387: Principles for Designing Your Ideal Post-Career Lifestyle with Mike Drak
Today, I’m joined by Mike Drak. Mike’s a 38-year veteran of the financial services industry and an award-winning blogger, retirement coach, and public speaker.
You may have read Mike’s articles and contributions on some of our favorite blogs, such as Booming Encore, HumbleDollar, and MarketWatch. He’s also the author of several books, including Longevity Lifestyle By Design, Victory Lap Retirement, and Retirement Heaven or Hell: 9 Principles for Designing Your Ideal Post-Career Lifestyle.
In our conversation, Mike shares the shocking experience he had after getting laid off from the banking industry at the age of 59, why the ideal retirement isn’t always spent on a cruise ship or a golf course, and how to get strategic as you plan your transition from the working world as you know it into retirement with your identity and passion intact.
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In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- Why not having to work ever again doesn’t always make us happy–and how Mike created his “victory lap” after exiting his main career.
- How to start planning and creating a lifestyle that will work for you as you approach retiring.
- What “retirement hell” is, who experiences it, and how to ensure your needs are met to try to avoid it.
- How a financial advisor can help you avoid retirement shock.
- How retirees find new peers and new communities, even at advanced ages.
- What you can do to identify your values and determine exactly what you want from this–and the next–stage of your life.
- "Find a group of like-minded people that share a common interest and join with them. Those things are life-changing." - Mike Drak
- "It's hard to be happy if you're not healthy." - Mike Drak
- "I really believe people were born for a special reason. Everyone has these special abilities. And when you can figure out how you can apply those to something, that's a great source of purpose." - Mike Drak
- Booming Encore
- Follow Mike Drak on LinkedIn
- Longevity Lifestyle by Design: Redefining What Retirement Can Be by Mike Drak
- Victory Lap Retirement: Work While You Play, Play While You Work by Mike Drak, Rob Morrison, and Jonathan Chevreau
- Retirement Heaven or Hell: 9 Principles for Designing Your Ideal Post-Career Lifestyle by Michael Drak, Susan Williams, and Rob Morrison
- Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You're 80 and Beyond by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge
- IRONMAN Cozumel
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Casey Weade: Welcome to the Retire With Purpose podcast. My name is Casey Weade and it is my mission to deliver clarity and purpose and elevate meaning in your life through personal and practical financial strategies. We do that in a couple of different ways. Every single Friday, my good friend, Marshal Johnson, and myself, we get together and we discuss a trending retirement topic with you both financial and non-financial in nature. And then every other Monday just like we're doing here with you today, we bring on one of our world-class guests. And this is your opportunity to listen to a long-form conversation about anything and everything retirement. Today, we have Mike Drak joining us. He is a 38-year veteran of the financial services industry and an award-winning blogger, retirement coach, and public speaker. He is the senior contributor at Booming Encore, contributor to HumbleDollar and MarketWatch, and author of several books we're going to be discussing today, that is Longevity Lifestyle by Design, and co-authored Victory Lap Retirement and Retirement Heaven or Hell: 9 Principles for Designing Your Ideal Post-Career Lifestyle. Mike, welcome to the podcast.
Mike Drak: My pleasure to be here, Casey. And I've never been referred to as world-class. I’m going to mention that to my wife tonight when she gets back from work.
Casey Weade: Well, you are clearly world-class, and if she needs to hear that from me, just shoot her my way. All right.
Mike Drak: Done.
Casey Weade: We're going to be talking about retirement a little bit. Maybe we'll bring in your wife as well into the conversation here and figure out just how that worked for her and how you've been able to work this out together. Because I understand that after a 36-year career in banking, you experienced a little shock when you were laid off at the age of 59. And I'd like to explore that shock. I think this is something that many are going through. The majority of retirees don't actually step into retirement when they plan to step into retirement. So, retirement shock is very common. And I think what you experienced is also I think very common but maybe it's also a flip of the coin. I know you initially felt very happy and blessed like you won the lottery, forced into retirement, and then that quickly changed. So, tell us a little bit more about that experience.
Mike Drak: Well, and that's why I was shocked because it had nothing to do with money. I had more than enough money to retire comfortably. And I was really happy because I had grown tired of my banking job. It was stressful and, to be honest, I didn't like a couple of my bosses near the end and office politics were getting to me and the sales goals. The sales goals in the bank just keep going up and up. They never go the other way. At some point, you say, "Hey, this is ruining my health.” I was suffering from high blood pressure and whatnot. So, I was planning to leave. And then unexpectedly one day I got called into a meeting with my boss and he said, "We're going to package you off.” And I was kind of surprised by that because I was planning on leaving anyways and it's hard to leave a well-paying job lead career. But I had made that decision, and when they gave me severance, it was just the icing on the cake for me.
