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Vacation plan vs. retirement

Eight months out, and we are starting to plan. Our daughter, Tamarah, will be spending a semester studying in Australia. Being the dutiful, doting parents we are, we want to go visit. It’s exciting! We are talking to people who have been and asking what they enjoyed and what the highlights were. We are reading books and blogs and looking at websites and pictures. We get to plan the itinerary and fill it with everything that has stood out to us.

Vacationing entails dreaming, thinking, creating the list of actionable items, dealing with the financial components and waiting in anxious expectation for the day of departure.

Why do most people spend more time planning their vacations than they do their future life transitions or retirements? Consider that the idea of retirement is a very abstract concept. Motivation is driven by concrete images and emotions, so planning for the future is much more difficult than planning for a vacation.

When you plan your vacation, you have a clear time frame and destination. You can feel the warm sand between your toes or cold snow in your face. You can feel yourself relax as you sit by the pool or feel the adrenaline rush as you head down the slope. It is much more fun to buy the airline tickets and imagine what you will be doing at some exotic locale than trying to map out a variety of components and virtual minefield of decisions about what lies ahead in your future.

So to get motivated to look down the road, you need to make it concrete, visual and emotional. What does retirement mean to you? What do you see yourself doing? Where will you be doing it? Whom will you be with? How will it feel? Once you start fleshing out an exciting vision for what you want down the road, then you are ready to start planning.

Try the following exercise:

Find a quiet place to carve out an hour devoid of distractions (phone, computer, family, work, etc.). Close your eyes, and take several deep, cleansing, relaxing breaths. Visualize yourself in the next phase of life. This does not need to be retirement — just your next phase of life. Starting in the morning, fill up your day with the things you value. Consider different aspects of your life — physical, mental, emotional, relational, community, leisure, learning. What is important about each, and why? Examine if there is a gap between where you are now and where you want to be. Identify the areas that need attention, and be intentional about addressing them.

Back to the vacation analogy — we know where we are going and why and what it will look like. The next challenge is how to make it a reality. It is expensive to go to Australia in December! We need to be creative and resourceful with airfare and accommodations. The more time you have to plan, the more options you have. It is the same with preparing for your future transitions. The sooner you start envisioning it and dealing with the financial components, the more options you have for accomplishing what is important to you. So increase the focus and attention on your next phase of life. Start planning with energy, enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. You will find that the thrill of a vacation pales in comparison to a rich, full and meaningful second half of life!

P.S.: I appreciate ideas and any input for Sydney and Gold Coast, Australia, and Queenstown, New Zealand!

Danielle Howard is a certified financial planner practitioner. Wealth By Design LLC, her financial-life-planning office, is at 23300 Two Rivers Road in Basalt. She helps clients build financial lives to facilitate their passions and purpose. Visit http://www.wealthbydesign4u.com, or call 970-927-3909. Advisory services are offered through Lighthouse Financial LLC, a registered investment adviser. Securities are offered through Cambridge Investment Research Inc., a broker, dealer and member of FINRA/SIPC. Cambridge and Howard Financial Resources are not affiliated.


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