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Bucket List Living

Much of the advice in retirement planning focuses on saving money for the future. There is a good reason for that. One-fourth of non-retired adults do not have anything saved for their retirement years.

They may have to work well into their later years. But for those who do have a retirement plan in place, setting aside money can feel like a savings treadmill that never stops. Some folks can begrudge the thought that there will be no fun in life until they reach age sixty-five or older. Is there any enjoyment to be had between now and retirement?


There is.


Bucket List Living

The term “bucket list” is a fairly new one. Popularized by the 2007 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, a bucket list is a checklist of the things you want to do before you die, or “kick the bucket.” Experiencing some of the things on your personal bucket list, even as you continue to work towards funding your retirement, has been referred to as “bucket list living.” Instead of only focusing on the good things to come at the end of the journey, you can decide to enjoy the ride there.

Saving for retirement? Great. But there are many gratifying things to do in the years leading up to it. A similar concept is saving for your children’s college years. While building up a college fund is important, so are all the fun activities kids do between infancy and eighteen. Having money to pay for the years before kids reach college age is important. The same goes for retirement. Determine what excites and motivates you to put on your bucket list living plan so you can enjoy the years between now and then.


Do the Five Years Exercise

The Five Years Exercise has become a popular way for financial planners to help clients plan their future while enjoying the present. This exercise consists of making a list of everything you’d like to do if you only had five more years to live and were able to do anything. While it may strike you as somewhat morbid, this activity clarifies what is important to you. Do you want to:

● Travel to Europe?

● Renovate your home?

● Write a book?

● Visit all 50 states?

● Swim with dolphins?

None (or all!) of these may be on your list. Make a list of what is significant to you. Don’t hold back. Write down everything you’ve always wanted to do. Then, narrow it down to the top two or three things. If you do this exercise with your partner or spouse, it might reveal some surprising similarities and differences. Now that you have this curated list, it’s time to set goals to achieve them.


Have Short-, Mid-, and Long-Term Goals

Setting short-term and mid-term goals is easier now that you have made a list of some rewarding experiences you’d like to work towards in the next few years. It is up to you to decide the time frames. A good starting point for a short-term goal is something that can be accomplished within three years. A mid-term goal is one that can be met in the next three to ten years. Long-term goals are ones that need more than ten years and usually include retirement planning. You can set up a separate savings account or consult with your financial advisor once you have decided what enriching experiences you’d like to do and their timeframe.

Goal setting helps you do this by:

Dangling a carrot. Everyone likes something to look forward to!

Providing a way to measure progress. You can watch your vacation fund grow closer to the amount that you need to take your trip.

Making small sacrifices is worth it. Giving up that pricey coffeehouse drink is a little easier when you know that by doing so you will get to revamp your master bedroom from the money you’ve saved.

Eliminating procrastination. Putting things off is tempting when you don’t have a goal in place.


Enjoy the Journey

Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us that, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” The recent pandemic and quarantine have reminded us that life is unpredictable. Retirement shouldn’t be the only thing that you are looking forward to. Each day has value. How can you enjoy the journey?

Count your blessings. Take a moment each day to be grateful for the good things in your life. Recounting and accentuating the positive helps bring joy.

Try something new. It might be sampling a new type of food, trying out a different walking path, or learning to salsa dance. A small change to the status quo can result in fresh perspectives and newfound favorites.

Reconnect with friends. Social media is no replacement for face-to-face quality time. Our communal connections are important for our mental and emotional health.

Write your bucket list. We’ve already talked about this, but it bears repeating. Think about what you’d like to do and create a plan to do it. Enlisting the help of others provides accountability and support. Something important to me and my family is traveling and I have shared my passion love for breathtaking views and how experiencing them doesn’t have to break the bank.



Bucket list living is something to think over and examine closely. There are many adventures and experiences to savor between now and your retirement years. You can enjoy the journey while saving for retirement, all with a little planning. We are here to help and cheer you on!


Written by Matthew Delaney