And I was so happy because I didn't have to go back to the bank anymore. I didn't have to report to a demanding boss anymore. I didn't have to do that commute anymore. And at the end of the day, I wasn't worn out from working hard all day. So, life was really good for a period of time. And unexpectedly, one day, I think it was a Monday morning, I was sitting at home all alone because my wife was still working. And I have this big, fancy, big screen TV and I was trying to find something interesting to watch. I think I got 500 stations on this silly thing and I couldn't find anything to watch. I was bored and things were starting to get to me. I didn't feel like doing things that I used to have fun doing before like going out, riding my bike or going to the gym, workout or swim at the pool, or go golfing or even fishing, which I'm very passionate about. I didn't feel like doing any of that anymore. I just felt like being by myself, sitting on the couch and moaning about life. And what really frustrated me was my wife's a financial advisor and I would expect her to understand what I was going through. And she did.
And then none of my friends could understand what I was going through because everyone thought automatically that, "How can Mike be unhappy because he doesn't have to work anymore?” And the truth is, now that I've really examined and gone through it, the reason I was unhappy was because I couldn't work anymore, which is really funny when you think about it. And so, that got me on this journey of discovery, trying to figure out why I was feeling that way and how I could turn things around and have a great retirement. And that ended up with me writing three books on the subject. But it's funny.
Casey Weade: There's something that you mentioned there that I think is important, and maybe you can speak to this. It's not directly related to what you're talking about but I think it parallels quite nicely. You said it was hard to leave a well-paying job and you're probably around the peak of your earning years at that point in your life. And so many people find themselves in that position where they're at the peak of their earning years. Next year, they're going to make it even more. Next year they're going to make even more. They don't need any more. However, it just feels irresponsible to step away from the workforce when you're doing so well. What would you say to those people that find themselves in that position?
Mike Drak: I would say read my first book, Victory Lap Retirement, because it's all about my struggle in making that decision that, no, I have to step away and we all get caught up in making more money. And we don't want to look like quitters. We don't want to look like losers by quitting a job or walking away from it. And this is where I got really concerned when I was reading about the great resignation and so many people decided to bail on work and take early retirement much sooner than they planned for, just to get away from work. And I said, "Okay, I understand that now. That makes sense to me but you better have a good plan for what you're going to do next, and you better make sure you have financial stability behind you because if not, you're going to default to going back to work and you might end up doing work that you don't want to do.” So, it's very important to think these things through. And in the first book, I came up with a new life model that kind of worked for me. And really the foundation of it is working part-time in retirement. But the key here, Casey, is to do work that you love to do, unlike my big motivator before was making a lot of money.
Now, I had a choice because I have financial independence to choose work that would be significant, that was meaningful, and that mattered and made me feel good. And it didn't have to be paid work. It could be volunteer work. But it changed the nature of the work I was doing. That's what I'm trying to tell people is they think this thing through because this is your chance, this is your opportunity to do this great work. And either create it or work for someone else but doing work that matters. It's important. It's life-changing. So, now I'm very happy but that's the message I'm trying to get out to people is you've got to look at it differently because traditional full-stop retirement won't work for everyone. But yet the advertisers keep trying to confuse us and they sell us on their version of retirement. One piece is based on leisure, and you're supposed to sit back and relax or play golf or travel and all these things. But that doesn't work for a lot of us, right? And so, these are things that need to be thought about, worked out, and taking consideration of when you're creating your own lifestyle plan.
Casey Weade: You know, that first book you said Victory Lap. So, Victory Lap Retirement, you had co-authored that book as your first book and that does turn the victory lap and go, “Okay. Well, how many laps do I take? How long is a lap?” You know, why victory lap? How do you think about Victory Lap as you're transitioning into retirement? Or maybe you found yourself in this position where you're bored and you go, “Yup, I need a victory lap.” What should that lap look like?
Mike Drak: Well, for me, it includes a component of work, a component of leisure. And sometimes it's almost hard to distinguish between the two, work and play. It's almost one in the same if you're doing the right work. So, we're trying to come up with an ideal mix of work and play, say, and one that will really promote our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. And that's what we figure out for ourselves. You know, that work component for me is key. And what we're seeing is a lot of people these days, they're going back to work and are working part-time and they're not doing it in all cases for the money. They're doing it for other reasons. And it's these reasons like connection and doing significant work and giving them back structure in their lives and things like that. If these are fundamental needs that people need to have satisfied, they're not going to be very happy. So, we're seeing this. So, that message of full-stop retirement's kind of gone by the wayside. Really, retirement has been revolutionized by increasing longevity. So, what are you going to do for 30, 40 years? You can sit back and relax and watch TV? It's not going to work out for a lot of us, right?
Casey Weade: There’s just not enough on TV with 500 channels, at least not enough positive stuff.
Mike Drak: That's a key point. Positive stuff, right?
Casey Weade: You had a rather abrupt retirement and many today don't necessarily have as an abrupt of experience. And maybe they're in a planning phase. I want to talk a little bit about a reasonable timeline. And I want to enter this by leveraging a question that came in from one of our weekend reading subscribers. We always reach out to them a week prior to the interview and ask them to submit their own questions so they can help curate the interview. And Chip had this to say, saying, “I am three years away from retirement. I'm interested in understanding what a reasonable timeline for making the full transition to retirement lifestyle would be.” What would you say to Chip?
