 12 years until my husband to retire at age 60. We enjoy traveling, our lakefront mostly summer condo and my husband also helps around the 55 plus complex where we live. We have our groove and often say to each other “boring is good.”

  35. Rhonda Nicholson on February 16, 2021 at 8:05 am

    I am about to retire in June after 39 years of working – I have pushed my retirement date several times as I am worried about what the next chapter will look like. Years ago I always thought this would be the easiest decision but its much harder, the fear of the unknown. My husband is retired and is not enjoying his retirement – he hasnt found himself either. Any tips are appreciated, and the quote is so true “The three components of happiness are something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.” – Gordon Livingston. This will be my goal

    • Gary on February 20, 2021 at 3:32 pm

      Volunteering a couple of times a week will help give some purpose to life and travel is great if you can afford it. We have been retired for 10 years and loving every minute of it

  36. Dwight on February 17, 2021 at 1:20 pm

    I have never seen an epitaph that stated, “I wish I had worked longer.” I have been retired for 9 years this month. The question I always get when speaking with someone still working is, “What do you do with your time?”. Clearly, many folks are concerned about being bored, i.e. lack of purpose. When I tell them what my wife and I do, they go silent. I don’t think many people explore the adventure of life when they are working, so it isn’t a surprise that they are afraid to retire. Mike Drak’s book sounds like a good read before, at, and even occasionally during retirement.

  37. Jan Ness on February 20, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    OK…this is exactly the information my husband and I need! Pick me, pick me! ‍♀️

  38. Susanne Ashmore on February 20, 2021 at 2:45 pm

    My husband and myself have always lived as if we were retired. Being self employed we were lucky to have chosen a calling that engaged both of us. (artist/builder) In 36 years of partnership we likely logged more hours together than a much older couple. This lifestyle came to than end 5 years ago when my husband was killed in an accident. I am so grateful for the way we lived. We did not wait for tomorrow. He used to say the key to happiness was to keep your wife, keep the original house and keep the car for 10 years. There was one exception, buying a Maita. After many years of yearning he said “If we don’t buy one now, you will think of me fondly when you do later.” 10 minutes later we found a maita on Kijiji, and had one year of memories which I think of fondly when I drive it now. Gratitude and purpose, having the saving gene and a partner who always had my back – this is my retirement plan.

  39. Jessica Neo on February 22, 2021 at 11:06 am

    I plan to retire at 60 and have already started saving money for my future. Recently, I started my fashion style guide blog with the hope to earn some money. Can’t wait to read Mike Drak’s new book.

  40. Andrew Baldwin on March 1, 2021 at 8:52 am

    What a great week-end read! All kinds of added value ideas to live by, which just aren’t covered in such a compelling way as other retirement books. I’ve already ordered 10 more copies to give out to friends I know who are contemplating retirement.
    Looking forward to reading Victory Lap and can’t wait to read Mike Drak’s third book…perhaps a title like “Retirement Rebel” will describe how Mike Drak is maxing out on his retirement and inspiring all of us to do the same thing. Count me in!

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