What My Dream Retirement Looks Like

And how I’m saving to make it a reality.

Have you ever stopped to think about what you really want your retirement to look like, aside from having enough money to get by? Even if retirement is far off, it’s never too early to start planning. In fact, the earlier, the better, since compound interest works in your favor, especially when you’re young.

Ask yourself these questions to help shape your retirement vision and kickstart your plan:

  • How old would you like to be when you retire?
  • If you want to travel, where do you want to go?
  • Or would you prioritize time spent with family and friends?
  • Would you like to devote more time to a hobby, or are you hoping to continue working, even if at a much gentler pace?

“It’s always important to be able to set goals,” says Jim Poolman, executive director of the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council. “You need to know when you’d like to retire, and the goal is to match up that retirement age with a retirement plan that will work for you. Start planning now. Don’t wait for tomorrow.”

Dreaming of Retirement Well Before Retirement

Even though I’m just shy of 30, I like to think about my retirement dreams quite often. Although it’s hard to say what I’ll really want out of life in another 30 years, keeping it in the forefront of my mind motivates me to work toward my goals, even as they change and shift over time.

Right now, I’m hoping to spend my later years focusing on fiction writing while still dedicating a portion of my time to freelance writing, since it’s a career I love dearly (assuming it still exists by the time my retirement rolls around).

My husband wants to focus on woodworking, one of his favorite hobbies. We both want to travel frequently — across the U.S. and internationally. We hope to work lightly in post-retirement, and since we plan on downsizing once our kids are out of the house, a mortgage should no longer be in the picture. We want to have enough not just for ourselves, but to give back generously as well. We’d also like to retire at 60, though neither of us is terribly horrified by the idea of waiting until 65.

What it Takes to Fulfill the Dream

I know we need to put away at least $900 each month to live that retirement dream, and we try to go a little above and beyond that amount when it’s possible. (Better safe than sorry!) Once you know about how much your retirement goals will cost you per month in today’s dollar amount, you can easily use an online retirement calculator to see if you are on track and adjust your plan until you are satisfied.

Thinking about what you might want your life to look like in 20, 30, or even 40 years can be a phenomenally fun experience, as long as you get your retirement fears out of the way first.

The biggest fear that most people have about retirement is that they won’t be able to save enough to live their dreams. Whether that’s because they started late or don’t have much to contribute now, planning seems more scary than fun because it might reveal unpleasant truths about how far behind they are.

Poolman says that not saving at all, and not saving enough, are the two biggest mistakes most people make. And, if you don’t have a clear goal, it becomes even more difficult to hit your target. He encourages everyone (no matter how old) to do an annual check-in on their retirement dreams to make sure they are revising as necessary.

“One of the most common misconceptions is that retirement planning has to be difficult. But that’s not true,” says Poolman. “Discuss your hopes and your dreams for retirement. Figure out where you’re at now, where you want to be, and the lifestyle you want to have when you retire. It can be so much fun to plan for.”