Mike Drak: Well, I would say three years is probably ideal to start the planning stage and to really get into it and start figuring out start working on creating a lifestyle that will work for him once he transitions. And that takes time. You know, there's a discovery process, really. It's almost like you have to go back to square one and say, "Okay. Who am I? What makes me happy?” These are things we tend to forget and that we want to do as many happy things as possible because we know that happy retirees live longer than unhappy retirees. We learned that from the famous Nun Study. So, we want to come up with a list and say, "Okay. These are the things that will make me happy.” And don't be surprised that work is near the top of that list for many people. And then what we want to do is take them and answer the big questions like, where do I want to live? That's a big one. Some people, you know, the majority of people today are saying 90% of Americans say they want to age out in their own homes. So, that's an important consideration, right? Another one is what do you want to do with the rest of your life? That's a big question. You got maybe 20, 30 years ahead of you. What are you going to do with all that time? And many people want to be productive with it and use it for maybe helping the community or things like that.
These are questions you need to answer for yourself. In the end of the book, Retirement Heaven or Hell, there's a number of questions you can go through and you start building this retirement profile. You figure out what kind of retiree you are, which is important. You find out what your main drivers are, the things that make you happy and increase the life satisfaction. And then you find ways of incorporating these things in your retirement lifestyle plan. So, you're firing on all cylinders. So, it's a lengthy process but it's an important process. So, when you do transition to retirement, you're not going to suffer from retirement shock and you're going to be able to hit the ground running. And that's what I find so exciting. And one of the keys is to find new purpose. So, our old purpose if you think about, Casey, was, "Well, I got to work hard. I got to make a lot of money because I got to pay off my mortgage. I got to get my kids through school and I got to get them started in life.” That was my big purpose. But all of a sudden, when that purpose is gone, when the kids leave home and I no longer have to work there, I have to find a new purpose or I'm going to be in trouble. And that takes a while to do.
Casey Weade: I want to highlight what you said, that it takes some, we get out of asking ourselves these kind of questions over our lifetimes and it's important that we almost are going back and being a child again that’s asking ourselves the most important questions we asked ourselves as a kid. I had an experience here. Last week, I was on the road with my eight-year-old and I said, “Hey, can I talk through a business decision with you?” And he said, “No.” And I go, “Well, what can I offer?” And he said, “I don't know anything about this.” “Just hear me out.” So, I go through the business deal with him, and basically, we're looking at acquiring a large practice in another state. And he said, “Well, dad, so after this, we'll have more money but we'll have all the same things. We'll just have less time.” He said, “I would rather have more time than money.” And, gosh, if we could just ask, get a board of directors of 8 to 10-year-olds as we enter these different phases of our life, especially once we've reached financial independence, ask them what they would do, they would most likely not make any of the decisions that we so often do as adults because they know these most important things, these most important parts of life.
Mike Drak: Yeah. But the thing is we need to listen to them, Casey, and many times we don't because the kids will say, “I don't want you to work all those hours. I want you to spend time with me. That's important to me.” And you never get a chance to do that again. And so, that's important. And that's why one of my regrets I have that, you know, I worked too many hours. I didn't spend enough time at home. And really working was to allow me to spend quality time with my kids but it didn't always work out that way. But one of the big questions is it's almost the same question we're asking ourselves when we retire and the question was when I was in school was like what kind of job do you want to get? What do you want to take in school? What are you setting yourself up for? What do you want to do with the rest of your life? I didn't know. I had no idea. I just kind of just kept going along. When I graduated from school, I was offered two jobs. One was working in the bank where I stayed for 36 years, and the other was working for IBM as a salesperson. I didn't know what to do, and I asked the person that I worked for at the time, "What do you think I should do?”
And he said, “Well, it's always good to learn about money. You can take the banking job and then when you learn everything you need to know, you can go on to something else.” So, I took the banking job and like I said, I ended up staying there for the duration. But those are big questions and we're asking the same question when we retire. Okay. What do you want to do with the rest of your life? And that takes a lot of time for a lot of people. And yet the retirement commercials are saying, "Just relax, rest, have fun.” Life doesn't work that way, Casey. A lot of people are finding that out firsthand.
Casey Weade: Well, maybe you're getting into it here but as we jump into your book, Retirement Heaven or Hell and the 9 Principles for Designing this Ideal Post-Career Lifestyle, I want to talk about retirement hell. You know, how do you define retirement hell? Does everyone experience it? Does everyone have to go through this experience?
Mike Drak: Well, not everyone will. In the book, I identify three different types of retirees, probably the largest group of retirees. They're comfort-oriented. My mother was comfort-oriented. Probably her biggest goal in life was a rich retirement finishing line. And when she reached it, she would never work again. She just wanted to enjoy a simple life, be around her family and friends, and take it easy. And it worked for her and there's nothing wrong with that. And a lot of people feel the same way. They'll say retirement was the greatest thing for them. They didn't have to work anymore. They're free to do whatever they want and they just want to live simple lives. And I say power to you. It works, but it won't work for people like me. I'm a growth-oriented person. I have a strong need for achievement and accomplishment and I want to keep learning new things. I want to be challenged and I want to do work that matters. It's important to me to do that. And if I can't do that, that's what throws me offside. I started suffering from retirement shock and I end up in retirement now not knowing that those things are important to me and not knowing that those needs of mine were satisfied through the form of work that I did.
