What’s on Your Retirement Bucket List

Category: General Retirement Issues

Editor’s Note: In August 2012 we asked our visitors and members to tell us what is on their bucket lists. See the fascinating result in this article: “Wow – Your Bucket Lists Are Amazing!

December 20, 2010 — Maybe you’ve seen the movie “The Bucket List”. It stars Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, both of whom have less than a year to live in the movie. The plot unfolds from there, as this odd duo goes on a road trip together trying to accomplish as much as possible in the days remaining before they “kick the bucket”. We confess we haven’t seen the movie, but it sounds kind of fun. The premise is so applicable to those of us who are starting out in retirement. Although we are luckier than Nicholson and Morgan in that we have more than 1 year to accomplish our list, that also carries the danger that we have so much time left that we feel like we don’t have to get started any time soon.

Back in November we polled our Topretirements newsletter subscribers on several possible article suggestions. We’ve already written the #1 most popular idea, “Dueling Carolinas: NC vs. SC“, as well as #2, “What is Your Retirement Lifestyle“. In a close race “Your Retirement Bucket List” was #3, so here it is.

The list prepared by the Freeman and Nicholson characters was a wild one – heavy on action experiences and light on cerebral and emotional ambitions – which is probably a lot better for a movie than for a real person. Here is what Wikipedia lists as some of the characters’ last wishes: skydiving, climbing the Pyramids, driving a Shelby Mustang, flying over the North Pole, eating dinner at Chevre d’Or in France, visiting the Taj Mahal, riding motorcycles on the Great Wall of China, visiting the Louvre, and attending a lion safari in Africa. Other wishes included kissing the most beautiful girl in the world (like me, many of you already do that every day!), helping a total stranger, getting a tattoo, and making someone laugh ’till they cry.


In preparing this article we were lucky to remember that we had prepared our own such list back in 2006, when it became clear we would retire that year. Amazingly enough, we found it on our computer. Here are some highlights of the Bucket List we prepared back then.

First, we divided it into Professional and Personal Lists.
On the professional side we wanted to:
– Become an internet marketing consultant (that hasn’t worked out so well)
– Wanted the fun of creating something from scratch, specifically an website for baby boomers about retirement (we feel pretty good about our start on that one)

On the personal side it turns out we weren’t quite as specific:
– Go on a lot of adventure travel trips (have been on a lot of great trips, but so far the adventure part is a bit lite. Really want to visit China, Australia, Patagonia – maybe Antarctica!)

Sierra Club hike in the Alaskan Arctic


– Write a book on something interesting, possibly in historical fiction (We haven’t done the fiction part, but have covered non-fiction with our “100 Best Retirement Towns“. Still like to write something a little more exotic).
– Help the disadvantaged in some meaningful way (making progress on a few volunteer boards).

How About Your List?
If you look on the Internet you will find several sources of bucket lists. These are great to look at for ideas. Here are some suggestions to help you to develop your own list:
Hint: Just start writing things down, you can edit them later. Pychologists say that people who write things down are much more likely to accomplish them.

– What are you good at, that you would like to continue (music, art, business, sports, people, etc.)?
– What has your life kept you from doing so far? Whether it was a job or family responsibilities, now that you are freer in retirement and facing the third-third of your life – what do you want to do (learn a musical instrument, learn to play bridge, volunteer, etc.)
– Do you want to help other people? There is no shortage of ways to do that, but doing it well requires careful research (see links at end). One way to start is to think about things you care about (children, animals, museums, libraries, etc.). Visit some choices to get familiar with what they do, then write the director and volunteer.
– Would you like to keep doing what you are doing? Some folks are so happy and fulfilled in their professions and avocations they want to keep doing the same thing. But maybe this time with a different employer or in a different venue.
– To help make it easier to develop items for your list, make a wish list by category: travel, adventure, skill, volunteering, professional accomplishment, family, spiritual.

Life is Short – Grab it!
We are firm believers that the mere act of creating a lifetime bucket list will help make you a happier person. It is definitely worth the time to write one out. Once you’ve got your list, the next part is a little harder – developing a plan for how you are going to start ticking off your goals. And you also need to develop your annual performance appraisal process, measuring progress against your goals. Along the way you might have to adjust your goals – for example a bad knee might rule out running the Paris Marathon, but leave you open to a bike trip along the Erie Canal. Or a financial set back might crimp your trip to China, but lead to a service trip somewhere else. Whatever you do, grab your life and live it!

What’s on Your List?
Please share what’s on your bucket list in the Comments section below. We can all profit from outside ideas.

For further reference:
Create the Good
Senior Corps
Wikipedia on Volunteering
7 Life Changing Activities in Retirement
Personal Bucket List from Retirement-Stories

Posted by John Brady on December 20th, 2010

8 Comments »

  1. I’d like to turn my boxes of photos (and negatives) into digital photo albums and send them to family members. Also, I’d like to digitize my Mom’s albums from the 1920’s before they disintigrate. I don’t yet have time to tackle the job as I am still teaching middle school math for a few more years. Terry in California

    by Terry Allen — December 22, 2010

  2. I don’t have a bucket list per se for retirement things that I want to do before I die but I do have my retirement plan documented on a webpage on my How to Retire Happy Website that includes some of my retirement activities that I would like to pursue.

    If nothing else, Google must like it because this webpage comes in #2 out of almost 10 million webpages when one searches for “my retirement plan”.

    In my two retirement books I have a retirement planning tool called “The Get-a-Life Tree” that helps people generate retirement activities that should last several lifetimes.

    Ernie Zelinski
    Author of “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    and “The Joy of Not Working”

    by Ernie Zelinski — December 23, 2010

  3. I saw the Bucket List and it was interesting. At 58 and now retired from public service, I am finally starting to think of what would be on that list. So many options.. I noticed Mr. Zelinski’s comment here. I am currently reading Ernie’s book, How To Retire Happy, Wild and Free and it is the most insightful book on retirement I have read yet. It really keeps one’s interest cover to cover.

    by Dennis Woollum — January 12, 2011

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  6. […] 4. Put together your bucket list. Now is the time to write down the 10 things you would like to do before you leave this world. Then get started having fun! “What’s on Your Bucket List?” […]

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  7. […] further reference: Our Pinterest Bucket List (lots of cool photos) What’s on Your Bucket List? Bucketlist-Topretirements – The Complete List of Responses Posted by John Brady on August […]

    by » Wow – Your Bucket Lists Are Amazing! Topretirements — August 21, 2012

  8. […] For further reading Quark Expeditions for Antarctic Wow, Your Bucket Lists Are Amazing What’s on Your Retirement Bucket List […]

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