Bailing Out on the Bucket List

A bucket list gives people something to look forward to in retirement, when they finally have time, and hopefully the money, to travel the world and accomplish everything they didn’t have the chance to during their working years.

However, we believe it’s important not to rely entirely on a bucket list to provide happiness in retirement. Similar to people who become too enamored with superficial possessions, retirees chasing activities on their list may be lulled into a false sense of satisfaction. The reason? Putting close connections among family and friends on the back burner can lead to feelings of isolation.

Achieving a lifelong dream of visiting the Eiffel Tower or going on an African safari can be rewarding, but if you start ticking off such activities on a long list, eventually conflicting emotions may set in. Suddenly, being at home feels stale and quiet. If you miss birthdays or other gatherings while on an overseas adventure, you may feel out of the loop upon returning.

Unfortunately, many retirees placate this feeling by planning their next adventure — so those feelings of elation and alienation get caught up in a vicious circle.1

It’s no secret that solid, long-lasting relationships contribute to our happiness and well-being. Therefore, at least one psychiatrist recommends retirees retool the bucket-list approach. Narrow it down to one or two absolute goals, and then plot the best way to enjoy them with friends and/or family. Perhaps you can invite your children and grandchildren to join you for a week on your dream vacation. By experiencing a bucket list item or two together, you’ll give your family memories that will outlast your lifetime. In return, the experience can help you feel happier and more connected.

Interestingly, surveys reveal that it doesn’t take an extravagant experience to make retirees happy. In fact, it’s a natural process. According to the U.S. General Social Survey and the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index, feelings of well-being tend to peak in our later years. And rather than the pursuit of activities and goals, it’s actually the lack of them that causes it.

Plenty of factors contribute to a greater sense of happiness and satisfaction in retirement. Life is no longer driven by high career expectations, there may be less emotional volatility and you can sit back and appreciate your life and experiences, whether it’s in Paris or your own living room.2

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1Marc E. Agronin. The Wall Street Journal. March 20, 2016. “It’s Time to Rethink the Bucket-List Retirement” Accessed April 20, 2016.

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