So, my work involved helping people. I would help people save for their homes or to save for their kids' education in the bank or save for their retirement. I would help small business owners grow their business and get through a recession and things like that. So, helping people is a big thing for me. It's always been a big part of my life. I never really recognized that need of mine until I no longer was working. I couldn't find a way of helping people. And so, I had to get back to that and that's what got me into like writing in retirement books and things like that because I knew a lot of people would suffer like I did transitioning to retirement. I wanted to help them. So, I wrote about my experiences. And a lot of people feel the same way. So, you have growth-oriented retirees that are looking for new ways to grow and these are the people we refer to as late bloomers. You'll see they’ll start new businesses or try to take up a new activity or they become master athletes and things like that. It's really cool what they're doing. And so, that's what makes life for retirement exciting for these people. And I'm so excited to see what they're doing.
And then there's the givers. These are the special people that have this strong need, like me, to help others, and they go out there and they find ways of doing that. So, we see people going to taking a mission to Africa and helping drill water wells in small villages and things like that, looking for different ways of helping others because that's what makes them feel good and that's what drives them. And again, if they can't find a way of doing that, it's going to cost them. They'll suffer. It's going to affect their overall well-being and they're going to end up in retirement hell. And you don't want to end up there believe me because it's not a lot of fun.
Casey Weade: What did that timeline look like for you or what does it look like for others as we go through these three stages, this honeymoon phase and then we enter this retirement hell, then we enter this retirement heaven? If those are the three phases and maybe they're not, how long do they typically last? Where do we find ourselves? How do we recognize where we're at when we are there?
Mike Drak: Okay. So, at the outset, at the very beginning, everyone's in the honeymoon stage because retirement feels really good. You don't have to go to work anymore. You can sleep in. The stress levels are down. We start doing chores around the house that we never had time to do and things like that. But eventually, maybe about six months out, there's a separation. So, you'll have the comfort-oriented retirees be able to stay there because they enjoy that type of lifestyle, still living a simple life. But the growth-oriented individuals and the givers will feel that there's something missing in their life and that's these drivers that they're no longer satisfying and they feel a need to, “Oh, I got to go back and do something. I need to satisfy these fundamental needs of mine. How am I going to do that?” And until they find a way of doing that, they're going to suffer and they're going to be in retirement hell. Now, part of my job is to talk to these people and say, "Okay. I know you're suffering. Here's why you're suffering and here are things you need to look into in order to escape from retirement hell.” And then people eventually transition out of that into a lifestyle that meets all their needs, that makes them really happy, and then life is really good.
Casey Weade: Would you say those people that when they're exiting that retirement hell, as you refer to it, or when you did that, would you say that everyone or yourself even, did you reinvent yourself? Did you have to develop a new identity? How do you speak to that?
Mike Drak: Both. Both because I needed an identity. I hate being referred to as retired. It just drives me crazy because of anything but now I don't really know what I am but I know I'm not that. So, being labeled as a banker didn't help me a lot. I never did like that thing, right? You know, I needed a source of identity. I needed meaning, I needed purpose, and that's where I get my identity from. So, I have this thing where I'm helping people transition to retirement. I get all kinds of identity from there. I get a mission from that. I get that purpose, that reason to get out of bed in the morning. And when I have that, then everything starts to make sense to me. I know what I'm going to do. It meets my needs. So, no, it's very good but you have to figure it out. Every individual is different, right? And it's almost like a puzzle you have to put together and say, "Okay. If I do this, if I execute on this lifestyle that I've drawn up for myself, it's going to be good.” But it takes a while to get there and figure it out.
Casey Weade: And is your process for helping people through this, really just walking them through these different principles?
Mike Drak: Yeah. You know, the principles are there. And in the last book I wrote, I actually put down the process of how to get there. Because I talked to a lot of retirement coaches about their process because I believe in standardized processes. And so, I wanted to see a standardized retirement transition process, but there wasn't one. Everyone had their own kind of method of teaching people and in dealing with retirees. And I said, "No, we got to put something together that makes sense and it's easy to fall.” And that's what I put in the last book so people, they can do it themselves, just go through the process, figure it out. And if some others might need more help and, yeah, that's when it makes sense to bring in a retirement coach or even talk to your financial advisor. That's why I wrote the book for two so to educate them so then they can talk to their clients about it and see where they are in the process. And are they struggling with some aspects of it? Just to promote their conversations, right?
I think, and don't take this the wrong way, Casey, I think the advisor's role needs to be expanded. And I know you're doing it through the work you're doing is, “Yeah, I need to help our clients with more just the financial aspect of retirement. I got to get into the softer issues and make sure that they're headed in the right direction.” And yeah, hopefully, they can avoid retirement shock or if they’re experiencing it, help them get out of it. So, I think that's where retirement planning is going, what has to go that way. And that's what retirees want from their advisors, "Thanks with the money but I need help with these other things. And I need someone that I can go to, a point person, for answers. So, I got to decide where I'm going to live. Here's my idea. What do you think?” And to get your input and serve as a sounding board and maybe give additional information, educate them more based on your experience with other clients. Because you see what they go through and you know what their solutions were. And maybe we could pass that on to someone else. So, I can see the profession changing and going towards that model. It makes perfect sense to me.
