I had a serendipitous encounter with a fellow pilot who, upon introduction, pulled out his phone and showed me the infamous “countdown clock”–how many days, hours and minutes left until he was officially retired. For pilots who go the distance, it’s on their 65th birthday–an ignominious way to enter retirement, or rather, end a career. First, the date of your birth should always be associated with celebration, and although many pilots eagerly look forward the date when the will be “free” and unencumbered by scheduling their life in the days “off”, some are going less willingly and less hopeful than others.
That wasn’t the case with this 787 Captain. He told me happily he was looking forward to the next phase of life, and here’s why: he had acquired ALL THE TOYS– a motorboat, a sailboat, an RV, fishing gear, a motorcycle, and many cars. Also, he had golf clubs which hadn’t been used very much but were the latest in technology and class. I was impressed that he had prepared for every possible activity with the supporting equipment required, so I asked, “what do you plan to do?” He smiled and said, “Well, I’ll play with my toys!” I said, “That’s so fantastic, but what will you do first, in the months, and year after retiring?’ He got a little bit of a blank look, and said, “Well, I haven’t really thought too much about it.” As honest an answer as I’ve ever heard. Then as he spoke those words out loud, he started to understand that in 181 days, 10 hours, and 16 minutes, he would go into the “next phase” without considering the specifics of how it would go. Where he and his wife might live. Where they might want to travel. Or what he aspired to do–take a trip on his motorcycle or in the RV, go to the fishing holes of his youth, or sail the Caribbean. But most importantly, he did not have any vision of what his days would look like, in the months and year after retiring.
For pilots who spend their career, attending to the details of every flight, not having a plan for what is for some an abrupt life transition, can range from shock to depression, In piloting and in life, perception of control is a key ingredient to success and happiness in one’s environment. Quite possibly a lack of plan translates directly to a perceived lack of control. Anecdotally, many pilots manage this transition well, having purposefully considered their life choices as important as their financial choices. However, many other pilots choose to concentrate on the now, and instant gratification of today’s plan, accomplished successfully. Transitioning from a life of “one and done” flights or event plans, to the long-term outlook of finding meaning and purpose, and even fun, in the post-career years, can be exceedingly stressful without an earnest effort to address this need BEFORE ONE RETIRES!
In the pilots’ case, it’s not if you retire, but when. For other high-functioning career individuals, many express a similar concern, with an added caveat of “I’m too busy working to think about my retirement plans!” The remedy for these folks to avoid the first few months of “retirement shock” is to actively seek some kind of method or structure to flesh out what the first 6 months or year after retirement will hold. It can be an outline at the first go, but with just a bit more effort, some ideas and vision will emerge that can look like a PLAN! All this of course is in pencil–one cannot anticipate opportunities that come along or life events which alter the course of the plan’s route. But constructing this plan, and most importantly, writing it down and sharing it with a trusted partner, friend or retirement coach is the key to making that transition a healthy, positive, and happy one, for the new retiree.
How many days, hours, and minutes do you have left? What is YOUR PLAN for retirement?