Most of us set our life and career goals while we’re still teens or in our early twenties. By thirty, we’re well on our way to achieving those goals, and by fifty, we’re contemplating retirement. Most of us will have had an opportunity to participate in retirement plans that aim to provide retirement funds that should cover our living expenses during our retirement, that will allow us to live the lifestyle we have achieved during our working years, perhaps with some slight reduction in income that may require us to live more frugally than we did when we worked. Among our retirement goals, this is the most important and the least we should attain. For many of us, the least of retirement goals will be enough, but for others, retirement will be more than idling in the lifestyle they have achieved during their working years. For some, retirement will be an opportunity to realize possibilities that their lives before retirement could not accommodate, to realize hidden wishes and desires they didn’t have as teenagers, that came to them in the midst of pursuing careers, raising family, and establishing themselves in the world. For some, retirement will be a time to fulfill wishes and dreams.
During our working years, even if our careers are satisfying and our personal lives fulfilling, we often develop new interests, find new talents we did not know we had, discover new pleasures, new challenges that neither our careers nor our personal lives could accommodate at the time we discovered them. Between working a job, raising our family, and participating in our communities, we simply don’t have the time to take on new projects, new ventures and adventures, to fulfill our wishes and dreams. If it’s not time that prevents us, it’s the lack of funds. For those who think life before retirement age is their only chance to realize these desires, then these desires will be only wishful thinking, impossibilities. For those who recognize that there is a lot of life to live after retirement age, these desires may be deferred until then; our wishes and dreams may become retirement goals.
Take the doctor who discovered she enjoyed cooking and others enjoyed what she cooked. With a hefty mortgage and children to put through college, she knew she couldn’t drop her practice to indulge her new found joy. She wished she had the time to open her own restaurant, to do the cooking herself, to reveal in the praise of those who would eat her dishes. Instead of sighing and resigning herself to her fate, she set that hope as a retirement goal. Or consider the executive who discovered his talent for drawing. He would draw the faces of people at meetings while listening, and when those he drew saw and praised his art, he realized he was a natural artist and wished he had studied art. Rather than lament his late discovery and only imagine what life might have been had he gone to art school instead of business school, he made going to art school one of his major retirement goals. And then there was the salesman who found himself enchanted by Japan when he went on a sales mission to that land, and set his heart on living in Japan when he would retire, until then learning the language, customs, and history of his hidden love. All these examples and many others show that dreams and wishes that come upon us while we’re wholly engaged in our pre-retirement years are not doomed to being mere fantasies; they may come to life if we set them among our retirement goals.
Not all our wishes and dreams can be realized, but neither are they all to be consigned to futility. If we recognize them early enough, we can make them retirement goals and plan for them. Not all of our retirement dreams will require funding, but for those that will, your retirement plan should account for them as early as possible. In retirement, dreams can indeed come true.