Many families are enjoying the last weeks of summer vacation.  Before long college students will return to campus and school buses will roam the neighborhood.  Our family is back from vacation and starting to think about next year’s possibilities.  When did planning a vacation require decisions a year in advance?

Households are in a stronger financial position today with robust cash reserves and dollars to spend.  The pandemic hangover means some vacations scheduled years ago are taking place this summer.  This continues to squeeze costs and availability.  When will things settle down and require less preparation to book a trip?  Hopefully we’ll find out in the years to come.  In the meantime, if you want to rent a beach house at OBX next summer, now’s the time to make the deposit!

Cruises, lake houses, airfares, or hopping across the pond, everything needs to be reserved early.  Even in the sport of open water swimming, which I enjoy, many of next year’s events require a plan.  Want to swim across the English Channel, get in line.  There are pilots now taking deposits for swims in 2025 and beyond.

So, how did we get here?  Spending money on travel and vacations requires more time, energy, and planning than it used to.  “Last minute” getaways and impromptu long weekends seem to be a thing of the past.  I believe there may be a silver lining to our new reality.  When we’re forced to plan vacations twelve months before they arrive, it requires us to think and strategize on exactly what we want.  Is it possible to direct this same energy and effort towards planning for retirement?

I know, retirement for some may seem too far off to think about, while others see a date quickly approaching.  Ultimately a day will come when you want to control all your time and where you spend it.  Doing things, you want to do with those who are important to you, that’s the best definition of retirement as I see it.  It’s also like planning a great vacation, you need to think about what you want.

Retirements allow those to continue working if they enjoy what they do or to explore new hobbies.  Volunteering, scheduling lunches with friends, and working in encore careers.  Social engagement and problem solving provides purpose to your day and often leads to a happier retirement experience.  It’s your time and you’re free to choose where you spend it.

Vacations require time in considering all your choices and planning possibilities.  This consists of reviewing next year’s calendar, checking with kids and grandkids of all ages, gathering opinions, and balancing work responsibilities and time away.  These are all steps in preparation of picking a date that works for everyone.  If you’ve vacationed lately, you know this isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Once the dates are selected then the real work begins.  Locations, availability, amenities, and transportation are often the next set of decisions.  With these questions answered, what other planning aspects and reservations are necessary?

If you booked a beach house, wouldn’t it be nice to have a catered seafood boil brought to the house?  What about surfing lessons or chartering a boat for fishing?  If you’re headed to the lake, you may enjoy renting a boat for a week along with several paddleboards.  Boarding a cruise ship, the best excursions book quickly along with securing your desired dining time.  Traveling abroad offers countless tours in soaking up culture and history.  All these activities, regardless of where you are travelling, require setting time aside in advance to plan.

The act of planning and revisiting what you want is helpful in clarifying your possibilities.  It’s not about creating the perfect vacation or the perfect financial plan.  There will always be surprises, weather events, or economic cycles that arrive when you least expect it.  When you set time aside and talk with your partner about what you want, both in your vacation and your retirement, you are practicing the art of planning.

As the years accumulate, you may experience different vacations and consider what aspects of retirement best fit who you are.  These are big decisions with answers not arriving instantaneously like a text message.  Break things down into bite size conversations, give yourself time to think about choices and various approaches.  This allows for planning a vacation and a successful retirement on your terms.

Advisory services through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge and Flowerstone Financial are not affiliated.

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