When I was younger, I was a saver. I saved my favorite stickers and temporary tattoos, thinking they were too good to use on any old day. I saved the best bites on my plate for the very end of my meal. I saved my favorite outfits for special occasions, settling for casual everyday wear that I didn’t love. It was a way to work up to what I knew would be a triumphant end of luxurious, tasty, and tattooed bliss.
But, I realized that the triumphant end didn’t always come. The stickers would go unused, their cool-ness having faded away. My stomach would get full before I could shovel in the most savory bites, and I’d outgrow my seldom-worn favorite outfits. The same is true for retirement, and there’s no sense waiting for it to roll around.
If you could retire today, what would you do with your life? Would you travel more, or work less hours, or relocate to somewhere warm? Would you volunteer, or spend more time with family, or master skills you’re passionate about but haven’t yet gotten around to? Rather than save those experiences for some far-away future, I say do it now. Retirement is extinct, and the best experiences are the ones that actually happen.
The Game Plan
Easier said than done, right? NO!
Step 1: Make a list of everything you’ve ever wanted to do. A dream list. It could be anything – get a pilots license, go scuba diving, learn Italian, sky dive, meet a president… Whatever. This step is easy. Most of us have a mental list of these things, but never take the time to write them down. Writing them down and keeping them in an easily accessible place, like Evernote, or Apple Reminders, is a must.
Step 2: Now, what does everything cost? How much money will you need to invest or time will you need to spend to achieve these goals? Write that down too. Quantifying our dreams makes them more than just dreams. With actual numbers, you can start thinking about next steps.
Step 3: Filter by what is realistic. Maybe you can’t go out and buy a Maserati today, so instead, put that on the 5-year plan. But there are things that you CAN do today, and identifying those is the most important part of this exercise.
Adjust Your Life
It’s funny how we put limitations on ourselves based on the habits we’ve formed. Just because you live in a certain place, or work certain hours, or hang out with certain people, doesn’t mean you can’t change it all in one split second decision. So, considering your new life-long retirement strategy, what can you change today? Maybe you’ll move. Maybe you’ll leave work everyday at 4pm. Maybe you’ll book a trip on your credit card.
Life has a way of working itself out if you give it the opportunity. So start living the life you want. Don’t save it all up for later, because the experiences you earn will far outweigh the dreams you outgrow.