How to Plan for a Victory Lap Retirement
Advice from the authors of a new book on the subject
Mike Drak and Jonathan Chevreau, authors of the new book, Victory Lap Retirement, are on a crusade to change the way society thinks about retirement. Their book is actually, as Drak says, “a retirement book about not retiring.”
A Victory Lap Retirement — Drak, 62, coined the term — means spending years combining work and leisure between the time you quit a full-time job and stop work entirely. In the book, the authors say a Victory Lap Retirement lets people change from a “surviving mentality” to a “thriving mentality.” The Toronto-based duo would know: They’re both taking Victory Laps right now.
Previously, Drak spent nearly 40 years working in commercial banking. He quit in 2014 to protect his health and personal well-being. Now, when he works, he is a retirement coach, public speaker and writer (next up: a retirement transition guide). Chevreau, 64, is a veteran financial columnist, blogger and author of the book Findependence Day; I interviewed him for Next Avenue in 2013 about “findependence” — his term for having enough money so you can work because you want to, not because you have to. He still writes about personal finances, but on his schedule.
I recently spoke with Drak and Chevreau about how and why to have a Victory Lap Retirement. Highlights:
Next Avenue: So why a Victory Lap Retirement where people keep working part-time instead of quitting altogether for a traditional retirement?
Mike Drak: We’re putting too much stress on ourselves. I think trying to fund a lengthy retirement with 35 years of work — the numbers don’t work.
I lived with a fear of money when I was working; I was scared I would lose my job and I had to get the kids through school and make the mortgage payments. I don’t want to be scared anymore. I think if you can keep a source of active income in retirement through part-time employment, that takes the fear away.
How should people view retirement, and why?
Drak: Our position is you shouldn’t retire; you should find work — paid or unpaid —that will keep you involved. There are number of benefits to stay working: it forces you off the couch, so you stay healthy; you keep learning new things and there are social benefits. You’re not isolated at home. The key is to find work you enjoy doing, that is less stressful than what you were doing and that gives you flexibility. Maybe you work two or three days a week, creating a balance between work and leisure and play. Work is your ‘fun money’ to fund the leisure and play part.
Jonathan Chevreau: I see this as almost a new phase of life. It makes no sense to be working a hundred percent full tilt and all of a sudden do the complete opposite. Think of yourself like a plane, gradually descending in your late 50s or early 60s through your mid 70s. Mick Jagger is still rocking at 74. I don’t think he needs the money. The four actors on [the Netflix show] Grace and Frankie are all in their 70s. They don’t need the money and they are having the time of their lives.
When is someone ready to start a Victory Lap Retirement?
Drak: We tell people that you’ve got to plan for a Victory Lap three to five years before you leave your primary career. Get your networks in place, build up your social media contacts and identify what you want to do. If you need to sharpen your skills, like computer skills, take the training so you’re marketable.
Chevreau: You can’t have a Victory Lap without first having findependence.
But what if you want a Victory Lap Retirement and you haven’t saved enough?
Chevreau: Then, your plan should be to work until you’re 70 and delay claiming Social Security until you’re 70, so you can maximize the size of those benefits. [Social Security benefits increase roughly 8 percent a year every year you hold off taking them until 70.]
But you don’t have to be a corporate wage slave until you’re 70. You could go back to school and retrain for a new career or go to a life counselor or retirement coach for advice. If you always wanted to be a painter, go to painting school.
Should you tell your boss when you’re planning to start your Victory Lap Retirement?
Drak: No, keep it quiet. A lot of bosses can’t handle it. It’s almost like they get jealous — ‘How dare you start thinking you can do something better?’
How can people find part-time jobs in retirement when age discrimination is so rampant among employers who don’t want to hire people over 50?
Drak: A lot of smaller companies are looking for more experienced workers who are dependable and who they don’t have to train and who are willing to go part-time.
Chevreau: Try to turn your employer into a supplier and then diversify with a second or third income.
Should you go immediately from working full-time to starting work part-time in your Victory Lap Retirement?
Drak: No. Take three to six months off before your Victory Lap. It’s a refreshing period to regroup.
You write in the book that some people think they can’t do a certain type of job in retirement because it’s below them and won’t pay them what they’re worth.
Drak: Right. But it’s not about the money; it’s about doing things that make you feel good. What happens is you start to find things you really enjoy doing. The line between work and play gets really blurry. That’s what a Victory Lap is supposed to be like.
Once you’ve started a Victory Lap Retirement, how do you keep it on track and tweak it as necessary?
Drak: Have a year-end annual review to see if you hit your goals and if there’s corrective action to take. Then, set goals for the next year — not monetary goals, but goals about health, relationships and adventures.
What’s the best part of having a Victory Lap Retirement?
Drak: It’s your turn to have fun and do the things you couldn’t do before, when you were pinned down. You can take risks again and get out of your comfort zone. I never wrote a book before or managed a blog before. Now I do keynote public speaking; I was petrified of doing that before.
With a Victory Lap Retirement, there’s no set finish line. You keep doing it as long as it’s fun.