It was hard not to love The Bucket List. The movie was a reminder that life is short and today is the day to do what you've been dreaming about. A bucket list gives you carte blanche to live.
Why not do a financial bucket list? "The world of personal finance isn't typically a wellspring of motivation, but a bucket list can be," says Scott Halliwell, a financial planner for USAA. "Without one, you're likely to just fall into a routine and never really do anything extraordinary from a financial perspective. Since money touches just about every aspect of our lives, doing something financially extraordinary often equates to doing something extraordinary with your life."
Start by visualizing all the things you would do if you had more money than you need. Make a list. "Since bucket list items should be outside the realm of your day-to-day life, dream a little," says Halliwell.
That list can include whatever you want, having the ability to quit your job any time you want, retiring early, living abroad in retirement, being debt free, traveling the world, buying that mansion, that luxe car. Or it could be not about you at all. "It could be giving away a shocking amount of money," says Halliwell. Truth is, if you can put yourself in a position to give, exceedingly and abundantly, that means you have your finances together and so yes, it is about you too.
For sure, the sky is the limit, but prioritize a few items that matter the most to you. "You don't want your list to be too daunting, otherwise you'll get discouraged," warns Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit counseling.
"Your list will serve as a reminder of the progress you've made and the future steps that still must be taken," says Ben Sullivan, a certified financial planner with Palisades Financial Hudson Group.
Create a strategy
"Without an organized plan, you are literally 'winging it'," says Melody Juge, founder and managing director of Life Income Management.
You know what happens when you 'wing it'. You tend to fly off course and could crash and burn.
Say your top goal is to become debt free, you might need to break that into smaller chunks in order to stay motivated. Maybe you start with eliminating student loan debt, then credit card debt, and so on. When you get a lump sum of money, like your tax refund, put it toward debt reduction, in addition to whatever you commit to putting aside monthly for debt repayment.
If you're dreaming of buying that retirement home in the islands, don't just surf the Internet looking at sunny locales or watching HGTV's House Hunters International. Do your homework. Figure out how much it will cost to live there. Do you want to build a home, buy a condo, a single family home? You know the benefits, beach, sun, fun, but what are any downsides? "Set a target for how much you need to save each year to reach your retirement goals," says David Shucavage, president of Carolina Estate Planners.
The list can be practical too
While a bucket list is a list of things you haven't done but want to while you're still alive, when it comes to finances, "I would shorten the time frame to be while you still can, and simultaneously broaden the list to include things you may have done before but need to review and possibly update," says John Brandy, a wealth manager, who keeps it simple. "There are a number of things you cannot do if you're not of sound mind, like writing a will or designating what happens to you and your money in the event you're no longer able to decide on your own."
So there's plenty of room on your bucket list for the basics.
Don't kid yourself. A bucket list can be much like a budget if you're not careful. It exists on paper and remains on paper, it never becomes real. Motivation is key. "Keep your eyes on the prize. Put pictures of what you want to achieve in your wallet, on your refrigerator, or as the background on your computer to remind yourself of what you want to achieve," says Leslie Tayne, an attorney specializing in financial issues with the Tayne Law Group.
Change your mindset. If getting "there" will require some sacrifice – you'll have to cut back in order to save more, don't frame it in the negative. Says Brandy, "Think of it as gaining the peace of mind from knowing that your intentions will come to pass."