7 Items for a Retirement Wish List

These are the essential components of a fulfilling retirement.

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When I heard from a few friends that they'd recently gone to Hawaii, my first reaction was jealousy. I wish I was going to Hawaii. It sounds like a retirement dream. But after I thought about it, I decided I don't really care that much about Hawaii. Especially since I don't like to fly, and there's really no other way to get there.

But it made me wonder: What are my dreams for retirement? Do they make up a bucket list?

The bucket lists I've seen revolve around traveling or doing something exciting, perhaps visiting the Pyramids or parachuting out of an airplane. I wouldn't mind seeing the Pyramids, but there's no way I'll jump out of an airplane. I don't even like roller coasters.

I have wondered about taking a trip around the world. Maybe in a few years. Once I get to age 70 or so, if the plane goes down, I still had a nice life. Besides, I do fly occasionally, and it doesn't bother me too much once I've popped a few of those pills I get from my doctor.

One problem with that dream: I mentioned it to my wife, and she wasn't keen on the idea. I don't know why. She doesn't mind flying. Maybe it takes her out of her comfort zone to go so far away from home. And I sure wouldn't go without her. So it didn't make my list. So what did? Here's the list:

1. My biggest wish is to go on this uncertain journey into the future with my life partner, in a relationship that stays just as good as it is now. We've discussed this a little bit, and we're ready to march into old age together. She will provide a crutch for me, and I will provide a crutch for her. We will suffer the indignities of old age together, with love and no shame. And if we do some traveling, that's fine. If we don't, that's OK too.

2. I want to stay healthy as long as I can. To that end I watch my diet, and I've joined a health club. I admit I'm a few pounds overweight. But I did lose ten pounds last year and have managed to keep most of them off. It helps my arthritic right ankle (old injury) and my arthritic left knee (old age). I've mostly given up eating red meat, in favor of chicken, fish, and pasta, and my wife makes sure I eat my vegetables. Now, if I could just find the strength to cut back on ice cream.

3. Financial security. I'm not even sure that's possible in this day and age, but we're working on it, and I feel that we're doing OK so far. We live a modest lifestyle, a little below our means. I also know that I can "do without" if need be, without getting depressed about it. If I had to drive a clunker, it wouldn't bother me. Actually, I kind of like the idea of not driving at all.

4. My two kids are important to me. I want to see them happy and successful. Neither one is married, and I don't have any grandchildren. There's plenty of time for that a little further down the line. But, definitely, grandchildren are on my wish list.

5. Everyone needs friends. And this retirement wish is one that does worry me. My old crowd is beginning to drift apart as they retire. A few people have moved south and west. If my old group falls apart, where will I find new friends? And if my wife and I move somewhere else, would we be able to find like-minded people to hang out with? If we do ever move, we'll have to go someplace where they welcome newcomers.

6. I'd like to keep working in retirement. Is that an oxymoron? Right now I work about half time, and that suits me fine. I could see scaling back more, maybe to a quarter time. But working gives me a sense of purpose and a feeling that I'm worth something to someone besides myself and my immediate family. And, honestly, it helps to bring in a little extra cash to supplement my fixed income.

7. Something new. I do have a list of books I want to read and classic movies I want to see. I keep thinking I might take a class, but so far have not made that leap. I volunteered for the library book sale last year, and I'm thinking I should do more volunteer work.

In any case, we're planning a trip to Hilton Head, S.C., later this month. I like to escape to the coast every once in a while. Who knows, maybe one of these days I'll get as far as Hawaii.

Tom Sightings is a former publishing executive who was eased into early retirement in his mid-50s. He lives in the New York area and blogs at Sightings at 60, where he covers health, finance, retirement, and other concerns of baby boomers who realize that somehow they have grown up.