Life of Ernie Is Wild and FreeFrom the National Post
To say Ernie J. Zelinski has taken the road less travelled would be a large understatement. Quite simply, the author of How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free and other self-help best-sellers has taken the road never before travelled, living a life designed on his own terms.
In How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won't Get From Your Investment Advisor, he writes: "The way I see it, you will have attained true freedom in this world when you can get up in the morning when you want to get up; go to sleep when you want to go to sleep; and in the interval, work and play at the things you want to work and play at -- all at your own pace. The great news is that retirement allows you the opportunity to attain this freedom."
Zelinski, 58, a professional engineer by training and subsequent MBA graduate, has been mostly semi-retired since 1980 and has not missed the corporate grind one bit, living his particular kind of freedom for almost 30 years.
"I semi-retired when I was $30,000 in the hole and I've been semi-retired ever since," he says over the phone from his home in Edmonton. "Even if I made $10-million or $20-million, I still think I'd want to be doing what I'm doing because I really like doing what I'm doing."
Yes, but what exactly does a semi-retired self-help author do to make a living and live his version of happy, wild and free?
Zelinski, a bachelor, is a night owl, usually not retiring to bed till 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. He gets up at 11 or 11:30 a.m., goes for a run or bike ride or exercises at home for up to 90 minutes, gets to the coffee shop around 3 or 3:30 p.m., reads the papers, talks to people and maybe does a little work on his laptop. Around 8 p.m. he might join friends for a drink at a local lounge. Then he comes home, does some work, reads more papers and goes to bed.
This semi-eccentric semi-retiree's "work" of about three or four hours a day has paid him an average income of more than $100,000 over the past five years. But financial success was a long time coming for the erstwhile Alberta farm boy and was very hard-earned.
"Remember, there were years when I was living below the poverty line," he says, "though I never considered myself poverty stricken."
He had self-published his first self-help book on creativity, The Art of Seeing Double or Better in Business, in 1989 after almost a decade in which he had been fired from his engineering job for taking unauthorized vacation, took two years off, earned his MBA, taught at a private school, became a motivational speaker and generally tried to find his way toward a satisfying, if youthful, semi-retirement. The book sold 2,000 copies.
But his 1991 book, The Joy of Not Working, published in the midst of the recession, struck a chord with readers and sold 10,000 copies a year for the next five years. "Everyone's writing about how to get a job and I came out with The Joys of Not Working," he says. "It did really well."
That it did really well caught the attention of Ten Speed Press in California, which picked up the title in 1997 and has since been Zelinski's partner in other ventures. Today, The Joys has sold 250,000 copies and How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free has had sales of 75,000 [90,000 counting foreign sales]. It is the No. 1 retirement book on Amazon.com and Zelinski is aiming to sell half-a-million over time as the Boomers retire.
There are 200,000 books published every year in the United States and Canada, about 50 of them about retirement. Ninety-five percent of them sell fewer than 5,000 copies.
Zelinski's books strike a happy balance between light reading and enlightenment, with the author's cheeky observations and many famous quotations helping the mix.
Also key to the books' success is Zelinski's talents at marketing and promotion, mostly through the Internet. Readers are drawn to Web sites with marketing offers that often translate into sales.
Ironically though, even more key to his success is Zelinski's dogged work ethic. He may spend only three to four hours a day working, but you can bet he's thinking about his tasks -- and thinking smart about them--in his time "off."
In his research about retirement, what strikes him the most is the fact that so many people have saved so little for their later years. "I know money can't make you happy," he says, "but a lack of money can make you very, very miserable."
What can also help make people happy in retirement, he adds, is to retain the three things that they lose when they stop work: Purpose, sense of community and structure. "You've got to put those things back in your life."
Ernie J. Zelinski, while taking the road never travelled, has seen to it that he has maintained those bedrock facets of life in a remarkable span of "semi-retirement." He has lived his self-help message and is living proof that one retirement does not fit all.
"I've learned to live very basically," he says. "I don't need what other people need."
By Bill Hanley
5 Stupid Reasons Not to Read How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free
- 1. You think that all you need is a lot of money to be happy in retirement.
2. You don't think there is any more to retirement than being able to watch a lot of TV, being able to go to the casino a lot, and being able to sleep when you want to.
3. You have read another retirement book already and you didn't like it.
4. You are in the retirement industry and although you will likely learn a lot from this book, you are envious of the fact that it has sold over 85,000 copies and been pubished in 7 foreign languges. (You know that if this book has been this successful, it is a great book - in fact, you wish you would have written it.)
5. You find it uncomfortable to read books that challenge your beliefs even though deep down you know that people who challenge your beliefs are often right and can offer you a lot of wisdom about how to retire happy, wild, and free.
- The Author of This Book Promises You . . . This!
How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free reveals the secrets to a happy retirement like no other retirement book does. This is the reason it is the bestselling non-financial retirement book on Amazon.com.
So often, the secrets to happiness are all around us, but it isn't until much later that we realize their significance.
How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free reveals the 'invisible' secrets to you and opens doorways to your retirement future that will otherwise stay locked up until it is too late.
Purchase How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free on Amazon.com with this direct link: