Living your values, learning, and social contacts are all keys to a happy retirement: Mike Drak

February 23, 2023

In Longevity Lifestyle by Design, author Mike Drak and a team of co-authors make the case that there’s much more to retirement than simply saving cash.

Few people, notes the preface, prepare for “the crucial part” of retirement — “how they’ll spend their days, how they’ll find meaning and purpose, how they’ll avoid feeling isolated or lonely, and whether they’ll either work part-time or volunteer, or do both.”

“If you think that by retiring all your problems will magically go away, I hate to tell you — they won’t,” writes Drak. He notes that there can be “a big difference between being retired and having a great life,” citing the example of star quarterback Tom Brady, who “unretired” after just 40 days.

He shows, via a graph, that there are three types of retirees — the “Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE)” and comfort-oriented crowd at one extreme, and the “work till you drop” gang at the other end. Most of us are in the middle — navigating an “unfulfilled life of leisure” or “work(ing) to make ends meet.”

Unlike the super-motivated FIRE and “till you drop” groups the middle group may tend to be “unaware of what drives them, and unsure of what they want.”

The book then sets out to help those without clear goals, purposes or defined values to acquire them. We all have values, he writes, but are our daily actions in retirement aligned with them? Have you added retirement activities that “give your life meaning,” or that you “love to do,” or are a passion for you? If not, writes Drak, you may experience “retirement stress,” a life that is out of whack with what truly motivates you.

He cites research by Dan Buettner that found that “happiness/longevity = relationships, plus health + financial security + spirituality + positive attitude + purpose.”

In a section that links work to “the fountain of youth,” Drak writes that continuing to work — perhaps at something more aligned to your values and passions — should not be ruled out in retirement. Work, he writes, “keeps you young,” as well as mentally sharp. It gets you “off the couch and helps you interact with others, he adds. It also helps you avoid running out of money in retirement, he notes.

The last section of the book outlines some wise words from a variety of authors. Susan Williams writes that women need to boost their financial literacy about such things as retirement income. Citing CNN research she notes that “nearly 60 per cent of widows and divorcees wish they had been more involved in financial planning decisions” and “56 per cent discovered hidden debt, inadequate savings… or (investment choices) that affected their lifestyle and retirement savings goals.”

Drak concludes by noting that while retirement isn’t only about money, you do need “sufficient” money in retirement. People are living much longer, so don’t think of yourself as being “old” at 65, he continues. Have something good to do in retirement, work on improving relationships with spouse and family, and remember that “happy, positive, optimistic retirees are heathier and live longer.”

This is a well-written, fun-to-read and exceptionally helpful book. To paraphrase Aerosmith, retirement is a journey rather than a destination. Drak’s thoughtful work here will help you ensure that your future self doesn’t spend retirement on the couch, watching the news.

As the book suggests, while saving money is only one part of a long and happy retirement, it’s still an important one. If you don’t have any retirement savings program at work, or are self-employed, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be just what you’ve been looking for. SPP will invest your contributions in a pooled fund at a low management cost, and grow them into future retirement income. Check out how SPP can work for you.

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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