Planning for the Future
Planning for life after towers (Climbing) should start as early as possible. As we all know, there are no guarantees in life, and you never know when something might happen. There are multiple aspects you need to take into consideration. You need to think about your physical health, mental health, as well as your financial stability.
I spoke with a couple dozen tower hands and the general feedback was about the same with a few exceptions – most are working too hard to give their physical health the attention it needs. Most do not have financial planning other than a small savings account for life after towers. And when it comes to mental health, most don’t think it’s needed, myself included. Truth be told, the life of a tower hand is hard on all three and we do need to plan ahead.
I wish I had the magical answer for this one but I don’t, I’m just like the majority. I started thinking about this way too late in life and I’ll be working a lot longer than I want to be. What I can do is share the feedback I received from others who made wise choices at a younger age.
The tower industry being what it is, it’s not always best to invest in a company provided retirement plan such as their 401K, stock options, etc. Those are great if you plan to be with the company for an extended period of time and even better if you plan to retire with them but like I said, this is the tower industry. The turnover rate is far too high in this industry and nobody wants to lose money. Folks that I spoke with recommended using 3rd party financial planners where their only interest is making you money. Allocate a small amount of each check to be placed into multiple accounts. One for your rock-solid 401K, one that can be used for low risk investments, and one for your emergency funds. This is on top of your normal monthly household savings. It may not look like much at first, but over time this will build. One person I spoke with has been doing it this way for over 20 years. At the age of 40 he’s in a position, to retire and never worry about money again. He continues to work, but that shows the discipline he’s used over the last 20 years. In this day and age there are many options to pick from when it comes to planners, but you’ll never know unless you do some research.
Taking care of your physical health now is so important. I know we are tough, and most only see the doctor when something is broken, but that mentality will lead to complications later in life. Routine visits to the doctor with an annual workup is ideal. Tower hands run faster and harder than most, and we do it out in the elements performing brutal physical tasks. What feels like a small ache today, will feel like bone crushing pain in 10 or 20 years, if it goes without treatment. Arthritis alone can cripple a person over time, I would bet 90% of tower hands with over 5 years already have some form of it.
Tower hands on average only eat one meal per day with snacks in between. The one meal per day is not typically the most nutritional either. Fast food, gas station food, and hotel food are the most commonly eaten things while on the road. In moderation, this type of eating won’t bother you, but over time it can create major problems, some of which are permanent and/or fatal. It can lead to heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, ulcers, indigestion, GERD, and the list goes on. Trying to eat healthy is not easy while on the road, especially if you’re trying to live off your per-diem. Eating healthy costs 3 times more than just grabbing a burger, most of the time the burger option is the easiest. Keeping an eye on your diet, along with routine follow-ups to the doctor, will make your later years far more enjoyable.
This one gets laughed at quite often by tower hands, but it really is important. Life on the road and on the tower is hard. Not only are you beating yourself up physically, it takes a toll mentally. A lot has to do with the amount of sleep or lack thereof. Another factor is being away from the family, regardless of what we have going on with the job, we still stress about them back home. Another big contributor is the after-hour activities. Sitting in a hotel room gets boring so many find comfort in the local watering hole. Like I said previously, in moderation this is not an issue, but when it’s done excessively there can be complications. Depression is a real thing, and it haunts so many, life on the road seems to bring it out. Being aware of these things and getting the sleep your body needs can make a huge difference.
Keep The Future In Mind
Being diligent and keeping your future in mind on a daily basis will create a foundation for happiness as you get older. Not everything has to be done right now. This is a slow process, with a huge payout, if you give it just a little bit of your time and attention.
One less burger a week, one less night out with the guys. Take that money and put it up, the health benefits will follow too. You don’t want to burn out too quick and at the end of the day remember, this is just a job.
Note: To read part 1 of this series, click here.
Jeremy has been in the industry for over 24 years and is the founder of Tower Climbers of America. TCofA started as a small Yahoo group of around 16 members and has now grown to boast over 22,000 members around the globe. Learn More