Pilots are big on checklists. We scrutinize our aircraft preflight to make sure that it is mechanically sound and airworthy, the fuel on board is calculated to make our destination with required reserves, and the weather is conducive to a safe flight.
But once I’m confident my plane is airworthy, I give myself a final once-over as well. Like many pilots I know, I take a moment to myself and check to make sure I’M SAFE. And I think this personal preflight checklist might give retirees a few things to think about too as they prepare to journey into an exciting new phase of their lives.
I – Illness
The FAA requires pilots to undergo medical examinations periodically, based on age and type, to obtain a medical certificate that clears us for flying. But minor maladies like colds and allergies that I’ll sniffle my way through at Keen Wealth might make me reconsider sitting in the cockpit. Sneezing, watery eyes, and clogged ears are harmless enough on the ground, but high altitudes and cabin pressure can exacerbate these conditions and impair a pilot’s ability to identify risks and maneuver the aircraft.
Ultimately, determining flight fitness is the pilot’s responsibility. The same is true of all retirees, especially if you’re living by yourself. Minor ailments become more serious as we age, especially if left untreated. One of the best benefits of your new Medicare plan is its many free preventative services, including a “Welcome to Medicare” doctor’s visit that will establish your baseline health and screen for common illnesses. You’ve been paying into these services your entire working life. Use them!
M – Medication
Many common prescription and over-the-counter drugs are off limits for pilots before a flight because of side effects like drowsiness. In fact, depending on the medication, the FAA recommends that pilots wait until five dosing periods have passed before flying to make sure that the medicine has left the pilot’s system. A pilot who has a medical condition that requires ongoing prescription drug treatment usually meets with an aviation medical examiner to discuss how the medication might affect his or her ability to fly.
We discussed how Medicare handles prescription medication in a previous blog post. If you or your spouse have medical issues that require prescription drugs, make sure you talk through your options with a health care professional. The good news is the cost of those drugs should start going down next year.
S – Stress
Yes, flying is a great joy, but it requires total focus by the pilot. Outside factors like psychological stress from a personal or work-related issue can in some cases be enough for the pilot to make a no-go decision. In addition, the fatigue from a long flight across time zones can take its toll. Environmental issues like cabin temperature and changing weather conditions can affect a pilot’s performance and the ease of the flight as well.
Many new retirees are surprised by how stressful retirement can be. They’re expecting endless beaches and tee times. Instead, they wake up to constant concerns about having enough money and finding ways to fill their days.
One way to tackle stress both in the air and on the ground is to try to approach stressors like they’re challenges – problems that you can have some fun solving. For example, the problem of having too much time on your hands might lead you to try a whole bunch of new things that lead you to new experiences and interests that will make your retirement more interesting.
A – Alcohol
Who are the most frequent binge-drinkers in the US? No, not college kids, but retirees. According to recent studies, alcoholism is on the rise among the 65+ set. Too many seniors are turning to alcohol and prescription drugs to fill their time in retirement, self-medicate, and numb their worries. If you find you or your spouse slipping into this cycle, think about getting some professional help. One of those free Medicare services is a depression screening that might give you some insights on why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling and point you towards some more fulfilling retirement outlets.
For pilots, there’s absolutely no wiggle room on this one: no drinking 8 hours before flying. And if a pilot got a little too irresponsible a day or two before a flight, 8 hours might not be enough either. Side effects from too much drinking like nausea, headaches, and blurred vision are serious safety risks. That’s why the FAA recommends pilots abstain 24 hours before a flight.
F – Fatigue
We often think a good night’s sleep is a luxury we can’t afford in our busy lives. But few things will lay a person out worse than when a few days of fatigue finally catches up with you. Pilots have to be very conscientious about time zone changes and generally being well-rested when they’re scheduling flights. I have personally cancelled a day of flying when I determined that I wasn’t as sharp and crisp as needed due to not being well-rested.
And seniors have to make sure they’re not so worried about running out of money that they skimp on important creature comforts. How old is that mattress in your master bedroom? Is flipping over your couch cushions no longer cutting it?
Believe me, I understand money is a top concern in retirement. But your health and comfort matter too. Take another look at your budget. You might find a way to buy a new mattress.
E – Emotion
Much like illness and stress, it’s the pilot’s responsibility to make sure he or she is emotionally ready for a flight. If you can’t brush aside the daily concerns we all deal with so that you can focus on the task at hand, then you shouldn’t be piloting an aircraft. This can be one of the trickiest items on a pilot’s preflight checklist because our emotions can change rapidly, especially under stress. Part of the process is knowing yourself. And part of the process is practice, learning how to keep your emotions in check when you’re making important decisions.
This might be the flying skill that’s helped me the most with my work as a fiduciary advisor. The success of a long-term financial and retirement plan is dependent upon making measured decisions that are fact-based and not emotional. Setting those emotions aside can be so difficult if you’re trying to work through retirement issues on your own, without the benefit of professional guidance and discipline. I’m confident that the checklist-driven process my fiduciary advisors use at Keen Wealth will help you make the right decisions for your future and keep you feeling safe as you board your dream flight into retirement.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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