5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Put Off Your Bucket List Until Retirement

Don't put off your bucket list

The following article is by Kristi Muse, our staff writer. She is a freelance writer, blogger, police officer’s wife, and stay at home mom of two.

It’s a shame that too many people think that they don’t have to worry their bucket list until they’re older or in retirement. Bucket lists aren’t just a theoretical list of items that people in retirement homes sit around talking about but never actually doing.

Our bucket lists should serve as a life creed to live by and aspire to. They should be inspiring us and driving us to push our limits and live the most rewarding and memorable lives possible.

I don’t want to be in my 80s and have to live with the regret of not starting my bucket list sooner. Here are 5 reasons that I won’t be saving my bucket list for retirement, and neither should you.

1. Some things are best done when you’re young

I’d like to think that I’ll be as cool as George Bush Sr. and celebrate my 90th birthday by parachute jumping. Honestly though, I’d like to cross those kinds of activities off of my bucket list while I’m young.  Even if I make it to 90, I probably won’t have the stamina to enjoy parachute jumping at that age.

You don’t have to be retired to start checking items off of your bucket list. Right now, I’m still young, and I love the thrill of adventure and exploring new places. I currently have the energy to cross the crazier items off of my bucket list, and I want to take advantage of that energy while I can.

2. There are no guarantees in life

As our $100 bill friend once said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” There are no guarantees in life. I think probably because my husband has such a high risk job, I tend to think about the inevitable more often than most.

As morbid as it can be to think about, death is waiting for all of us. It could be 60 years down the road or it could be tomorrow. I would hate to miss out on life-changing opportunities today because I am saving all of my money for tomorrow. I want to live in the moment as much as possible.

I’m not advocating that people should go blow all of their money on fun things because the grim reaper is lurking around the corner. You should absolutely be responsible and have a nest egg building for retirement. Even though you should plan for tomorrow, it’s still important to acknowledge that tomorrow may never come.

3. There’s more to life than saving money

Money is important. It makes life easier and more enjoyable. Money gives you options, and I can think of nothing worse than being stuck in a horribly run-down facility when I’m elderly, with no choices in my care. That being said though, there’s more to life than saving money. I don’t want to reach my 80s and 90s with no memories made, no adventures had, and a pile of money in the bank.

My retirement goal is to have enough money to live comfortably and pursue my passions. I want to be set financially when I’m no longer working, but I don’t want to live the first part of my life as a pauper either, by saving all of my money for retirement. It’s important to strike a good balance between saving enough money for a comfortable retirement as well as remembering to live in the moment.

4. You should never stop adding to your bucket list

Bucket lists should change along with you. As you go through life, you should be scratching things off of your list and adding more and more items to it. Update your bucket list every year. Bucket lists aren’t just for Morgan Freeman characters dying of cancer. Don’t wait until you think your life is over to start checking things off of your list.

5. Working on your bucket list now will actually help prepare you for retirement

If you’re living in the moment now, you will be able to scratch at least a few items off your list every year. Your bucket list can be used as a tool to plan for retirement if you use it to figure out which activities mean the most to you. As you update your list annually and draw closer to retirement, you’ll be able to better understand how you want to focus your time and money in your retirement years.

Are you living in the moment?

Ask yourself if you are living the life you want to live. Are you happy with your life, or are you single-mindedly pushing for retirement and money security at the expense of your happiness? Save for retirement and earn as much money as you can, but not at the expense of your sanity. Don’t forget to live your life for today, because there might not be a tomorrow.

Not all of the items on my bucket list are things that I will be able to do this year or even in the next few years. There are a few items I can get started with soon, but others will need to be further in the future. I understand that there are no guarantees in life though, so I certainly won’t be waiting until retirement to get started.

Here are the top ten items on my own bucket list:

  1. Go paragliding
  2. Learn to drive a stick shift (namely, my husband’s 1984 CJ-7 Jeep)
  3. Travel through India
  4. Live in a foreign country for at least a year
  5. Write a book
  6. Learn how to hunt
  7. Go cave diving
  8. Earn my pilot’s license
  9. Hike the entire Appalachian Trail
  10. Learn how to sail a sailboat

What’s on your bucket list? Are you checking items off now, or are you waiting for retirement?

Image credit:  by mypubliclands


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32 thoughts on “5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Put Off Your Bucket List Until Retirement”

  1. Kristi, love your post! Life is short, so it’s all about balance… well as much as possible. I keep a pretty long bucket list with my wife and try to add to it annually. We try to knock a couple off every year, but it ebbs and flows depending on life events. We at least got to knock out a few fun ones before the kids came along…

    – Inner tubing through a jungle river in Belize
    – Watching a sunrise a top an ancient Mayan pyramid
    – Taking a cooking class at the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris

    *Once the kids are grown (it’s gonna be awhile)

    – Explore the Galapagos Islands
    – Forage for truffles in Italy
    – Skydive (I’m terrified of heights, but gotta do it… it the parachute fails at least I’ll have left it towards the end)

    • Wow, you have had some pretty amazing life experiences! I would LOVE to take a class at Le Cordon Bleu. That will most likely have to wait until my kids are older though.

      You’re braver than I! I will most likely never go skydiving. It’s not the heights that scare me so much as the possibility of plummeting towards earth without a parachute if it were to fail!

  2. Hit me up when you decide to do the Appalachian Trail. I would either join for the whole trip or partial trip. Mr. is an avid marathoner and he loves hiking. We could do this as a couple thing. 🙂

    I also want to do the japan 88 temples walk at some point. I’ve heard it’s a neat thing to do.

    • I will keep that in mind, Vivianne! Although I’m sure your husband would get pretty frustrated with my snail speed hiking compared to his marathon runner pace 🙂

      Accomplishing the complete Japan 88 temple pilgrimage would be a chance of a lifetime. I’m not sure I would do the whole 7 week adventure, but I would love to see at least a few!

  3. Love this! This I why we are working towards financial independence, but we are still having fun now. Right now, we are traveling around the U.S. in an RV and are loving life 🙂

    • That sounds amazing, Michelle! My parents took me and my siblings on a cross country trip when we were young, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Everyone should try to do it at least once in their lifetime!

  4. Great advice! My wife and I try to use our money that we would normally spend on birthday, anniversary, holiday gifts on experiences instead of material items. This is money we would have spent on gifts, anyway. While saving money and budgeting is great, you need to live life, too! Isn’t that why we save in the first place? I don’t want to be 65 and try to hike Machu Picchu!


  5. Retire by 40 asked me to guest post our 7 Phases of Retirement. Here is that link: https://retireby40.org/bryan-7-phases-of-retirement/

    We shared in Phase 3: Understanding your future costs, which is where we discussed planning for our bucket list and replacement items in a long retirement.

    I believe having a bucket list is very important for planning and identifying the exciting experiences we want to have in our lives. We only have one life to live so why not dream big. It is crucial to plan for them from a timing and financial perspective so there are no surprises.

  6. Great article and I agree totally. This summer I bagged my number one bucket list item; Hike to the top of Mt. Fuji! It’s been a life long dream of mine to visit Japan and hike Mt. Fuji, so with turning 50 this year I knew I needed to get it done! I traveled hacked a business class ticket and did most of my accommodation using reward points and AirBnB, so had my cake (the trip) but didn’t get off the savings goal track.

  7. We traveled to over 20 countries with our kids before we retired, so I fully agree you should embrace your bucket list before your retire. Here are my top bucket list items for the next year:

    1. Skydive
    2. Learn to crab trap in the bay
    3. Cycle 1,500 miles in the next year
    4. Travel to Norway
    5. Expand my blog

    • 20 countries! Wow! They must have some amazing memories with you and all of their travels. I look forward to reading about your adventures as you check of your list!

    • Sometimes it’s a good thing to be in an aggressive savings phase, but take time every once in a while to do something fun with some of your savings to help avoid burnout.

  8. I completely agree that you should pursue your bucket list items throughout your life. As you said, who knows what will happen in the future. Best to take advantage (within reason) of today. I need to put together a real bucket list, but I did check one item off my informal list this summer: I spent two months off of work living in Paris! It was awesome and I’m so glad that I went. I’m sure it wouldn’t have felt nearly as special if I waited to do it until I’m retired, when I’ll have free time all the time.

  9. Wow, so true! We took the “trip of a lifetime” (6 weeks backpacking through Mexico) on a shoestring budget back in our college days. At the time I knew it would be the last opportunity in a loooong time where we didn’t have work, kids, or other obligations tying us down.

    It was 15 years before we were able to take our next big trip (7 weeks this time around). The timing wasn’t perfect – our youngest child was 3 so this limited our mobility some and we had to cater to his schedule a bit. But we did it anyway. I could definitely feel the age difference between age 20 and age 35. Mountains were a little steeper. The air a bit thinner. The sun a touch hotter. At 45 or 55 it will be worse. And some kind of crippling malady might pop up between now and then that makes travel inadvisable or impossible.

    I’m not exactly a YOLO kind of person, but don’t put everything off till you’re 55 or 65 and think you will be able to do all that you could when you were 20 or 30. Sure, you see a lot of active senior citizens out there on the tourist path and the trails, but what you’re not seeing are all the seniors stuck at home unable to get to these places.

    • I definitely don’t want to wait until my 60s to get out there and start experiencing things. As hard as it can be to travel with young kids, I agree that it is absolutely worth the hassle.

  10. This post really resonates with me because when I was young, I wanted to do sky diving but now… I no longer can do it due to the inherent risks. My late father also started his bucket list early like you did and he whittled them down little by little. On traveling, every weekend, he would take the train to visit a different city and spend his time at one of its landmarks/attractions. (We were living in Europe back then.) His other biggest dream was to build a boat by himself and sail the Caribbean and it did take him years with all the woodworking and experimentation during his spare time but he managed it.

    • It’s never to late to get started, but I am sorry to hear that you were never able to achieve one of your goals. Maybe you could replace skydiving with something like riding in a hot-air balloon or hang-gliding instead.

      P.S. Your father sounds like an incredible man!

  11. My biggest concern is running out of time to do all the things that I would like and keeping healthy. I just transferred my mother into a nursing home and it was a real eye-opener for me. I made a promise to myself to focus on living now and to get off the deferred life plan.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your mother. That must have been difficult, but I’m glad that she’s in a place where you can see that she is receiving the care she needs. Seeing our loved ones age is the eye-opener to how precious and fleeting our time is.

  12. I agree 100%. I like to save as much as I can, but it isn’t 100% for the future. Yes, the ultimate goal is to retire early, but I still take amazing trips and enjoy our wealth now. As you said, it would be a shame to save everything and miserable now only to pass away before you get to enjoy it!


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