Unreal Expectations

I think the most dangerous things out there to ruin a perfectly good retirement plan is unreal expectations. Yet everywhere I look financial product ads show people with these amazing retirements: they have family out at a ‘cottage’ twice the size of my house, they are playing golf on a course which would make me poor in a week, or, my personal favorite, a couple relaxing in tropical location. What’s really scary is some people are believing the ads and are assuming their entire retirement should be that way.

What drives a person to create this fantasy world in our retirement years? We spend most of our lives living a very similar lifestyle, yet suddenly at retirement I’m going to start spending all your disposal income you have now with half the expenses?!? What drives these unreal expectations around our retirements that we clutch onto like a dying man?

What’s so wrong with just having a quiet retirement with family and friends? Doing some simple hobbies and giving back to others. I was recently at a funeral of a man who died at 98 years old. Guess what memories people shared of him: going to weekly lunches at his house, camping trips, learning fix something, him delivering meals on wheels to old folks when he was 80! Beyond a brief mention of a few bigger trips he had in his life you could have been at a funeral of a poor man and never have know it. Why? Because he left the best legacy of all: he was loved and gave that love back to others.

You know what. I think I figured it out. We don’t really want to admit this, but we aren’t happy now. We ‘say’ we are ok with things, but deep down we want something else. So we build up these fantasy retirements with all this travel and new hobbies. We invest all our hopes and dreams for the future while never living for today. The reason your unhappy is your trying to live in the future, rather than right now.

So do yourself and every one around you a favour. Stop thinking about your retirement for an entire month. Yes that’s right at least 30 days (ok 28 if you pick Feburary 2009). Now with all that extra time on your hands go out and spend time with your family and friends. Make an effort to connect to others and live your life for the moment of now. Really be there for others and listen to them. You might find reality can be a much better place than some silly old fantasy of where your spending $60,000+ a year and still just as unhappy as you are now.

9 thoughts on “Unreal Expectations”

  1. You too can live the dream of relaxing on a beach, playing golf, and having a huge house. Just move to [insert tropical low GDP per capita country here]. I hear Panama, Nicaragua, and Honduras are nice.

  2. Or possibly start taking golf lessons now, but wait, there’s no time, because we gotta work to save to paly golf when we’re 60. I think this is similar to the fallcy of spending money on granite counter tops instead of cooking lessons.

  3. The times I’ve travelled, while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my destination(s), by the end of 2-3 weeks, I am ready to go home. I don’t see how it’ll be any different when I’m retired. Two trips a year is more than enough.

  4. Yes I would have to agree that financial ads are painting an unrealistic retirement for people. My advice to people would be to set up a plan with realistic goals for investment return and try to beat those goals yearly. If you start to beat your goals then revise those goals upward.

  5. Traciatim,

    Now there is an idea. I suppose it does mean giving up seeing the family much, but if you planned your retirement that way it won’t matter that much.


    Ha! I’ll have to remember that statement about granite counter tops over cooking lessons.


    Perhaps the only change I’ll make when I travel is I might do longer stays (like a month or two) in a central location of an area to explore it more.


    Not a bad idea. You could also revise your target date downwards instead of moving a goal up.


  6. Don’t know how I missed this insightful post in my “in-box.”

    This applies to those of us already retired too. Trying to live up to the image we have of ourselves retired and what we “should” be doing.

    This reminds me what is truly important, and especially not to have so many “shoulds” in my retirement. Just enjoy the simple things–it’s perfectly ok!

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