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To paraphrase one of my heroes, Ronald Reagan, "Well, here we go again."  Another New Year is dawning, and with it, the chance for new beginnings and the hope for better times.  Many of us may well  be tempted to say "Good riddance!" to 2009.  It was a year with a variety of challenges as our economy struggled to begin the recovery from a serious financial jolt.  We saw some of our friends and family loose their jobs; we watched the domestic automobile industry shrink; we watched as our inept lawmakers in Washington grappled with health care reform and then watched the Democratic leadership bride a few senators to secure the votes they needed to pass a deeply flawed health care bill; and I saw first-hand the effect a serious economic downturn can have on the airline industry and my carrier in particular.  Of course 2009 was not all bad.  The Dow Jones average has increase about 25% year to date, and over 40% since it touched its low of about 6440 in March of 2009.  The economy does seem to be recovering somewhat, though it is expected to be a long, slow recovery.  But all in all, our country is still the greatest on earth and still offers opportunities in abundance.  Most of us still have a job and much for which to be thankful.  We may have had a tough year in the US this year, but compared to those in many other countries, we still had it pretty good.  And, we have much about which to be confidant and to look forward to in 2010.

I am certainly looking forward to 2010.  I expect 2010 to be geat; I am excited about 2010.  It is out there on the horizon full of new possibilities, and if my plans go as expected, and the Good Lord is willing, 2010 will be my last year as a pilot.  I love flying airplanes; I love being an airline pilot;  but by the end of 2010 I will have been flying for nearly 38 years; that just seems long enough.  I plan to hang up my uniform and approach charts and then spend some time determining what I want to be when I finally grow up!  But before leaving the cockpit the last time, I still have some things that I need to accomplish.  As I have relied on checklists in the cockpit for much of my professional life, I have decided to construct one last checklist.  I am calling this checklist the "Before Leaving the Cockpit for the Last Time" checklist, and I share it with you.


                             Before Leaving the Cockpit for the Last Time


1.  Do your best to enjoy your last year in the cockpit. Savor every moment but keep your skills sharp; stay competent, focused, and committed to doing your job.  Enjoy being with your co-workers and be a source of encouragement to those around you.

2.  Make sure you have maxed out the 401k one last time.  The 401k contribution limit for 2010 is $16,500 and the "catch-up" limit for those of us over 50 is $5,500 for a total of $22,000.  Deferring that much to a 401k may  crimp other spending, but if possible steer that money into 401k hiding for future use.

3Rebalance for retirement.  Many retirement specialists recommend having one's retirement assets divided 50/50 between equities/bonds and cash.  Others  suggest subtracting your age from 120, and keeping that percentage in equities.  Just insure that you have given this issue some consideration and that you make the decision rather than letting choices you made years ago determine what your asset allocation will be.

4.  Consider consolidating retirement funds (via 401k rollover, IRA rollovers, etc.) to one or two companies so as to simplify access and control.  Companies like Vanguard and Fidelity have numerous accounts available that help accomplish this task.  They also have excellent customer service. 

5.  Insure that health insurance is in place before retiring.  This is a "biggy."  Talk with the company HR department to determine if COBRA is an option, and for how long.  Talk with some friends who are already retired to see how they have handled health insurance.  Do research on line, with insurance professionals, etc. to see what may be available.

6.  Carefully review current spending habits and develop a spending plan for post retirement years.  Heck, call it a retirement budget if you like.  Keep up with your family spending for a month, determine what spending will no longer be necessary post retirement, and determine what your likely monthly spending will be.  Prioritize your spending in case changes are needed post retirement.  Make plans early for any big-ticket items such as a new roof, new car, or special retirement trip.

7.  Determine a withdrawal plan for retirement funds.  Determine what percentage you will allow yourself to withdraw each year, as well as which accounts will be tapped first.  Most retirement specialist recommend withdrawing no more than 4% to 5% during  the first year of retirement and withdrawing from taxable accounts first, leaving ROTH IRA accounts to grow as long as possible.

8.  Develop a plan for more free time.  You will need a time-spending plan just like you will need a money-spending plan.  How successful you ultimate feel in retirement will depend in large part on how well you have planned for your extra free time.  You might want to bring the spouse in at this planning step as she/he is going to be spending more time dealing with you.  Make sure they aren't too surprised when you stay at home all day one day and insist on helping them do whatever it is they have been doing for years without your help!

9.  Develop a plan to stay active and get regular cardio exercise.  This step makes it more likely that you will enjoy your retirement more and longer.

10.  Spend time in quiet contemplation and prayer as you prepare for a major life change.  Don't kid yourself; this is a big step.  Many have not made it  particularly successfully.  Pray for guidance that you will pull it off well.


So, this is my checklist prior to leaving the cockpit for the last time.  I have found that I am more confidant and less prone to unintentional consequences when I adhere closely to checklists, and I intend to follow this one closely.  It can probably be modified fairly easily to fit other retirement scenarios.  Feel free to use it for yours, and good luck to all of us soon-to-be-retirees.


28 December 2009

Fly/Drive Safely

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Reader Comments (1)

You can check off # 5. The Democrats are going to take care of that for you.

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSis

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