What are you looking forward to?

Chris Guillebeau, one of my favorite bloggers and all around good guys wrote a post with that title yesterday.  After reading it, I thought about the importance of having things on your horizon that you are looking forward to.  That’s especially true for those of us planning for retirement.  Why?

For many, retirement is one of those things that is waaaayyyy off in the future.  The downside of that is that it’s hard to get too excited about something that might happen 10 or 15 years from now.  And if you’re not excited about it, it’s hard to be committed to planning for it.  It’s hard to be disciplined to save for it.  It’s hard to stay the course when the market drops 400 points (like it did yesterday).

How do you get excited about a fuzzy and far-off concept like retirement?  One way is to personalize it.  Instead of planning for “Retirement,” you need to plan for “Your Retirement.”  Another way is to take the distant and make it current.  Rather than waiting until “someday” to do the things you’re dreaming about, start working on them now.  Maybe that means setting aside the money, acquiring the skills, or doing bite-sized portions now of what you intend to do banquet style in retirement.

Here’s a quick and easy exercise (with a hat tip to Chris) to make your planning both personal and current: List off three things that you’re looking forward to doing when you retire (personal) and outline ways you can begin doing those things now (current).

I’ll start.  Retirement is quite a ways off for me, so I’ll list three big goals that I’m excited about, but that will take me the next ten or twenty years to accomplish:

Travel with our daughter to all fifty states before she graduates from high school.—She’s six years old and so far we’ve visited fourteen states plus Washington D.C.  (The picture in this post is the two of us in Muir Woods in California).  I love to travel and I hope to instill that in her.  I want her to understand that it’s big world out there and there are all sorts of things she can do, places she can go, and people she can meet.  It won’t be long and she’ll be heading out on her own.  Before that happens I want her to have a broad range of life experiences to draw from so she can make an informed decision.  

Read 500 books by the time I’m fifty—I haven’t always been a good reader.  I credit my wife with convincing me of its merits.  Now it feels weird if I don’t have a book or two that I’m working through.  Right now I’m reading Keith Richards autobiography Life (a fun read if you like the Rolling Stones) and a book called A Moveable Feast: Life Changing Food Adventures Around the World (a fun read if you like to eat).  The lesson here: You don’t have to jump out of an airplane or climb Everest to get enjoyment and satisfaction from life.  Some of life’s greatest pleasures are easy and cheap.  You just need to be intentional about doing them (Hence the goal to reach 500.  I’m about halfway there.).

Become an expert photographer—As we talk about goals or things to look forward to, hobbies are great because it’s something you can start doing right now.  You can start small and scale it over time as you acquire the equipment and skills you need.  Then when you transition into retirement you can hit the ground running because you’ve already laid the foundation.  That is what I hope to do with photography.  I’m gradually acquiring the equipment I need.  I’ve taken several photo classes, entered a few photo contests, and gotten information on two or three intensive workshops that I plan to participate in down the road.  It’s a hobby that fits well with my love of travel and it’s something I can do for the rest of my life.    

How about you?  What are you looking forward to?  Spend some time thinking about it and, if possible, start doing it now.  You’ll be glad you did. 

Thanks for reading.  Feel free to share this article with friends and touch base if I can ever help.

Joe

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