Are you living the dream?
Right now. Are you living the life you always dreamed of?
That’s great. I know the feeling. I know the feeling because I am also.
But don’t kid yourself. You’re not living the dream; you’re living the life.
You may be living the life you always dreamed of, but that’s not the same as living the dream. Dreams are elusive. Dreams are temporary. And while tomorrow brings no guarantees, this life you are living is not a dream. It’s your reality.
It’s a reality because you didn’t just dream about it; you acted on those dreams. You planned. You worked. You saved and sacrificed. You sacrificed then so you could have this life now. And hopefully for a long time to come.
Think about that for a minute. That long time to come part. People are retiring earlier and living longer than ever before. Over the last century, the average retirement age has dropped by over ten years, and the average lifespan has increased by about thirty.
That’s right. If you did the math, you would realize there was a time that the average retirement age exceeded the average lifespan. People literally worked themselves to death. That trend didn’t reverse itself until sometime in the 1960s. Now people are living another twenty years past retirement, and thirty-plus years isn’t unusual.
To put this in perspective, subtract your age from eighty. Now think back that number of years. Think of all you have done in that time and then project that time period forward. It boggles the mind. According to stats, I ‘only’ have about another twenty years. Twenty years! That’s a long dream.
So, the best thing you can do for yourself if you live the dream is to realize that it isn’t a dream. Sure, things change. Things could change tomorrow. You could wake up tomorrow morning and be in the middle of a global pandemic. Oh, wait… But, seriously, the pandemic changed what you do, but it didn’t change the framework of your life. If you were living the dream in January of 2020, you’re probably still living it, just differently.
And barring some catastrophic event, you will still be living it for years to come. So, my point is, don’t be afraid of it. You’re not walking on thin ice. You’re walking on a solid base of ice you created for yourself over a lifetime. So, skate on it!
That’s not a dream; that’s life. A life you built over many years. Over many decades. And you made it on a solid foundation. A little tremor isn’t going to knock it down. It would take a major earthquake at ground zero to knock down that life you built. Something in the making for forty years isn’t going to evaporate when you wake up one morning.
But what about you people who aren’t living the dream? At least, not yet. I hope I haven’t lost you. I didn’t forget about you. I think I could be forgiven if I had, though. I’ve only been retired for five years now, but I can barely remember what work was like. Maybe it won’t be that way for you. Maybe you enjoy what you do. Me, not so much.
But whether you are just starting out or nearing retirement age, the time is now to start planning for that life. The dream. What does it look like to you? Write that down. Be specific. The younger you are, the vaguer it may seem, but try.
Now, what will it take for that dream to become a reality? Money? Almost certainly. Unless your vision is to be a hermit. I read a book once about this guy that lived on the beach in a good climate. He washed himself, his clothes and went to the bathroom in the ocean. He caught the food he needed and cooked it on an open fire on the beach.
I thought someday I could live that life. I was much younger. Then I realized how much I hate sand and sunburns. My dream changed. My plan changed. The things I needed to execute that plan changed. Like money.
And I want you to figure out how much money and how to accumulate it, but that’s for another article. What else do you need? A smaller house? A larger house? A mobile home or boat? Where would you need to live in this dream? Think it through and write it all down. Keep this plan locked away and bring it out at least once a year to review it. Your life will change. Your dreams will change, and your plan will change. But don’t lose sight of it.
I don’t know too many people who have actually done this. I didn’t. Life sort of happened, and then one day, I quit my job. Chapter Two: Living the Dream.
Don’t do that.
It is so much easier and better to plan early and long. You need to be flexible, but keep working the plan. When we were fifty, we thought we might retire at fifty-five. Not based on any long term plan, but just a hazy idea of what we could afford. Then 2008 rolled around and rolled right over us. So, that put us back another five years. And that could happen, no matter what. But you can’t change a plan that doesn’t exist.
We got lucky, but mostly we did the right things, plan or no plan. We paid down debt and saved. We mainly invested wisely. So when it came time, we were ready. We didn’t know we were ready, though. Why? Because we didn’t have a plan. Pay attention.
Some people not only don’t have a plan, but they also aren’t making good choices. Or maybe they are in a position where options are limited. If you struggle to make ends meet, it’s hard to think about saving for the future. The future is next week’s rent and groceries. But if you can, plan.
Plan for that dream.