Retirement SwingWhat does retirement mean to you? Is it swinging on the porch, watching the world go by? Spending more time with family? Dedicating yourself to a charity you've long been fond of?

Whatever your retirement dreams are, if you want to reach them, you need a plan to get yourself there. Otherwise, by the time you find yourself financially able to quit work, you may not be physically able to pursue your passions.

That would indeed be a tragedy. So rather than find yourself in that unfortunate situation, start building a plan now that gets you moving toward where you want to be. That way, once you've met all the plan's objectives, you can retire to spend your life doing what you'd like to do, rather than what you have to do.

What Do You Want to Do?

Key to a successful retirement -- any successful retirement -- is knowing how you'd spend your time if money were no object. While there are those who work in retirement because they have to, there are also those who work in a field they love because they want to. While such jobs may not be the most lucrative in the world, if they help pay some of the bills, they can dramatically reduce the amount you need to save to reach your goal.

For instance, if you love to learn, why not plan to retire to a low-intensity job at a local college? As a staff member, you'll likely get access to the school's facilities as well as either free or deeply discounted tuition. The pay may not be all that great, but so what? If your goal is accessing the education opportunities, it's a great way to go.

Similarly, if there's a charity you'd love to support more, give it the gift of your time and experience. While not-for-profit work generally pays less than the corporate sector, if it's somewhere you had been voluntarily supporting before, why not see what paid position you could fill instead? Any money you bring in is money your nest egg doesn't have to support, and any time spent doing what you love is time in retirement, even if it brings some small paycheck.

What Do You Need in Order to Do It?

Of course, if you're willing to take a pay cut to pursue your passions during your retirement, you'll need to be able to live on that new, lower salary. You've got two basic levers to achieve that goal:
  • Keep your costs low.
  • Crack open your nest egg to cover some of your bills.
Naturally, the two are deeply interrelated. To have the ability to build any sort of nest egg in the first place, you'll need spend less than you earn along the way. On the flip side of the coin, the lower your overall costs, the easier it is for the nest egg you do build to cover a significant part of them. In either case, the earlier you start and the more effort you put toward your goal, the easier it is to reach it.

Certainly, in today's era of stagnating salaries and rising food and energy prices, keeping costs down is easier said than done. But remember that the reward at the end of the journey is the opportunity to do exactly what you want to do with your time. If that's not worth sacrificing for, what would be?


How Soon Can You Get There?

If you redefine retirement from "not working" to "doing exactly what you'd like to do with your time," then you don't need to wait until you're 65 with a pension and a gold watch to retire. Instead, it could be as soon as tomorrow, if you've laid the groundwork and the opportunity makes itself available. More likely than not, though, you'll have to first prepare yourself financially and find that opportunity to reach for your dream.

Regardless, once you've reached that spot where you're able to fill your hours with exactly what you'd like to do, congratulations -- consider yourself happily retired. You've earned it.



Motley Fool contributor Chuck Saletta welcomes your comments.

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27 Comments

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irene

On your dream.. Can you afford to pay health insurance and your cost of living everyday, vacation other states or country, and other expenses. Good Luck to all. I wished i can retired early. And have money enough to pay all bills and my cost of living everyday. Have three kids they been grown. and husband no income whats so ever. I mean homeless. I'm been working since 18 yrs old. and i am 50 yrs, older. almost three jobs. fulltime, partime and oncall. thats be enough. i dont think so.? WORKING HARD AND A GOOD WOMAN.QUIETE AND DEDICATED AND I LOVED MY JOB. NO COMPLAIN.

September 05 2012 at 6:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Major

A good way to go broke.

May 24 2012 at 3:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BoniLu

I have lived most of my life with a man that never shared my dreams. Yes we both worked and still both work. He is 66 and I am 65. I love him dearly, but we still do not share the same dreams, and rarely the same ideas. I have to admit, as much as I love him, it eats my heart out to think of our ages, and know that I will continue to keep my ideas and dreams as nothing but dreams. I feel that it might be a good idea for people that are in the same position as we are to sell our home, get rid of ball and chain of the dam mortgage, the dam cable tv, the dam utilities, and most everything else that has strapped us down and held us hostage for all these years. I'd like to sell our house and pay cash for a fairly inexpensive but reliable RV, put the rest of our proceeds from the sale of the house in savings, and travel the country like a couple of gypsies!! WEEEEE!! The way were living now, we can barely afford to travel three states over without sacrificing something.

May 24 2012 at 12:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
krookey

To all the baby boomers who have retired...a sincere congratulations. For anybody under 45 years old, retirement is a folly. There is no job security, sorry I mean no jobs, 401k's are a joke, Roth IRA...scams, Social Security...good luck with that, Healthcare cost that rival your mortgage....Retirement....hah! I did the right things...started investing when I was a child...literally, but life happens! I live a good life, but retirement for my generation is just a pipe dream. You are the last ones that will have things called pensions, company healthcare, and 401k's that will actually pay out.

May 23 2012 at 11:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Trudy Marie

RETIRE? LMAO! I am 60+ and still have to work two jobs---the only time I will finally be able to retire is when they shovel dirt over my face! I'll be carried off the field in a hearse when my last day of work FINALLY arrives unless one of you out there is a long lost rich aunt or uncle who's been searching for me on FACEBOOK. LOL

May 23 2012 at 7:57 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
joejoegolfn

I retired in 1999 and did yard work, played golf every day and traveled around the world. After 1 year I went back to work. All my friends still worked and I was going nuts. Do not retire at 47 no matter how appealing it sounds. I enjoy my work and play golf on the weekend and work in the yard. Maybe I will retire at 66 in 6 years....We'll see

May 23 2012 at 7:08 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
urbansecond

This is a really stupid article.

May 23 2012 at 3:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Wayne Bradshaw

SEATTLE (AP) — Border officials say they have seized more than 25,000 counterfeit purses that arrived in an ocean container from Coach Online Outlet.More than 8,500 of the purses were knockoff Gucci, Fendi, Burberry and Coach bags, officials with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office said Monday. The bags were seized in Seattle March 13 and will be put on the Coach Purses Outlet .Officials said the combined manufacturer's suggested retail price of the handbags, had they been genuine, is more than $ 8.4 million.

May 05 2012 at 11:46 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Craig Spencer

Reply to Rick HInes. Living in central america is cheap only if you eat rice and beans. The medical health care sucks badly. There is no real 911 emergency response either. The cost of gasoline and clothing is as high or higher than in the United States. Not to mention off the chart poverty and crime. Most of this is all sales B.S.

May 04 2012 at 12:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Craig Spencer

Reply to Rick HInes. Living in central america is cheap only if you eat rice and beans. The medical health care sucks badly. There is no real 911 emergency response either. The cost of gasoline and clothing is as high or higher than in the United States. Not to mention off the chart poverty and crime. Most of this is all sales B.S.

May 04 2012 at 12:02 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply