9 Things Captain Kirk Can Teach You About Retirement Planning

Great Financial Lessons Can Be Gleaned From Captain Kirk

William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise
••• William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. Silver Screen Collection/Archive Photos/Getty Images

I grew up watching Star Trek, and have always been a fan of William Shatner. One day, just for fun, I found myself searching online for “Captain Kirk quotes”.  Suddenly I was laughing out loud as I realized how many of his quotes are applicable to your own retirement and investing decisions. Here are nine fantastic Kirk quotes that can help you make better money decisions.

1. "One of the advantages of being a Captain is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it." -Kirk in 'Dagger of the Mind'

You are the captain of your financial ship. Your spend most of your working years on auto-pilot, saving as much as you can. Retirement – that point in time where you will need to begin using your savings at a metered pace, will be unchartered territory. Get all the advice you can before you leap into this phase. It is up to you to learn about your options, then decide which choices are best for you. Where can you turn to for reliable advice? Read finance magazines, books, retirement blogs, and meet with advisors who specialize in retirement income planning. Follow the advice that fits, and ignore the advice that doesn’t.

2. "No more blah, blah, blah!" -Kirk in 'Miri' 

In the financial world, the “blah, blah, blah” represents the headlines that come from the media and the investment and insurance product providers. The media’s job is to keep you watching – and riling up your emotions is an effective way to do that.

Emotionally based money decisions, however, are not effective. Ignore the latest news. Don’t believe the sales pitches. That kind of stuff is investment pornography and it is bad for your relationship with your money. Smart investing means you have a defined investment philosophy and you employ it consistently.


3. "Not one hundred percent efficient, of course...but nothing ever is." -Kirk in 'Metamorphosis'

It is normal to be nervous as you contemplate a transition to living off your savings. Some people deal with their nerves by trying to find the perfect solution. Stop looking for the perfect investment, or the perfect retirement strategy. It doesn’t exist. When you fly across the country, about 95% of the time the plane is off course – yet it always gets to its destination. This is a result of constant course corrections. Your financial life is the same.  It is most important to focus on decisions within your control, such as how much you spend, how much investment risk you take, and when you retire. These things must be managed and tracked in a consistent way so you are always engaged in a process of course corrections to keep you moving toward your goals. This is as close as you can get to 100% efficient. 

4. "Well get on with it man, just don't stand there!" -Kirk in 'Wolf In The Fold'

We all have friends that complain about something in their life, such as losing weight, but won’t do anything about it. If you’re unhappy about your financial situation, it is time to get on with it. If you are still working get a plan in place that tells you how much you need to save and where you need to be saving it (IRA, Roth IRA, or 401k for example).

If you are near retirement you need a plan that tells you just the opposite – how much you’ll need to spend each year and where your income will come from (Social Security, savings withdrawals, or IRA withdrawals for example). If you don’t have a plan, don’t just stand there.

5. "I submit to you that your universe is illogical. I submit to you that YOU are illogical."  -Kirk in 'Mirror, Mirror'

Behavioral finance is the study of how we go about making financial decisions. No doubt – we are not logical about it. We all exhibit classic characteristics of over-confidence, recency bias, hindsight bias, and many other documented biases that cause us to make illogical financial decisions. Study behavioral finance so you can recognize, and then minimize, these behaviors in yourself. It starts be admitting that sometimes we are not logical.

6. "Risk IS our business. That's what this starship is all about. That's why we're aboard her." -Kirk in 'Return To Tomorrow'

If high returns were a sure thing, there would be no need for safe investments. Investing involves risk. The key is knowing what to expect from the investment choices you make. If you have unrealistic expectations you will make poor decisions when things don’t go the way you thought they would. I find it helpful to classify risk on a scale of 1 to 5, and see where different choices fall on this scale. This helps you recognize the risk involved and set realistic expectations. When it comes to investing, risk is part of the business.

7. "Genius doesn't work on an assembly line basis. You can't simply say, 'Today I will be brilliant.'" -Kirk in 'The Ultimate Computer'

If you suddenly think you’ve found the stock, business, or real estate deal of a lifetime - watch out. There aren’t easy profits lying around for the taking. There are millions of smart, educated folks out there looking for ways to make money. Even if you do have a truly brilliant idea, it doesn’t mean it will turn out to be a profitable one. It’s a fiercely competitive world. If you’ve encountered something that is tapping into your emotions and you feel like you ‘can’t lose’ because (insert reasoning here) this is almost a sure sign you are about to lose money. I’ve watched it happen over and over. Steady and consistent is what wins the financial race - not flashes of inspiration.

8. How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life. -Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

If you haven’t watched Disney’s The Circle of Life, you should. Your financial plan must include conversations about death. If you’re married, you and your spouse should talk openly about what decisions a surviving spouse would need to make, and who could help him/her make them. If you are the spouse that handles the finances, your other half may be scrambling to try to sort it all out if he/she loses you. Lay out a plan for them so they would know who to turn to. Family conversations are important too. These can be a valuable tool you use to help your adult children make smart financial decisions of their own. If you’re not sure how to start these conversations check out Jack Tatar’s book, Having the Talk.

9. "Galloping around the cosmos is a game for the young." -Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

When we’re younger we often fly by the seat of our pants. Throw some money at a stock? Sure. Move across the country for love? Ok. Things change as you near retirement. Retirement is a series of irrevocable decisions. It requires more planning. It’s not the same game anymore. This is the time to embrace the wisdom you’ve acquired over the years. You may not be as equipped to gallop around the cosmos, but you have years of life experiences to draw from. Instead of focusing on the trials of aging, acknowledge and use the strengths you have gained. It is a new game now, and you have the skills to play it.