I could tell something was wrong from the moment the plane left the ground.
When you take off in a private plane, you’re supposed to fly a straight “runway heading” until the plane gets at least 500 to 700 feet off the ground.
You see when you’re still close to the ground, you have less time to correct any issues.
But when I took off this weekend, my plane immediately started veering to the left. And try as I might, I couldn’t bring it back on course.
Alarm bells started to sound.
And the tower loomed larger and larger in my windshield.
There was nothing I could do, and then everything went black.
Needless to say, that was NOT the way I expected my flight to go.
And as weird as it might sound, in the back of my mind I was thinking, “this is NOT the way our retirement experience should go.”
The Dangers of Autopilot (and Other Retirement Blunders)
As I’m sure you can tell, I wasn’t killed or even injured in this weekend’s crash.
The flight took place in a simulator at my local flight school.
I’m working on getting my instrument rating, an additional skill for my pilot’s license, and recently began training in a simulator.
This weekend my instructor was helping me learn to react to different situations that could come up on my flights.
Oddly enough, many of the same lessons I’m learning for my instrument rating tie perfectly to how we plan for (and live out) our retirement.
So I wanted to share a couple of those lessons with you.
I hope you enjoy the analogies and that these lessons help you “fly through retirement” safely.
Lesson #1: Disable the Autopilot
My first lesson from this weekend’s training session was to disable the autopilot — especially when things don’t feel right.
When flying along on a clear day, autopilot can be a great tool.
It helps reduce the workload on pilots so they can focus on important things like looking for traffic, communicating with air traffic control and planning their approach to the next airport.
But leaving a plane on autopilot during critical stages of the flight can be a costly mistake.
The same can be true for your retirement!
During times of uncertainty like we’re seeing right now, it’s important to carefully manage your retirement finances.
This can mean taking advantage of key opportunities, moving capital out of risky areas of the market, and studying how the economic shifts could affect different areas that you’re invested in.
Some investors feel overwhelmed when things in the market get rough. And it’s a natural human reaction to ignore the dangers and just hope everything blows over.
But here at Rich Retirement Letter, my team and I are here to help you steer your way through this turbulent time and protect that retirement nest egg you’ve worked so hard to save.
Lesson #2: Trust Your Instruments
When flying in turbulent weather (especially when visibility is low) it’s easy to get disoriented.
You can feel like your plane is straight and level when you’re really veering off course and losing altitude.
Just for fun, take a look at the instrument panel that I’ve been training on. This is the view a pilot needs to trust to keep the plane flying safely through challenging conditions.
It might look confusing at first, but the basics are pretty straightforward…
You want to keep the blue side up — the sky above you and the ground below you.
And you want to make sure your plane is flying with plenty of altitude — or room between you and the ground.
When it comes to your retirement, there are some important instruments (or indicators) you should be keeping track of…
Is your retirement wealth growing… shrinking… or staying relatively flat? This is sort of like looking at how much altitude your plane has.
Ideally, we’d all love to see our retirement savings move steadily higher.
But if you’re in a stage of life where you’re spending your retirement savings, it may be perfectly fine for your wealth to remain steady.
In some cases, it may even be perfectly fine to slowly lose value in your retirement wealth because you’re spending more than the income you’re receiving.
If you have enough saved to keep doing this throughout your retirement, this is no cause for concern. You just want to keep a close eye on this situation so you don’t run out of cash during your golden years.
Balance is also important. You don’t want too much weight in any particular area that could throw your plane (or your retirement plan) off-balance.
As a pilot, I have to balance the plane carefully before taking off and then monitor my instruments to make sure I’m keeping a balanced flight path through the air…
Similarly, as a retiree, you want to make sure your investments are balanced in different areas of the market.
So you’re not taking too much risk by leaning heavily towards tech, or energy, or any other specific industry.
And last but not least, here’s the final lesson…
Lesson #3: Don’t Forget to Have Fun!
I’m not planning a career as a pilot. The only reason I got my private pilot’s license was so I could take my family on trips and have a good time flying.
“This is supposed to be fun — not stressful,” my instructor told me. “I’m going to throw some scenarios at you to help you learn to be safe. But if you follow your checklists and take the right precautions, flying can be a blast!”
It was a good reminder for me, since I was getting a bit stressed about the autopilot issue.
And it’s also a good reminder for us in the whole retirement process.
Retirement is supposed to be an enjoyable season of life!
It’s a time when you can relish the relationships you have and focus on the things that matter to you.
And I don’t want crazy financial markets or an uncertain economic period to take that joyful season away from you.
Yes, you need to take your retirement plan seriously. You need to protect your wealth from risk, and look for opportunities to grow your income. That’s how we keep our retirement flying safely day after day.
But if you set your retirement plan up wisely and keep a watchful eye on the risks and opportunities, retirement doesn’t have to be stressful!
You can truly enjoy this special period that you’ve looked forward to for so long.
My team and I are dedicated to bringing you the best retirement ideas and information possible. And we’re here as a resource to help answer your most frequently asked questions and show you opportunities.
I hope you’re enjoying sunny skies and beautiful experiences while planning for and living through your retirement.
And I hope you’ll stay in touch and let us know how you’re doing!