Casey Weade: Yeah. Well, if you want to get access to that process, an easy-to-follow process, if you're going through retirement hell right now or you're preparing to go through that and trying to avoid it then I want to give away, as we've partnered up with Mike, to give that book away. If you would like to get a free copy of that book along with the process, etcetera, just shoot us a text after you've written an honest rating and review over on iTunes. So, write us a review on iTunes, then shoot us a text. Text the key letters BOOK, that's book, to 866-482-9559. We'll send you a link so that you can verify your iTunes username and then we can send you the book for free that way. That is Longevity Lifestyle by Design. But right now, I want to get into these nine principles and before we get into the nine principles, I am making the assumption that these are in order of importance or an order of process. How did you come up with the ordering of these nine principles when you laid them out in the book?
Mike Drak: Well, I struggled with it for a while because I was trying to figure out which one's the most important one and really I was dealing with I think it was relationships and purpose, right? And I settled on I believe and forgive me, Casey, because I haven’t looked at that book in a while but I believe I settled on relationships because studies have shown how important relationships are for us and a lack of relationships, quality relationships, and loneliness can increase mortality risk by 40%, which is just unbelievable. And a lot of retirees we had great work relationships, relationships with coworkers and with customers and things like that. But when we retire, we lose all that. And men are particularly vulnerable here because we're not good at making new friends. And so, when we retire, we look at our spouse many times as, “Oh, you're my best friend. I'm going to follow you around like a little lost puppy dog and please entertain me and tell me what to do.” And that caused a lot of friction. And gray divorce rates we see those going up all the time and it shouldn't be that way. So, they had relationships, I think came out on top on that one. And I think the next one, well, I might have pushed it further back in the book because I wanted to leave off on it was purpose.
Casey Weade: Yeah. And I want to spend a good chunk of time on purpose but I don't want to leave the nurturing strong relationships yet because we did have a question on that. And I want to ask a specific question I've seen so many retirees struggle with. You talk about men or just individuals that have been working for so many years, and that's where the majority of their key relationships come from. And now they step out of work and they don't really have this muscle. It's operating and nurturing strong relationships isn't their modus operandi, right? How does someone start to flex this muscle, work out this muscle? Where do they begin when quite often it's just really uncomfortable to start putting yourself back into social situations and in developing new relationships?
Mike Drak: My suggestion was to go find your tribe or tribes. And what I mean by that is find a group of like-minded people that share a common interest and join with them. And those things are life-changing. For me, I found a bike tribe so there's a group of people I go out and I go for a bike ride every Sunday morning. And these people aren't just older people. There's a cross-section of very young people in their twenties and thirties all the way up to age 80. We all get out and when we ride our bike, that's our common interest. We encourage each other, we motivate each other, and at the end of the bike ride, we get a chance to sit down, enjoy a cup of coffee and talk about life. And it's really funny because you get the young people asking the older people for advice, and yet we're picking the brains of the younger people about things like technology and what they’re doing and what their plans are for their future. So, it's very interesting, but that's a very simple solution to a problem. And so, right now I have a bike tribe, I have a swimming tribe. So, I joined a master swim group at the community center. I meet all kinds of people there and, again, we go out for a beer at the end of every month and we get a chance to sit down and talk about things.
And those are things I joined. Find your tribe, and it makes life that much easier and it satisfies the need for a relationship that you have. There's all kinds of tribes. You can go play pickleball at the community center or you can join a tribe. They love playing cards or a book-writing tribe encouraging people how to write books and things like that or photography, just all kinds, right?
Casey Weade: And these can be low-cost probes, right? I mean, we don’t have to commit to a bike ride for the rest of our lives. We just go to one.
Mike Drak: Yeah. But you know what, the bike ride is good because these things keep you healthy, both mentally and physically. So, there's a kind of a double upside to them. And I think that's what I put in the book, the second thing was health. That was important because it's hard to be happy if you're not healthy. So, that's a big focus of mine. And I talked a lot about it because you can really slow down the aging process if you're willing to put in the effort and exercise and eat properly and things like that because the worst thing you can do is to adopt a sedentary lifestyle, spend a lot of time on the couch. It's not good for you. And that accelerates decline. I want to be able to travel around the world in my 80s. I want to be able to go up north and fish at the George in my eighties but I need to be healthy to do that. And it's within my control. And that's the message I tried to put out.
Casey Weade: I know where you're at today but were you always that way? You talk about your IRONMAN experience and how that impacted the way you view health and retirement.
Mike Drak: It did because I got excited about it. I read this book called Younger Next Year, and I got all excited about that book. A lot of people have read it. And basically, the theme of the book is that, look, you don't have to get older and slower every year. You can reverse that and you can get stronger and younger and more energized year-by-year by being focused on these health aspects and keep working at it. And that's what I do. So, when I go to the gym, I go three times a week and do weight training and then I do cardio and things like that. But I look around, I see these people I refer to as retirement rebels. They're all in the gym working out. I got 70-year-olds, 80-year-olds, 90-year-olds working out at the gym, lifting weights, and doing all kinds of things. And I look at them and some of them are better shaped than me, and I just kept it at IRONMAN. I say, “Hey, when I’m 90 I want to be like that. That's who I want to be,” and it's within my power to do it so those people motivate me. But we're seeing more and more people doing that, retirees doing it because they know it's important. It's all about quality of life and it's about living longer and healthier.
