Today’s generation isn’t content to work now and play later. They want to work now and play now. And so retirement planning has shifted its focus from accumulating in order to spend later, to answering the question, how can I have what I want while I’m working and even more of what I want when I’m not? In fact, I find that increasingly we are content to consider working longer in order to have it all and have it now.

This discussion only illuminates one aspect of the much larger issue here: retirement is far from a clearly-defined universal idea. It means different things to different people and its importance level ranges from highest to lowest. You need to decide what it means to you. And you need to decide how important it’s going to rank in the list of goals you will have for your future.

We want to live the best life we can. This may be obvious, but it begs the question, “what is the best life?” to which there is, no doubt, countless answers. The only answer that matters here is yours.

For most, the best life involves the most money. It is money that buys the house, the car, the vacation, and the lifestyle. And it’s money that provides us with the sense of freedom that comes with choosing what you want, instead of taking what you can get.

At the risk of moving into philosophical dark waters, let me just say that the pursuit of material possessions can be fraught with disappointment. Like drinking salt water, getting more means wanting more - there is no way to quench this thirst. The important thing to do is to choose carefully and to prioritize the material possessions along with those things that are less tangible.

Here is a simple yet powerful exercise that may assist in this area. Start a list of all the things you would like to have, and another list of all the things you would like to do. Be as specific as you can. On the list of haves for example you may include: a Porsche, a new kitchen with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, a 4-bedroom cottage on Lake Joseph, and a Callaway Big Bertha driver. On the list of things you would like to do you may include: travel to Australia, perform in a local theatre company production, write a book, read everything written by Charles Dickens. In the “have” category, you will find almost everything will depend on money, whereas in the latter, you may find many of the things involve no money at all.

Work on these lists over the span of the next few weeks, and continue to revise them - for the rest of your life. Most importantly, prioritize your list. Is the Porsche more important than the cottage, or the trip to Australia? Are any of these more important than those things you hope to pursue in retirement? There are no rights and wrongs in this exercise. Just be sure that those items of highest priority are incorporated into your financial plan.
Excerpt from Simple Money: Simple Money Lessons for an Extraordinary Life

Author's Bio: 

Bill Bell is the founder and President of Bell Financial Inc., an organization built on a vision that speaks of values, relationships, and dreams. Bill is also the author of two books. Simple Money (2007) is a simple yet powerful guidebook in the search for true wealth, and a refreshing perspective on the role of the financial tools we use. To order a copy visit: