I’ve always thought that one of the greatest benefits of becoming a Maryland State Trooper is the chance to retire at a comparatively early age–for me 45. The majority of the working world must continue to work until at least 66 or 67 years of age. Of course, we are speaking of retiring from the State Police only, not many people completely retire at 45. It is more the opportunity to change professions that makes being a Trooper something unique. Some people fear career change while other can’t wait to begin. This edition’s article will cover a few things to think about when nearing your MSP retirement.
Let’s say you’re a typical Trooper who is going to be finishing with MSP within the next ten years and you will be about 45 to 55 when you leave. The first thing you must remember is that you are still a State Trooper and you need your full attention and effort all the way to the finish line. Have you ever noticed how many players get injured in the last quarter of a blow-out football game? Don’t go half speed; the rest of the world doesn’t realize you’re working your last month on the job.
The next major rule, don’t wait until you retire before you start thinking about what you are going to do after you leave. Think about that job you always wanted to do but never had the chance; then look at people in that particular field and see if you can imagine yourself in their place every day for the next 10 to 20 years. Don’t worry too much about the money yet, only the kind of work. Money is no substitute for happiness and luckily, thanks to the MSP, you don’t need to worry about money as much as most people your age.
One important point here; the Maryland State Police is not the only police agency with a 22 to 28 years-of-service retirement plans. In fact, just about all the other police departments in this country do too. Consequently, there is no shortage of semi-retired people with similar skills as you searching for work; add in retiring military folks and you literally have legions of people that can probably do what you do.
The key is to make you different and marketable from the hordes of retirees hitting the job market. One of the easiest ways to do that is to pick a field that really interests you. Just being interested and passionate about your new career choice can put you head-and-shoulders above the rest of the participants; especially the members of that community who have already been doing that job for 20 years.
For example, I hear from many retiring troopers that they would like to teach in their next career. Our non-police peers who may have gone directly into the school system after college are many times burned out already. Imagine the difference between a new gym teacher (retired Trooper) and some other middle-aged guy or gal who after 20 years of organizing dodge-ball or kick-ball is sick and tired of the constant sounds of yelling and screaming kids. The retired Trooper is excited and energetic and can’t believe they’re getting paid full-time for working 10 months a year and no midnight shift! And when it snows, they can stay home! The current gym teacher is thinking and stewing about his retirement still probably another ten years off; 30+ years of hourly bells, sniffling children and monotone morning announcements.
But make no mistake, you can’t go waltzing in to your next employment interview like you’re a gift to the Human Resources section; whatever you desire to do you will probably need to be re-schooled, certified and better qualified than you are now—competition in this job-market is much harder than you’ve imagined. Before anyone will hire you, they need to be assured that you add more value than expense to the bottom line. You will probably need to go back to college or even take a part-time job in the field with an eye on learning the profession from the inside perspective.
Now, if you’ve identified what you would like to do and you’ve taken the initial steps to make yourself qualified I can tell you that you’re way ahead of most retirees. But don’t stop to smell the roses—next you need to begin networking. Networking is simply meeting people already in the business and learning from them things you could never learn from the outside. And surprisingly, all you have to do is ask for information. People love to talk about their profession or business.
Let’s say you wanted to open a coffee shop in your home-town. A couple of trips to some neighboring towns to speak to the owners of similar stores will reap loads of valuable information. Who knows, you might find that the owner has been contemplating retiring themselves, and might want to sell the existing store to you. Regardless, the owner will most likely let you in on a few secrets of the trade that could save you a lot of wasted time and effort. And it doesn’t need to be an exact replica of your business—speaking to any retailers in your geographical area can yield lots of practical information like the effectiveness of various venues of advertising, business banking, accountants and lawyers. The bottom line is that I have found that people love to lend a hand to small businesses getting started.
To wrap up, I guess there are two opposing emotions when retiring from the Maryland State Police; one of great enthusiasm and hope, and the other of great trepidation and fear. The truth turns out to be somewhere in between. MSP is a great place to retire from and working a second career can be a shot in the arm for a world-weary old veteran. But like most successful endeavors, it takes some advance planning and preparation.
Marty Knight, MBA, CFP® is a retired Captain from the Maryland State Police and is currently a Financial Advisor with Chesapeake Investment Advisors Inc. Securities and Advisory services are offered through Geneos Wealth Management, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. He can be reached at 800-994-0221