Casey Weade: You said, number one, nurture strong relationships. Number two is foster good health. Number three is achieving financial independence. Most people put that as number one, though.
Mike Drak: Well, yeah, because the industry they're focused on that. And it's important because what you want to do is you want to have financial stability when you retire. It's so important because that makes everything else work. That supports your lifestyle plan.
Casey Weade: I just think it's brilliant. If you don't have friends and loved ones and you don't have your health, well, get some money, right? I mean, that's...
Mike Drak: Exactly.
Casey Weade: It’s a very logical order. We just get it wrong.
Mike Drak: Yeah. But having said that, you need that financial stability because you don't want to struggle in retirement. And that's one of my biggest fears. It's I'm reading about all these people are retiring and they don't have any money. And I'm going, "Wow, like, that's not good,” because you're going to end up struggling all your life in retirement, trying to just get by, trying to pay the rent, trying to put food on the table. Who wants to be 80 years old delivering pizza at 2 in the morning? Like, no. So, that's why the role you play of building that financial stability is so important.
Casey Weade: How has your relationship with money evolved throughout retirement?
Mike Drak: It's terrible. I have a bad relationship with money. You know, I have enough but for some reason, I have a hard time spending it. I struggle with it because I don't want to spend it on things I don't need and I have trouble with that. I'm going through this struggle right now. My wife, don't tell her I said this, she wants to do some major renovations to our house. I can't see the value and I keep saying, “Well, let's go to Europe instead.” But this is something that will make her happy and, yeah, I struggle with that. Because maybe it's fear a little bit that I don't want to use up my retirement assets. I want to keep some gunpowder dry in case of needing things like that. It's not really a legacy thing for me because I've done my part with the kids. I got them through school and made sure they don't have student loans. I got them off to a good start in life and this is my time and I don't want to spend it on renovations or anything but don't tell her I said that.
Casey Weade: And everybody wants to know, how are you going to work that out?
Mike Drak: Well, yeah. You know what, it's going to get done.
Casey Weade: The renovations are going to get done.
Mike Drak: Oh, yeah. It's going to get done because like they say, happy wife, happy life. Yeah, I struggle with it. Sure. You know, because I've been frugal. That's what got me towards to achieve financial independence. And it's hard to change that but I'm working on it.
Casey Weade: Well, this is a good lead-in to adventure. You want to go on an adventure right now it sounds like. You want to go to Europe. You want to go on an adventure, and you talk about reigniting your sense of adventure as number four on this list of nine. And you talk about this in conjunction with peak experience. How do we reignite this sense of curiosity and wonder? And what is a peak experience?
Mike Drak: Well, a peak experience for me is like we talked about is going way, way up north in northern Canada, fly fishing for Atlantic salmon. I just love things like that. Another peak experience for me was attempting IRONMAN Cozumel last November at age 68. That was really something. That was special for me. Another peak experience is going to Italy and checking out some of the blue zones, like the blue zone in Sardinia, and learning about how people live there and what the benefits are, and how they manage to do things like that. I love to learn new things. I love to learn about new cultures. I love to meet people. I love to eat the food that they eat to try something different. It's all peak experiences for me. I like to push my limits. I like to see what I'm capable of. Hence, why my attempt at IRONMAN. I just wanted to see how that would go and what I could do. I'm going to keep pushing myself to try to do these different things. Another peak experience was trying to write a book. I had no idea how to write a book. It was hard. I ended up writing three of them, but now that's behind me and I'm going to move on to something else.
But yeah, that's all exciting and that's what makes life exciting for me. And the peak experience is where I can be somewhere where I can help someone. And when someone posts a remark on maybe an Amazon review about how my book helped them figure things out, that makes me feel really good inside. It's like you as an advisor. When a customer thanks you for solving a problem for them, it makes us feel good. And that's a peak experience for sure. It's probably one of the best ones for me.
Casey Weade: For the sake of time today, I want to make sure we hit the most important elements. And of course, we're giving away your book. So, if they want to get these principles, they can always jump back in and grab the free book.
Mike Drak: Are you saying I’m talking too much, Casey?
Casey Weade: No, not at all. Not at all. Please, as much as possible, I'm probably talking too much. No, I want to talk about purpose. I mean, we're on the Retire With Purpose podcast. I think we'd be remiss if we miss the most important element, in my opinion, number nine on your list, discover your purpose. And I want to get into this by talking about this thing that you mentioned in the book, which is watch your movie.
Mike Drak: Yeah. To go back and watch your movie and look for clues of what your purpose could be. You can find clues throughout your life. You know, what are the things that made you feel good? What excited you? What particular skillset that you have that you were born with, natural skills and abilities, and how you could reuse those for something else, right? I really believe people were born for a special reason. Everyone has these special abilities and things like that. And when you can figure out how you can apply those to something, that's a great source of purpose. And I think people have to spend a lot of time thinking about it. I talk about a process in the book using Ikigai to figure out your purpose. And it's something that I use. It's very simple. It's a very simple process. But after doing it a number of times going through it and say, "Okay. That's a good source of purpose for me,” but I think I could do better. And then I would go through it again and say, "Okay. That's good. That's even better. Let's try it again.” And then eventually I came up with the work I do now, helping people transition through retirement. And yeah, every day is a good day and I want the same thing for people.
