“We’re on a bit of a crusade to change the way our society thinks about retirement.”
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 nineteen 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 re-framing the concept of retirement and our later life journey.
However, this Drak & Chevreau volume is a welcomed new addition to this crusade. The book, in 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 the first of two parts, I present views of the authors as shared through interview questions with them in late October.
Authors Interview, Part 1
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 colour. 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?
Jon: We’d say there is an opportunity there. As you noted in your review of the 100-Year Life, today’s millennials will have very long lifespans and life expectancy, and perhaps an 80-year investment time horizon. That in itself suggests an asset allocation of almost 100 percent equities, so such a course could discuss life expectancy, investing and asset allocation, as well as making the distinction between old-time “Retirement” and the new terms Findependence/Victory Lap.
Such a course would also look at the changed 3 Boxes of Life paradigm: instead of 15 or so years of School, followed by 40 years of the “Slave and Save” Work box, capped off by 10 or 20 years of the permanent vacation known as “Retirement,” the course would look at repeating cycles of School/Work/Leisure. Findependence would be a key part of that since every time a young or middle-aged person left the “Work” box they would need some money (aka Findependence) to fund either the “Back to School/Retraining” box or the sabbatical “Travel/Leisure” box.
Mark’s Q: Throughout the book, you speak with consistent references relatable to a Boomer audience, (your primary target reader), overworked by the corporate world experience, facing a “rethink on retirement”. Given that current/future generations are not likely to share the world of work as in that old narrative, but more in a kind of episodic, tenuous relationship with the corporate world, what is your best advice on how they can achieve “Findependence” through their life course?
Jon: We think young people should aim for some level of Findependence by their 30s. …So we advocate spending one’s 20s acquiring skills to survive the constantly-in-flux workplace, and once the Work box is entered, being frugal enough to pay off all high-interest credit card debt, student loans and ultimately the mortgage on a first home: keeping mind that we regard a paid-for home to be the foundation of Financial Independence.
Once debts are eliminated, maintain the frugal lifestyle and divert what used to be debt repayments into monthly pre-authorized contributions to pensions, RRSPs, TFSAs and the like.
Mike: Findependence should be their primary goal, but they will have many different options about how to get there. Due to increased longevity they will have time to make mistakes and recover from them and hopefully through trial and error find something they really love doing.
This is in stark contrast to what we went through where we were taught to accomplish everything within a 35-year time-frame. No wonder so many of us suffer from high blood pressure!
Part 2 of Victory Lap Retirement: Authors Interview on December 6