How many people start out in the superyacht industry thinking they will do it forever? By forever I mean until retirement age. The answer is, very few, as yachting has never been conducive to having a home life and family.
Things have changed a lot in recent years with many crew working on rotation giving them a decent amount of time off at home. However, the industry still has a long way to go until it matches the conditions offered in the Merchant sector.
With this in mind, the majority of crew join the industry intent on a career, but probably not thinking they'll stay forever. The maximum length of time in the industry is probably around 20 years.
But when your time comes to an end, for whatever reason, what do you do next? What does someone who has worked in an extremely niche industry do for a living? Hundreds if not thousands of you think about this every day, and the answer? Nobody knows, but here are a few things to think about long before you start planning your escape.
It is possible to leave yachting and never work again?
Many crew these days have caught on to the fact that the industry pays well and, if you don’t spend money like you own the yacht you work on then it's absolutely feasible that you could do something sensible with a % of your salary every month and reach a point where you have an independent income.
You all know the kind of thing that I am talking about here. Savings, Pensions, stocks and shares, ISA’s, property. These are the staples of the investment world and, with a bit of help and advice your money can easily start working for you.
A combination of long and short-term investments so that everything doesn’t pay out all at once is normally the way forward. Add this to some investment (rental) properties which, over time will pay their own mortgages and you have a nice level of independent income ready for when you leave yachting.
The key to the investment strategy is planning and time. Nobody can expect to invest their money heavily in the last few years of their career and suddenly have a fortune. You are not the Wolf of Wall Street and nobody makes huge sums of money overnight so be sensible about it.
Your best friend in a situation like this is time. For those of you who are in the early stages of your career you CAN make this happen as you have 10 – 15 years to play with, but don’t put it off. Time flies when you are having fun and if you don’t make a start now you will only have yourself to blame in a few years when you have to extend your time on yachts because you haven’t saved or invested enough.
Take small steps and save, learn about the property market and find someone you trust (normally a professional to save you messing it up) to look after the investments side of things. A professional will cost you money but, unless you really know what you are doing this is the safest way to do it.
Another key point is not to 'put all your eggs in one basket'. Spread your risk, take advice and have a goal that your investment strategy helps you achieve. You need to know what you want to achieve in order to get what you want and so think about this in detail, work out what you need and a realistic amount of money you need to live on in the future and take it from there.
What if you are at the point in your career where you have started thinking about getting out and have some savings but know that you will be in the position where, unless a money tree starts growing in your back garden or you win the lottery (remember you have to buy a ticket!) you will have to work after yachting? What do you do? What are your options?
Job Prospects Ashore
This is the option most people think of first. I am a big believer in 'you can do anything if you put your mind to it' but unfortunately most employers want proof that you can do the job you have applied for along with relevant experience.
To you this means that you need to ensure that your CV focuses on the key skills you have developed during your time on yachts as well as the qualifications you have gained both during your yachting career and before you started.
Also, and probably most importantly you need to actually be able to do the job you have applied for. If an employer is looking for a certain skill or qualification that you don’t have it may be best to think again.
When you do start looking for jobs after yachting here are the first things to consider:
What can you do?
What are you qualified to do?
What experience do you have which makes you suitable for the job in question?
Sometimes an easy way to work this out is to list all the things you do in your yachting job and start to compare these skills with shore based job requirements. A lot of the time you may think that your skills do not match but check again, are they just presented in a way you had not thought of? Some of the skills you have may be exactly what an employer is looking for and you just need to present them in a different way.
Remember, most people in the real world have no idea what a superyacht is so you need to be able to confidently describe what it is you do. Forget the glamorous part, how rich your owner is and where you have been as this will not impress an employer. They want to know about you and what you can do, not where you have been, what the yacht is worth, who won last years Monaco Grand Prix or that Prince Albert is a really nice man, actually. None of this will get you a job, in fact it will more than likely work against you.
To summarise, read job adverts, learn the language and work out if the skills you have are relevant but you have just described them differently.
Striking Out Alone
Some of you may have other ideas: 'Why don’t I just set up my own business? This way I can do what I want, earn more and be my own boss?'
Lots of you have time on your hands on crossings etc to think about your future and what you are going to do next. Lots of people have their best ideas during a quiet moment in the middle of the night on anchor watch. If you have an idea and think it will work then put some time into developing it. You need to have a plan otherwise your idea is just that, an idea.
Setting up your own business is hard and takes a lot of time and potentially a lot of money too, so take the time whilst you are still being paid by someone else to do your research.
Ask yourself these questions:
Once you have done all this, run your idea by as many friends as you can, better still run it by people you don’t know very well as they are much more likely to be honest if your idea is rubbish. Remember, if you can answer questions and respond to criticism with solutions then you have done your research but, do not bullshit other people or yourself as failure is hard enough at the best of times but failure because you have not put the work in or, worse still you have fooled yourself into believing your idea is great is even worse.
Something else to bear in mind is that if you are setting up your own business it should be something you know about, have training in or are experienced at. This increases your chances of success hugely. Do not fool yourself into believing that you will be great at something outside of your interests and experience.
If at first you don't succeed...
Many crew leave yachting twice and this is a very common thing to do. The reason behind it is that the first time you leave you think, 'This is it, I have a plan and I am going to make it work' but the reality of the situation is you didn’t think it through, didn’t make a plan and found the transition much more difficult than you imagined.
A lot of you will leave yachts, come home and then try to get a job. This will take a few months and then, when you have something you realise the money is not very good, commuting is horrible and paying tax is even worse. Add to this the fact that you have no money at the end of the month and the sun never ever shines and you soon start to miss yachting. A couple of months later you are back at sea laughing at how naïve you were.
The second time generally goes much better. You know what life is like out there and this time plan properly and have realistic expectations. You do your research in advance and use your spare time whilst employed to do it all properly.
Ultimately life after yachting is the reality we all face at some point. The key is to make the transition as painless and easy as possible. Also, it has to be something you actually want to do so make sure you are ready.
In a perfect world you will be in a situation where you have saved and invested wisely and so never have to work again. However, the reality most crew find themselves in is a watered down version of this. You have some money, a few good investments and two or three properties. You can’t retire but you don’t need a job that pays a fortune to keep you in the lifestyle you are accustomed to. You have to work, but not too hard. This, unless you are in your early 20’s and just starting out in yachting is more than likely the situation you will find yourself in when you are ready to leave and so do your best to make sure that it is….
Getting a job in the real world is much harder than getting a job on a yacht. You must stand out and there is much more competition, so you need to work really hard to get what you want. Working on a yacht gives you a lot of skills you probably don’t realise you have and definitely don’t know how to present to an employer.
So, spend your time working on this along with gaining extra qualifications that will help you both in yachting and after yachting. Study, learn, make contacts and prepare as it is never too early to start preparing yourself for the reality of life after yachting. After all, it happens to (almost) everyone.
About the author:
With an educational background in marketing and management, Mark Upton made the transition from working as a yacht captain to life ashore in superyacht management and marketing roles, eventually creating MGMT Yacht Ltd to support superyachts visiting the UK and Ireland. Subsequently he created Crew Family Office to assist yacht with their complex legal obligations whilst making their hard-earned money work for them. In 2017, Mark founded the Modern Classics Car Club, the first company 100% owned by superyacht crew, as a fun and flexible alternative to car rental.