And it's interesting, Casey, because we're seeing a lot of the schools catch on to this, the importance of finding purpose. So, they're creating retirement transition programs. Harvard has one and I think Stanford has, well, Notre Dame has one where you go and you join a class of cohorts and you're all trying to figure out what you're going to do next in life. And really, their purpose is geared towards volunteer work, charity work. And once you graduate, you actually have to present your case to say, "Okay, this is my purpose. This is what I'm going to do going forward for the rest of my life. And this is the contribution I want to make to the community.” I find that so exciting. Now, we're seeing the community colleges pick up on it, and they're getting even in greater detail. So, they'll talk to you about what your purpose is and you'll be working with other people and you feed off their energy and their ideas. And you might come up with say I come up with a new service or product that I might want to sell. And they'll have supporting courses. They'll say, "Okay. Here's a course on how to market your product or service on social media. Here's a course on how to create a blog. Here's a course on how to write a book, or if that's what you want to do or whatever.”
And so, these people are reinventing themselves through these transition courses, and they're going out in the world and they're doing some new and exciting things. And we're going to see more and more of that all the time because everyone knows this is where people struggle with the most, is finding new purpose. And like I said, comfort-oriented retirees don't need to find new purpose. They're good the way they are. It's these growers and givers that need to do this. And now they're been finding young support through these programs. And I'm so excited about it. I only wish there was a program like that when I retired. I wouldn’t have gone through retirement hell, right?
Casey Weade: If someone's listening right now, driving down the road, working out and they say, "Okay. I need to watch my movie when I get home,” how do they do that? What kind of process, technique, exercises could they do to really dig into that movie and lay it out in a clear fashion for themselves?
Mike Drak: Well, I talked about it in the book. You go back to square one when you were a young child and you started thinking about, okay, before I got thrown in the work world and all this and even before I went to university and things like that, what made me happy? What were the things I used to do that I really enjoyed? And you start there and then you say, “Okay. What things was I good at? What things made me happy? And how can I bring that into my new lifestyle? You know, these are the things that made me happy. What did I have fun doing before all this stuff? You know, we got caught up in working for a life and all that stuff. And then we take that, and then we look at different things. What made me happy with my family? What did I enjoy doing? What brought me joy and what were the positive aspects of the work I did? There are always something or you wouldn't have stayed there, in my case, 36 years. So, you start looking at that. What made me feel good? What did I enjoy doing? And how can I duplicate those things in retirement?
So, really you're prospecting, you’re gathering information from the past, and you’re using that to set yourself up for a great retirement. And it's a process that takes time but you'd be surprised what you learn about yourself. And again, using the Ikigai process that also pulls you through the past where you're looking at, okay, how can I use the skills that I developed? What do I have passion for? What do I love to do? How can I duplicate this in the second part of my life? And when you do that, yeah, life is good.
Casey Weade: And this is really a, “Who am I? Where am I? Where am I going next?” kind of a process and I love that it will have all these lists in the show notes and just taking time and rating yourself as you advise on a scale of 1 to 10 on each of these can really point you to where you are and what that next step is. You know, now, it's been some time since you've written the 9 Principles book. Were there any principles? I know for me I write a book and then a couple of years later I go, “Oh, I wish I would have added that one in.” Is there anything that's come to you since then that you say, “I do think this one more fits into there or I feel like I overlooked this or would like to go back and edit that?”
Mike Drak: No, I can't honestly say I feel that way. I think they're all very valuable. But what I did do in the third book is I changed the wording from retirement principles to longevity principles, because really each one of those principles is a longevity driver. And so, I said, "Okay. I'm taking the focus off retirement because I really don't like that word anyways.” And my focus is on healthy longevity and having as much fun as you can and being as happy as you can. So, really, I changed the terminology a little bit and the one thing I felt the need to add was, okay, let's go deeper into retirement shot. Let's show why that happens using myself as an example and then let's show how we can prevent that. What we need to do. And that was the key part of the third book that was, to me, that was the missing piece. And now I feel it's complete. I don't need to do any more. I'm not going to write another retirement book. But yeah, you can see a progression through the books. It's like a trilogy and it's me figuring out retirement for myself and then warning people to say, “Hey, this is what you need to focus on. This is what you need to think about.”
Casey Weade: It’s so cool about someone that's actually going through the process and chronicling it along the way. And I know one of those really important things for you was values. And I want to talk a little bit about your process for determining what your values are. I know I heard one time when you're at a cocktail party, you asked another person what their values are and if they have an answer, that's someone that you want to hang out with. They know where they're headed in life. They know where they are. They know what they value. But what I find and I always ask this question of so many different people is most have never even considered this word “values” and they haven't identified it. They haven't put it into writing what those values are, and they're not really sure what that means or where to begin. How do you walk people through a process for pinpointing what their values are and why is this important?
