Don’t Save It All for Retirement

Delaying fun and exciting activities until retirement is a mistake.

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Many baby boomers have created an A-list of all the things they will do with their newfound freedom in retirement. Far beyond the to-do list that has been building for ages, their sites are typically set on loftier goals.

Travel is a common piece of the retirement puzzle, with adventures ranging from short weekend trips to world cruises and extended stays in foreign countries. Some people have made a commitment to self-improvement by living a healthier more balanced life as a retiree. Other individuals can’t wait to go back to school to learn something they are actually interested in rather than required to know. You could also write the book you have always wanted to, learn to play a musical instrument or build a dream backyard to enjoy your free time in. All you need to do is make it to retirement, and then you will get to do these fun and exciting activities.

But is it such a good idea to postpone your dreams until you retire? If you plan to retire at 65, you can hope for another 20 or more years living your second act. But as you get older, some of those dreams can become more challenging to accomplish. What excited you when you were a sprightly 45 can become a bit daunting at 70. There are certainly examples of amazing older folks who perform incredible feats of strength and endurance even though they are past retirement age. Unfortunately, these tend to be the exceptions rather than the rule, and most of us will live much more earthbound retirement lives. By the time you reach age 65 you may be worn out from the working world and its demands upon you. In addition to increasing physical limitations, it is not uncommon to become less willing to put up with the hassles that life throws your way.

It can be helpful to your sanity and quality of life to find ways to enjoy yourself and your dreams along the way. Don’t save everything for retirement. Not only will you enrich the life you are living each day, but you will also take advantage of youthful energy while you are still young.

Travel now while you are still able to trek to places that may be a bit more demanding. Difficult hikes across challenging terrain can offer peeks into some of the most magnificent spots on earth. But you need to be physically able to participate and enjoy them. As you grow older you can become less patient with waiting in line, going through customs, wading through security check points, and wedging yourself into tight airplane seats for extended periods of time. There may come a point when the stress and effort to travel abroad will lead you to ground future trips. If you saved everything for retirement, your photo albums will be very sparse.

We all hope to be healthy and happy in retirement, but there are no guarantees. As one of my blog readers commented, “My best advice after living 12 years in a retirement community is to get and stay as fit as possible and to do and go before good health and stamina abandon you.” Should the time come when your health is an issue or you just do not have the energy any more, those dreams you made for living a fulfilling retirement will need to change to reflect the realities of life.

Don’t put all of your passions on hold. It can be a mistake to wait until you retire before you finally pursue what inspires and excites you. If you follow those passions in your daily life you can add to the quality of the life you live. Obviously there are some things that you will have to wait to do because of time constraints and other barriers. But don’t save everything for retirement if you can enjoy a bit along the way.

Retirement will still remain a promised land of opportunity to do what you want with your freedom. But things will be different and there may come a time when the effort required to experience a new adventure may be more than you are capable of despite your wishes to the contrary. If you have enjoyed yourself along the way to retirement and experienced some of those dreams prior to retiring, you will have made the best use of your time and energy and have little to regret.

Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.