Retirement Heaven or Hell?

If you could choose between Retirement Heaven or Hell, which would you choose?  

Mike Drak unknowingly chose Hell, but he survived to write about it.

He’s now in Retirement Heaven, and his story is one we can all learn from.  Fortunately, he’s captured what he learned during his journey and shares it with all of us in his newest book, Retirement Heaven Or Hell – Which Will You Choose?  (Amazon Affiliate link).

Today, a review of the book.  A book that will help you enter Retirement Heaven.

If you could choose between Retirement Heaven or Hell, which would you choose? Today, a book review of a journey through Retirement Hell and into Retirement Heaven.
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Retirement Heaven Or Hell 

I first “discovered” Mike Drak while reading his first book, Victory Lap Retirement. (Amazon Affiliate link). It’s a great book, and I reached out to him after reading it.  We’ve since become friends.  He encouraged me as I wrote Keys To A Successful Retirement, and I’ve done the same as he wrote Retirement Heaven or Hell.  Susan Williams and Rob Morrison also contributed to the book, the same trio that wrote Victory Lap Retirement.  An Amazon Affiliate link to purchase the book is below:

Mike sent me a draft version of his book while he was still editing it, and I loved it.  I wrote a review and was honored to see it included in the endorsements section of his book. 

Cutting to the chase, here’s what I wrote in my endorsement:

“Is there such a place as Retirement Hell?  Indeed, there is, and Mike Drak has experienced it firsthand.  Fortunately for all of us, he survived the heat and has moved on to Retirement Heaven.  In Retirement Heaven or Hell, he shares what he’s learned during his journey for the benefit of all of us.  This book is a must-read for those approaching retirement or those who have recently retired and found the transition more difficult than expected.  It does an excellent job of working through the things that matter and the steps required to become a ‘Retirement Rebel’, a title we should all strive to achieve”.

– Fritz Gilbert, Author of Keys to a Successful Retirement and Founder,

For today’s review, I’m going deeper.

I recently received a copy of the completed book, and have spent the last week rereading it.  It’s rare that I read a book twice, but this book is one that deserves a second read.  Since my initial reading, Mike has added “lessons from a pandemic”, and weaves in how some of the “shocks” people felt during the COVID pandemic mirror the feelings of “Sudden Retirement Shock”.  Those additions strengthen an already excellent book.

Macro Summary of the Book

This book is powerful in the way it expands Mike’s personal experience into 9 Principles for Designing Your Ideal Post-Career Lifestyle.  Each of the 18 chapters includes excellent “Questions for Self-Reflection” and “Simple Truths” which summarize the chapter’s teachings.  To get the most value from this book, I encourage you to pause on these chapter summaries.  Take some time to answer the questions, and review the simple truths to ensure you capture the key message.   These 18 chapters are a golden roadway, leading out of Retirement Hell and into Retirement Heaven.  Follow the roadsigns Mike has laid out. 

Your retirement will benefit as a result.

With that, here’s a summary of Retirement Heaven or Hell (Amazon Affiliate link), a book I strongly recommend for anyone who is within +/- 5 years of retirement:

Part 1:  Preparing Yourself for Retirement

If there’s anything I’ve learned from my retirement journey, it’s that the biggest factor in achieving a successful retirement is doing as much planning as possible before you retire.  Mike reiterates the importance of planning in the first section of his book and points out that planning is the best course to avoid Retirement Hell.

Mike begins by walking you through what the transition to retirement REALLY feels like.  How our “hardwired need for significance” can lead to Sudden Retirement Shock when those needs go unmet.  Don’t be surprised if you experience “The Big Retirement Dip” after your initial euphoria.  Left untreated, that dip can lead to depression and a journey through Retirement Hell.  Think about how you felt when COVID severed your relationships with your co-workers.  That’s just one of many examples Mike weaves in to explain the root causes behind the Big Dip.

Fortunately, Mike doesn’t stop there.  In telling the story of his journey through Hell, Mike discovers the secret to finding your way to Retirement Heaven, and Part 2 gives you tactical steps to help on your journey to finding a true Purpose in retirement.

Part 2:  Nine Retirement Principles

Personally, I found Part 2 to be the best content in the book, with 9 clearly defined principles that are the keys to lifting yourself out of Retirement Hell and into Retirement Heaven.  I don’t want to “steal Mike’s thunder”, so I’ll just list the 9 principles here and encourage you to read the 100 pages in the book devoted to their importance:

  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

Each of those principles could be a book unto itself or a dedicated blog post (btw, to see some of Mike’s blog writing, check him out on BoomingEncore).  I agree on the importance of each of these in designing your own Retirement Heaven and encourage you to review the list again, thinking about what you can do to develop each of those areas during your retirement journey.  A great list and this section alone is worth the price of the book.

