Airliner - Photo by Sebastian Grochowicz

Donal O’Siochain
RPC Programme Leader

This article was originally published in Senior Times, May 2017

Ex-pilot Donal O’Siocháin had one view of retirement after a long career with Aer Lingus but surprised himself by retraining. He now works with the Retirement Planning Council of Ireland clg (RPC) advising others what to expect at this new stage of their lives.

It was only after three months into his own retirement at 58 and on the advice of a friend who had done a retirement course that he realised that ‘there were all these things that I was missing out on’, including social welfare benefits.

This spurred his interest in the area. He was later asked by the RPC of Ireland to undergoing some training. As a result of this, he now leads two day open courses run by the organisation.

The courses themselves offer participants a chance to deal with all the different changes that people coming up to retirement might expect. They cover such diverse topics as: health; money; identity in retirement; relationships; time and routine; new activities. Specialists lead the way on specific subjects but Donal and his colleagues provide the welcome and reassurance to course participants.

Course numbers are usually somewhere between 20 and 25 people but can be less. While concerns about money may be the first thing people think of, the RPC wants participants to adopt a more holistic approach to retirement that also includes the emotional, psychological and lifestyle aspects and not just the financial ones. Most of the courses are in Dublin but they are also held around the country. Donal adds that he will be leading a course in the coming weeks in Kilkenny, (25th and 26th and May in Hotel Kilkenny).

Donal himself thinks that most people are actually looking forward to their retirement. He comments that, ‘more recently there are very few people coming onto the courses worried about retirement, the vast majority are eagerly looking forward to it’. While there may be concerns about finances, it is the question of how to fill the increased amount of time that worries a lot of people. Donal also emphasises that retirement affects couples and single people differently. His advice is to search out some hobbies, more than one is advisable.

His advice for couples is, ‘Don’t do everything together. It’s better to have some separate interests. Just because you are about to retire and you can be together 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that’s not necessarily a good thing’. He adds that single people can make decisions more easily for themselves and don’t have to consult with people. They usually have better social networks, ‘it’s swings and roundabouts but generally maintaining separate interests is important’.  It keeps conversation fresh!

When asked if he had any specific advice he replies that, ‘coming up to retirement, to like a few things, enjoy a few things and keep yourself busy, find a couple of hobbies, don’t be hanging around’. Establish a routine but don’t plan every minute of every day – think chunks of time!

One of the unique features of the RPC’s course is that of free lifetime support, once you have completed a course, you can contact the course leaders at any time afterwards if you have a specific issue. Donal confirms that he had two queries only this morning and that, ‘some people come back and do a second course’. Donal himself thinks that attending a course maybe two years before actual retirement can be very beneficial.

Donal notes the age at which people decide to retire is also changing. He expects that soon people will no longer be legally expected to retire at 65. The age at which people can receive the state pension is increasing. All this is part of a changing retirement landscape that means people can and may have to shape their own retirement more actively than in the past. Continuing to be employed or even beginning self-employment is likely to be more common.

‘In Ireland only 40% of people have an occupational pension, the rest are dependent on the state pension. The state pension is pretty generous in Ireland compared with elsewhere, like the UK for example, but it’s still not vast’, comments Donal.

The role of the Retirement Planning Council of Ireland in giving participants information and an opportunity to think about these issues is very valuable.

Donal has taken his own advice and keeps himself occupied. The Inland Waterways remains a passion. Ex pilots may not fly that often but occasionally he takes to the skies but this time with an instructor friend. He often meets up with old colleagues to chat about all things aviation. He credits these very different interests, including his work with the RPC, as some of the reasons for his own happy retirement experience.