Achieving Your Bucket List

Whether we write it down or not, most of us have a bucket list. This is different from New Year’s resolutions. For example, most of us could probably list “lose weight” as a resolution, but it’s not part of a bucket list. A bucket list would be more like “climb Mount Everest” or “travel to Timbuktu”.  Okay, probably not the last one these days, unless you’re part of the French military. But, is it all just dreaming?

It is if, like just about everything else that’s expensive and time consuming, you don’t have a plan. And if you’re old enough to be reading a financial planning blog , you need a plan to turn those dreams into reality. So, I’d like to suggest some steps which I am currently applying to my own bucket list:

  1. Write it down. Writing it down makes it seem more real, and makes you really think through what you want. Two items on my own list which I’ll use as examples are travel to India and learn at least 4 new foreign languages.
  2. Cost it out. I’ve traveled a lot, but India seems very exotic and very expensive. So I’ve started getting figures on exactly what the airfare would be and how much a two week tour might actually cost. It turns out that the trip might be significantly cheaper than in my imagination, and the web offers plenty of cost saving travel tips. Some bucket list items, like language study, don’t necessarily cost a lot of money but do require a time commitment.  Once you know what you’re after, there may be good “angles” or ways to achieve the bucket item by taking advantage of the experience of others who have done the same thing. Especially if you expect to begin your bucket list when you retire, this should be an important factor in your retirement income needs planning.
  3. Assign a time goal. I’d like to say deadline, but that might make it not-fun. So, my goal for India is two years, and my goal for languages is to spend at least 3 months and up to six months this year on one specific language, for at least one hour per day and if possible, two. I set the minimum goal so I have some chance of learning something, and the maximum goal because I can easily become bogged down in the “never-enough” syndrome. I also chose 4 languages: Spanish, Esperanto, Italian, & Dutch.
  4. Decide what is good enough. I want a tour of India where the logistics are taken care of and I can count on a guide. In Europe I’m comfortable rambling around on my own, but I don’t want hesitation about language, transportation, and safety to prevent my actually seeing at least something of India.For the languages, good enough for me is being able to travel, read a newspaper, read museum signs and understand a docent tour, and be able to have a conversation with anyone (however imperfect). Sure, I’d love to be able to read novels and be mistaken for a local, and I may decide to develop one of the new languages to that level in the future, but right now I just want to be able to switch around comfortably between a few.
  5. Nibble at it. Much of the fun of a bucket list may well be this planning. I’ve gotten interested in travel hacking–accumulating miles for airfare and especially upgrades. Business class to India, a long ride, would be especially nice. I’m raiding the library for travel guides. Indian authors, contemporary and classic, are calling to me.The web offers a terrific amount of information on how to become a polyglot (a person who speaks a number of languages). There’s practice available, reviews of programs and software, and meet-up groups where you can get over your embarrassment at how badly you speak.  I’m particularly lucky that in Spanish there are plenty of Spanish language television stations in Chicago. Watching the evening news in Spanish, I’ve noticed that the emphasis in coverage is often quite different from English language news.
  6. Begin! It’s easy to blather, but not begun is never done. Turning dreams into reality means making time to sort through what’s important, figure out what (if anything) it may cost and where the money will come from, and actually getting started.

See ya at O’Hare, if not before.

About the author

Danielle L. Schultz, CFP®, CDFA

Danielle L. Schultz, the principal financial planner of Haven Financial Solutions, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a NAPFA-registered Financial Advisor, and a Registered Investment Advisor in the State of Illinois. She studied financial planning at Northwestern University’s Certified Financial Planner™ certification program. She also holds a Series 65 license (Registered Investment Advisor Representative) and a CCPS (Certified College Planning Specialist).

She writes a regular column for Better Investing magazine and is currently working on a revision of their mutual funds handbook. In addition to academic training and professional experience, Ms. Schultz has personally managed Social Security, Medicare, retirement and long-term care issues; college funding concerns; and cash flow and transition planning in self-employment and divorce situations. Her social work background gives her an innovative perspective on financial planning issues; for her, financial planning is not only about money, but also a key component in a satisfying and well-lived life.

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