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 on the horizon, 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.

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? These are just a few of the questions that can help shape your retirement vision and kickstart your plan.

“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.”

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 towards 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.

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.”

And it’s never too late (or too early) to start. Take some time during National Retirement Security Week, happening from October 15 through October 21, to lay out your retirement dreams and start working towards your goals.

Join the Discussion

3 Responses to “What My Dream Retirement Looks Like”

  1. Janet MArtin

    The biggest thing about retirement is that it may not be what you actually want. We did save enough to maintain our modest lifestyle, and have enough to manage a health disaster or two. I loved working, having had the luxury to accept jobs with lower wages and do things I enjoyed. A librarian, I was forced out of a city funded job at age 70, and hate that now I’m stuck waiting hand and foot on DH 24/7. Be careful what you wish for! Travel–not much chance with grown kids wanting me to come and babysit so they can take vacations, and a declining husband who wants me home every hour of the day. Hobbies–fun when they were a few leisure hours, not so much now with a nagging spouse resenting every minute of diverted attention. Volunteering–why shouldn’t I get paid for the skills I’ve honed over decades, plus husband won’t hear of it–it would take me out of earshot. My parents planned carefully and cancer put an end to both of their dreams and lives only a few years past retirement–no fun there.

    My advice–work only in jobs you enjoy and work as long as it feels good. Save what you can and spend some money during your working years for travel and other experiences that you keep putting off. You never know when your health or that of your spouse can put an end to both dreams and plans

    • Susan

      Good ideas. Many people wait until retirement to take vacations and find that health problems make travel difficult or sometimes impossible.

      As for your adult children, tell them what you will charge for full time babysitting during their vacations. It’s not your job to raise their family. Also, you may have a problem if you are gone and your husband’s health makes it necessary for you to be with him.

  2. Arther Williams

    It’s really sad to hear that many seniors aren’t enjoying retirement as much as expected. Today’s economy requires a generational approach to managing assets that protect lifestyles for children, great-grandchildren and beyond. We were quite fortunate to have entrepreneurs take risks a few generations ago ensuring retirement experiences measure up for a while. Everyday enjoyment is important. Unfortunately, just saving enough to cover expenses is advice that doesn’t add up long-term.