Our Spot on the Beach at Hilton Head
How Would You Complete That Sentence?
What do you envision for yourself, want for yourself, for your life when you retire? Brad and I drove twelve hours to Hilton Head last week to take a break from the cold weather, and spent a lot of time pondering this very thing. We did it over walks on the beach, in between reading book chapters, and drinking a few too many Moscow Mules, my current favorite adult beverage.
Our conversations also included work that needs to be done on the house, projects we want to start, how we’re progressing (or not) on our savings goals, and the march toward that magical retirement dollar amount. It was the same conversation we always have, yet because we were on a beach (with Moscow Mules) it felt different. In fact it WAS different because there was an added dimension – friendly snowbirds and retirees.
What We Learned From The Retirees We Met
A number of them took a liking to us (because we’re just so darn cute) during our stay, and in addition to getting insider tips about free BBQ chicken Tuesday, scoring extra s’mores at dessert night, the best cheese cubes during wine and cheese night, and the must get items on the “make your own yogurt parfait” bar, we also learned that many of these couples had been residing there for weeks – as few as three to as many as twelve.
Sign us up! Brad and I told these folks that we wanted to be like them when we grew up. I won’t get into the intricacies of how they arranged the weeks (timeshare tricks that’s an article by itself), but suffice to say, thanks to information freely shared by these generous people we learned that except for one wealthy/rich couple, they were basically “like us.”
Hey, They’re Like Us!
What I mean is they worked, own a home, paid off bills (house, cars, student loans, etc.), enjoyed some vacations and regular economical and occasionally splurgy nights out, definitely lived well within their means and made saving for retirement a priority. Oh, and they did one more thing.
They knew EXACTLY what they wanted to do when they retired. It went beyond achieving a monetary goal. It was very specific and detailed, and while each story was unique, all had a similar thread running through them, in this case spending x number of weeks in a warmer climate during the winter.
Their vivid descriptions of how they saw their retirement years was like the best dream board ever created. They envisioned it, saw it, knew it. It was vastly different than our, “We’re gonna have enough money to travel, right Brad?”
It dawned on me that we’d been so focused on the present and short-term future, the pressure of things that must happen now, we stopped envisioning our long term, “next life” future. Beyond hitting that magical retirement income number, what do we want to do, be, achieve? Sure that’s bound to morph over time, but if we’re not thinking about it, planning for it, putting the right energy towards it now (I’m a little more new agey than one might think), how will it ever happen?
Back to Basics
We had an aha moment, a simple one that probably should have been sparked a while ago – the realization that we were planning for retirement with only half of the information. Working towards a retirement income goal based solely on a vague notion of maintaining a standard of living with no definition of what that means for us is like putting together a puzzle with only half of the pieces.
So we started over, going back to basics, this time focused solely on developing an explicit vision of who we wanted to be, and what we wanted to do, have, and achieve when we “grow up.” The goal? Create a picture so vivid, so detailed that if asked, you’d think we’d already lived it. After creating and living it in our heads, we’ll reconnect with the retirement calculator to make sure we’re still on track.
How to Develop the Vision
Look, I have no magical or deep ideas. What we’re doing isn’t new or difficult. The three exercises below are ones that have worked for me in the past. I’m sharing because they may resonate with you, or even better spark ideas that are a better fit for you. To get to our vivid picture we’re:
Setting Reminders to Talk Specifics: Day to day stressors make it hard to dream about something that is still potentially decades away. However, if not now and often, when? If we’re not talking, checking, assessing, how will we know what we want and if we’re on the right track?
Creating a Goal Book: Years ago I had one that I worked in daily. Not quite a journal (journaling has never been my style), it was a way to make things, keep things real, help me stay focused and contributed to a positive outlook of the future. I used it right up until I landed a college VP position and then I stopped. Mostly because I was too busy. Since leaving I haven’t really used one. I think it’s time to start again, this time with Brad.
Developing a Vision Board: This is in support of the new agey part of me. But there’s some science to it as well. Representing your goals, desires and wishes visually gets your mind working on it even when you’re not aware. There’s an energy and synchronicity. I find that ideas and solutions seem to magically pop up.
Finally, Brad and I figured that if everything works out right, we’ll start living the retirement we envision before we retire. Why wait? Now that’s a goal. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll be writing these posts during week four in Hilton Head, or West Palm Beach, or Fort Lauderdale…
How do you see your retirement?