Part 3:  Searching For Your Purpose

Anyone who’s been reading my blog for more than a month knows that I’m passionate about the importance of finding a Purpose for your retirement.  Mike has discovered the importance of Purpose during his journey into Retirement Heaven, and Part 3 provides practical suggestions for working through your personal search for a purpose in retirement.

Mike’s a big fan of journaling, and I suspect he scanned back through his journal extensively as he wrote this book.  The steps he suggests are steps he took himself, including thinking back to what you got excited about in your pre-working years, which he presents as “watching your life’s movie”.    By re-discovering what matters to you, and leveraging self-knowledge to realize your values, you’ll be building a firm foundation to ensure whatever Purpose you pursue in retirement is truly aligned with the things that matter most to you.

It’s a more comprehensive approach than I presented in my book and a nice piece of writing on how to work through the process of discovering your Purpose in retirement.  For many of us, the process of discovering our Purpose isn’t clear, and Retirement Heaven or Hell will provide a solid template for someone seeking advice on how to go about the process.  A quote from the Simple Truth summary at the end of Chapter 14 is worth sharing:

“Real fulfillment doesn’t come from having a lot of money and material possessions; it comes from finding out what makes you happy and brings you joy, and then doing those things”.

I like that quote, and it’s a good example of the type of clear writing you’ll find in this book.

Part 4: Create a Heavenly Retirement for Yourself

In the final section of Retirement Heaven or Hell, Mike pulls together all of his learnings and encourages his readers to become “Retirement Rebels”, which he defines as “bad-ass people in their sixties, seventies, and eighties who have ripped up the old retirement rule book on aging and retirement”.

Following are his Top 10 Characteristics of Retirement Rebels (a list we should all seek to emulate):

  1. They Live Their Values.
  2. They Are Proud but Not Too Proud to Listen and Learn.
  3. They Have A Positive Attitude.
  4. They Have No Retirement Excuses.
  5. They View Retirement Differently Than Most Retirees.
  6. They Have a Growth Mind-Set.
  7. They Aren’t Scared to Fail.
  8. They Are Careful About Who They Hang Out With.
  9. They Love Simplicity.
  10. They Love to Break the Rules.

As I read this section of the book, I couldn’t help to think of the similarity with The 10 Commandments of Retirement I created for myself a few months before I retired.  The exercise of thinking about how you want to live your retirement is a key element in achieving Retirement Heaven, and Mike’s list is a great place to start.  If you’ve not done so already, I encourage you to develop a list of 10 characteristics you want to reflect in your retirement life.  I found it helpful, and Mike followed a very similar path with his thinking on becoming a Retirement Rebel.

In Chapter 17, Mike focuses on Retirement Lifestyle Design, which he subtitles “creating a good ending to your movie”.  After the self-reflection which is encouraged throughout the book, this is where the rubber meets the road.  This is where you focus on what you want your retirement to be.  For the first time in life, how you live in retirement is up to you.  Choose wisely.

To close, Mike summarizes the book in the final chapter:  Retirement Heaven Or Hell?  The Choice is Yours. It’s a great summary of his escape from Retirement Hell and into Retirement Heaven.  From his final paragraph:

“You have the power to change the trajectory of your retirement.  Why settle for a mediocre retirement and follow along like everyone else when you are capable of so much more?”

Powerful words, and a great way to conclude a powerful book.  Once you read it, you’ll be motivated to find Retirement Heaven.  After all, it’s within your grasp.

Become a Retirement Rebel.

Live life.

A Word About Those Cartoons

One of the things I enjoy about this book is Mike’s creative use of cartoons to illustrate his points throughout the book.  When I reviewed the first draft, Mike asked my opinion about the use of the cartoons.  “Am I overdoing it, or do they add value?”.  I told him then, and I’ll tell you now – I love them.  It’s good to keep things fun as we plan for our retirements, and the cartoons are a creative way to remind us of the need for humor.


In Mike’s introduction to the book, he writes:

“…I’ve also realized that in my struggle to get out of Retirement Hell, I was unknowingly being prepared through firsthand experience so that others could benefit from what I had learned.”

In Retirement Heaven or Hell, Mike has created something that thousands of retirees will benefit from.  While his journey through Retirement Hell was difficult, I suspect that through reading his book many people will avoid the pitfalls that put him there.  Perhaps his pain was worth it.  If not for Mike, at least those who read this book will benefit from his journey and avoid some of his pain as a result.

For that reason alone, this book is a must-read for anyone who is concerned or struggling with the adjustment to retirement.  It’s a big transition, and many folks struggle with it.  You’re not alone.  Mike’s been there, and he tells you how to succeed in moving from Retirement Hell into Retirement Heaven.

Do yourself a favor.  Read this book.  Learn from Mike’s journey.

Avoid Retirement Hell.  

Find Retirement Heaven.

If you’d like to order the book, click below (Amazon Affiliate link):

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Retirement Heaven or Hell?