“Our lives are defined by moments, especially the ones we never see coming.” – Paul Haggis (The Next Three Days)
So often when it comes to setting goals, people make retirement the time frame when they will finally get to check their dreams off the list. It seems that throughout all the years leading up to retirement we get so caught up in building careers and raising families that we often delay doing the little things (and the bigger things) choosing instead, to wait until we have that wide open window of free time that retirement is supposed to provide.
Live for today
Just as with any other plan though, sometimes life has a way of looking at our intentions, laughing and throwing us a curve ball. I talked about this with a friend this week after he commented that he was making a point of not putting things off anymore because life was too short and carried no guarantees. He knows too many people who had to compromise their dreams or were never able to fulfill them because unforeseen factors such as illness, financial challenge, life or death got in the way. It got me thinking that, although we have to plan for the long-term we also have to make time for the things that we enjoy and the experiences that make all our hard work worthwhile while we are guaranteed to be able to enjoy them. One thing that has surprised me since I first wrote my list of 101 Lifetime Goals is how easy it is to make time to check things off the list. Some are easier than others but there is something about taking the time to set an intention that seems to create opportunities to accomplish it.
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Plan for tomorrow
That’s not to say that we should not save for retirement in order to be able to enjoy more of life today (or that you should dip into your retirement savings in order to fund a lifetime dream) it’s more a question of keeping everything in proportion. If your money personality is ‘Spender’, ‘Avoider’ or ‘Money Monk’ then having a definite purpose for your savings that’s a little more fun than retirement might be the incentive you need to focus a little more on reining in your spending habits; allowing you to achieve your savings goals and indulge yourself without having to go into debt. If your money personality is ‘Saver’ then you may well have trouble in justifying spending your hard-earned and hard-saved money on something ‘frivolous’ no matter how much pleasure or satisfaction it will give you. Giving yourself permission to purpose some of those funds to fulfill a goal or desire allows you to enjoy the fruits of your labour now instead of postponing all the fun to a distant date in the future.
One advantage to incorporating a “fun factor” into your financial plan is that it allows you to purpose both your finances and your time towards creating experiences which makes it easier to resist the desire to let our money drift away on less important “stuff”. It allows you to set priorities for your spending and to spend time researching or exploring your options to fulfill your goals.
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The human brain is hard-wired for pleasure and it's the anticipation of pleasure that is the most powerful driver. Spending time thinking about how great achieving this goal will make you feel excites the brain and makes finding the motivation to save for it much easier! It’s surprising how time can be created to accomplish a goal once the intention has been set and how circumstances conspire to present you with opportunities. One of my lifetime goals was to drive the Pacific Coast Highway and when friends announced this year that they were going to renew their wedding vows in California it created the perfect opportunity for me to not only share in their special day but also to spend a few days driving the PCH on my way there. Whether your goals focus around travel, entertainment, pampering or family fun it’s easier than you think to make them a reality, and having something to look forward to and work towards that’s more immediate than a dim and distant retirement date can add a little sparkle to the everyday. After all, you work hard for your money and if you’ve taken good care of it, it’s only fair that you should be the one to take advantage of it.