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Retirement PlanningHow to Create a Retirement Bucket List


This article was reviewed by Jay Brecknell, CFP®.

Bucket lists. Whether you love or hate them, you’re going to encounter list-related questions during retirement. People want to know what your plans are—whether you’re an open-sea cruiser or an adventurous traveler, if they’re going to be unwrapping the fruits of your newfound hobby every holiday, or if you’re going to start speaking a new language. 

Though the phrase is used a lot, the point of a bucket list is to determine your life goals. It’s that simple. What do you want to do, see, or experience before you “kick the bucket”? If the name doesn’t click with you, call it whatever you want—your retirement goals, golden years adventure itinerary, your no-plan plan—just get a pen and your adventurous spirit ready.

In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of creating a bucket list for retirement, how it can improve your retirement, and offer tips on how to get started. By the end, we hope you feel inspired to create your own list and experience your lifelong dreams!

The Importance of Retirement Goals and Bucket Lists 

Without a plan, it’s easy to fall into a routine and miss out on experiences that truly matter to you—but by setting clear goals and aspirations for yourself, you can focus your energy and resources on achieving them.

Bucket lists give you structure as you accomplish the things that you want to do, whether it’s travelling to a new country, taking on a new hobby, or spending time with loved ones. Some of the benefits that a retirement bucket list can provide you are:

  • Having a clear sense of focus and purpose during your retirement
  • Taking advantage of your healthy, active years
  • Creating memories and leaving a legacy 
  • Avoiding regret and missed opportunities 
  • Bonding with your partner and/or friends
  • Regularly experiencing fun and excitement! 

And you’ll want to make one sooner rather than later, since your first 10-15 years of retirement will be your most active. The older you get, the more difficult it will be for both you and your partner to complete physical goals (not to mention health insurance will get more expensive), so acting fast on some of your bigger goals means you’ll get to fully enjoy that trip to Italy or hike the volcanoes in Hawaii. 

How to Create a Bucket List

So, with all that being said, how do you actually make a bucket list?

Fortunately, it’s easy! Pick a way to record it that’s most convenient for you—whether that’s a notebook, a note on your phone, or an excel file or document on your computer—and start with some soul-searching. 

Finding Inspiration

When coming up with ideas for your bucket list, try asking yourself the following questions. You can do this with your partner if you have one, or you can create your own lists and bring them together afterwards. Write down your answers and include any other ideas that pop up while you’re thinking.  

  • What were some of your childhood dreams and desires?
  • What’s something you’ve always said you wanted to do?
  • Where have you always dreamed of travelling?
  • What’s something you’ve always wanted to learn?
  • Are there books you’ve always wanted to read but haven’t had the time?
  • If you had one month to live, what would you do?
  • What’s something you’ve always wanted to experience?
  • What activities make you happy?
  • Is there a skill or hobby you’re curious about?
  • If you were on your deathbed, would you have regrets on things you missed out on? What are they?
  • What classes have you always thought about taking?
  • If you won a million dollars, what would you do?
  • What personal adventure stories do you dream of sharing with your children or grandchildren?
  • What experiences have you dreamed of sharing with your spouse or best friend?

When you’re thinking through these questions and adding ideas, write down everything, even if it doesn’t feel like a “normal” bucket list goal. In fact, throw in some weird things for fun! This is the time to feel inspired and let out every idea, even if you don’t think it’s possible. 

Once you’ve gone through these questions, it’s time to dive into some further self-reflection. 

Balance individual interests with shared experiences

While planning, it’s important to strike a balance between what you, your partner, and your friends have on their lists. Consider activities and experiences that you can enjoy with your loved ones, as well as those that you can pursue on your own.

Some activities may not work for both of you, and that’s completely fine. If one of you wants to walk the Camino in Spain and the other isn’t interested, find something the other person can do in the meantime—whether that’s their own travel adventure, learning a new hobby, or relaxing at home. You can share stories and photos of your trip, show off your pottery creations, and exchange gifts when you’re back together. 

If your goals do line up, perfect! This is an exciting chance for you two to get even closer and make incredible memories together. 

Reflect on yourself—your personality, goals, and passions

Consider yourself and your background. Do you want to explore your family’s history? Go to the country where your grandparents came from? Maybe you want to share some memories with your grandchildren by taking them on a trip to Disneyland?

Think about some of the most impactful experiences you’ve had during your life and what made them special. What personal and professional goals have you already accomplished, and how much further could you go?

What makes you happy? Think about hobbies, activities, and experiences that you’ve always wanted to try or that you used to enjoy but haven’t done in a while. This could be anything from learning a new language to hiking a particular trail or taking up photography.

Talk to family and friends

Get some feedback! Ask your family and friends about their own bucket lists and ideas they might have for your own. They may be able to suggest activities or experiences that you hadn’t considered before, or put a new spin on your existing ideas.

Make some categories 

You might be noticing a trend in your list—maybe you have a lot of travel locations, or mostly hobbies. Try adding some new categories and brainstorming around them to help keep your list well-rounded. Some types of categories include:

  • Travel
  • Hobbies
  • Food & Drink
  • Adventure
  • Career & Finances
  • Education
  • Personal Growth
  • Family & Friends
  • Events & Entertainment

Stay open-minded

It can be easy to subconsciously exclude certain items from your bucket list, either because they seem too daunting or too simple. Try not to do this! Anything meaningful to you is important enough to include. Put the bigger items on there, even if you don’t know how you’ll accomplish them yet. Similarly, put the small things on there too, since crossing them off will help you feel accomplished and motivate you to continue working through the list. Whether you want to hike to the top of Mt. Baker or crochet a lap blanket, each item is worth including on your personal list. 

Making Your Bucket List Achievable

Once you have a big list of ideas, it’s time to go through and start sorting. This is a great activity to do with your partner so you can choose what you want to do together. 

Prioritize and start to plan your activities

Go through your list and prioritize the ones that are most important to you. If there are some items that are absolutely essential for you, but others that are “just nice” to accomplish, put them in different categories. 

Other ways to organize your list include:

  • Adding deadlines for when you want to accomplish the item
  • Separating activities that you can do locally vs. ones where you have to travel
  • Activities you can do with your partner vs. family/friends vs. individual goals 
  • How much money and time different activities take
  • Immediate vs. long term goals (a one-time trip vs. taking a class)

If you start to feel overwhelmed, remember that we’re here to help you! 

How we help 

Your financial advisor at Cedar Rock can provide guidance on how to use your retirement savings to fund your bucket list activities, as well as offer suggestions on how to make the most of your resources. 

We’ll review your goals and timeline, help you prioritize your bucket list items, and work together to create a plan that aligns with your retirement budget and helps make your goals a reality.

We can also help by:

  • Giving advice on how much money you need to save for your goals 
  • What investments you should consider, and what kind of return you can expect
  • Setting realistic expectations for your list
  • Providing additional or alternative activities that work for your budget
  • Keeping you on track as you check off items 
  • Regularly reviewing your progress and making adjustments as needed

Let’s Get Started

It’s time for the retirement of your dreams. By reflecting on what you want to accomplish, brainstorming ideas, prioritizing, and planning activities, and making the most of your time, you can create a bucket list that helps you achieve your goals and enjoy a fulfilling retirement. Whether you’re ready to start working through your bucket list today or want some additional guidance getting started, book a call with one of our financial advisors to start on the right path. If you’re looking for additional retirement preparation, read our eBook to learn how you can plan for your golden years and get some valuable tips!