Mike Drak: Well, I think it's so important because a lot of us live a lifestyle that's out of whack of our values. Especially me when I was working in the bank, I couldn't identify with being a banker. I couldn't identify with having power or status. That was unimportant to me. I couldn't identify with playing like political games or things like that to get ahead. Those weren't values of mine. And another value was I didn't need the real big office or things like that. I wanted to help people. That's where I felt good. That was a value of mine. So, when you're in the corporate setting like I was, it was like you're living a fake life kind of thing because I'm pretending to be a banker. I look like a banker. I talk and walk like a banker. But I really wasn't a banker inside because these values of mine, you know, I just want to help people, right? I want to act like my true self, authentic, and I couldn't do it. And so, those are values that kind of were in conflict. And that bothered me. And I like dealing with honest, nice people.
I used to win some awards and I would go on this trip and they would have a big fancy dinner. And one of the perks was that you got to sit with maybe the president of a bank or something. And that was highly prized by everyone. I didn't like it. I didn't want to sit with them because I didn't want to be like that. That wasn't valuable to me. That wasn't important. I wanted to sit with the other people talk about life and how they were winning or losing things. You know, to me, that's what made me happy. So, that's one thing working in the bank was it was against my values. You know, banks are focused on making more and more money all the time and making record profits. That wasn't important to me. That was against my values. It was more important for me to help people through strugglings and help them accomplish their goals. Those are my values. I like to deal with honest people. That's an important value of mine. I see things happening out there in the world today. It just doesn't make any sense to me because people aren't acting in accordance with their values. And we're going on these terrible trajectories and hopefully, we get back to it.
So, yeah, sitting there and going through a value exercise and identifying the things that are most important to you in your life and living in accordance with that is very important, right? Knowing what makes you happy and knowing what makes you feel fulfilled and doing those things, that's the key to being a happy life, right? I hope that answers your question.
Casey Weade: Absolutely. And that's a great thing for someone to go back home and do and just spend time really identifying those values. If you've never done it before, what a great exercise. And speaking of exercises or practices, I'd like to ask you about one of your daily practices. What are one of the things? What's one thing that you find that you do everyday that helps you continue to live this heavenly retirement?
Mike Drak: Well, every day I work over a couple of hours every day at least 2 hours, some days more. And I do it to maintain my health and get even healthier. And I do it to socialize with others. You know, I get out there and do that. And also, one thing I do every day is I look in the mirror usually at the end of the day and I say, "Okay. Was it a good day?” If it wasn't, well, how can I make it better? What adjustments do I need to make? What am I falling down on that I should be focused on?” things like that. So, it's like at the end of every day it's a recap and a quick review to say, “Oh, you know what? I'm getting negative. I need to make some changes. I got to deal with that. How can I reduce negativity in my life?” Because sometimes I feel it's coming at me. So, what I've done is I reduce the time I spend watching TV. I canceled my newspapers, believe it or not, because I don't want to read all that stuff anymore because it just kind of makes me feel bad. I want to hang around positive people. I want to hear about positive things because there's a lot of them out in the world.
When I went on my recent trip to Italy, I made the decision not to take my iPhone, so I didn't get all that stuff. But I learned an important lesson too because cell phones are important because you use it to take pictures, you use it to tell what time it is, and you use it to know what the weather is going to be like. So, yeah, I learned from that but I'm trying. Every day I'm trying to improve the quality of my life and enhance my well-being. And I think about it all the time.
Casey Weade: The world is a great place without the news. We seem to get along with everybody. Everybody is happy. You have a good day, you know.
Mike Drak: Exactly. You don't need that but we're stuck with it. And it drives me crazy when I walk in a restaurant and I’ll see the parents and their kids and they're all on their own phones looking at something. I'm going, “It’s not supposed to be like this.”
Casey Weade: It's not where life's actually happening.
Mike Drak: No, but we're falling into it, and it's a trap, a lifestyle trap that we have to be aware.
Casey Weade: Well, as I said, we're on the Retire With Purpose podcast. I'm going to wrap with this philosophical question, and that is, what does retire with purpose mean to you, Mike?
Mike Drak: For me, it is helping as many people as I can. Originally, when I retired, one of my motives was to make some extra money and it's changed. It was a surprise. It changed from getting to giving and hence why I wrote a book and I'm giving it away for free. It's my chance to give back and help others that are struggling and be a positive influence in the community. And it makes me really feel good. I know surveys have been done that shows the happiest retirees are people that are volunteering and helping others. And I found myself in that sweet spot and it's pretty good. And I intend to stay here for as long as I can and keep doing the work I do because, to me, it makes life so worth living.
Casey Weade: You’re certainly helping many people right now. And as you said, we're ready to give away that book, Longevity Lifestyle By Design. And if you'd like to get a copy of that, super easy, just write an honest rating and review for the podcast on iTunes, then shoot us a text, texting us the keyword BOOK to 866-482-9559. We’ll send you a link, have you submit your iTunes username, we’ll verify it, send out your free book. Mike, thank you so much for this opportunity. It's been a true pleasure.
Mike Drak: No. It’s a pleasure for me, Casey. And you're a fun guy. I like hanging around fun guys.
Casey Weade: Wow. Next time you get down here to the States, you let me know.
Mike Drak: Done.