A Bucket List: The Key to Your Financial Plan?

Photo by Wes Battoclette

The bucket list – it’s common vernacular. A recognizable phrase and the father of all wish lists. It’s even a movie. A staggering multitude of organizations, books and websites are devoted exclusively to it – with the sole focus of helping you determine, prioritize and perform each undone task or unseen vista with a simple series of checkmarks. 

It’s a menu of must-dos and must-sees on your journey to a fulfilled life. Simple as that, right? Not quite – done right, it’s much more than that. And most importantly, you don’t need to be a millionaire or an octogenarian to compose one or complete it. In fact, when we dig deep to expose the foundation of a good bucket list, what we find are the roots of sound, smart financial planning established decades and decades ago.

You read that right – at the heart of every good financial plan is your bucket list. And conversely, every good (i.e., attainable, check-off-able, life-enjoyable) bucket list is sown from the seeds of a solid financial plan. 

Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it. Over the last five years, the ins and outs of creating, having and managing a financial plan have been clogged with confusion: Financial security. Asset allocation. Bulls, bears and budgets all trying to beat the market or outsmart the recession. Historically, the desired outcomes of financial planning have been overshadowed by a focus on its mechanics – an overemphasis that only generated confusion and, worse, negativity. 

So how does one get past all that? How do we break through the clutter and get back to what’s important about forming a plan for your future? How do we find the motivation and the moxie? Here’s the secret: Fun. And asking yourself one elemental question in direct relation to it: What does fun mean to you? 

Don’t panic; we haven’t jumped the shark here. What we did do was figure out that clearly identifying your passions and personal motivators translates directly into a life ladder that’s easy to climb – and critical for forming a financial plan around. 

It’s clear – people become the very best versions of themselves when they are truly having fun and doing what they love. Translation? Happiness. And among the most basic components of this fun and happiness is having a financial plan that empowers you to experience the most out of your life. That means a financial foundation that is solid enough to accomplish short-term goals and long-term dreams. More importantly, that means leveraging the right tools and experts to help you plan it accordingly. 

The beauty of this bucket-list strategy is that it’s wholly unique to each individual. What moves one person to act and aspire doesn’t need to match with the masses. The possibilities are endless, truly – work sabbaticals, early retirement, skydiving, classic cars, charitable giving, college funds, world travel. The list goes on – and so should yours. 

When you develop a bucket list that’s fueled by your financial plan, fuel is indeed what it supplies – a list of big-picture goals and tomorrow’s targets that now has shape and structure and meaning. So where do you begin? 

  • Brainstorm. Take five minutes, take five days, but set aside some introspective time to take stock of what you really want to accomplish – for yourself, spouse, family or all three – and simply start a list. Think categorically about what moves you and what’s important: spiritually, educationally, socially, physically, emotionally, financially, and experientially. ​
  • Be specific. Sounds obvious but add as many details as possible – and write them down. Then assign a timeline to each, be it six months, six years or more or commit to a certain number each year. 
  • Find support. The more help you have with uncovering your real dreams and aspirations, the more tangible it becomes. From family and friends to colleagues and financial gurus. Talk about it – it’s the truest form of investment. 
  • Review. Keep in mind that your short-range goals are just as important as your long-range ones. Building momentum to fulfill these stretch goals is crucial – if you’re consistently reviewing your list (refining it, reforming it), you’re sure to make progress.
  • Be open. Flexibility is king. Think back to when you were 20 – whether that was 5, 10 or 30 years ago, your goals have changed. You have changed. And as your life moves forward, so should your list. It’s not written in stone. Priorities change, circumstances shift and that’s OK. In fact, it’s good. Understanding and rolling with those changes are half the fun. 

So rather than simply dreaming about your dreams, it’s time to give them a fire of their own. Make your list, bucket and all. Dream big and be honest. Have fun. Get excited about where this list and the resources to fulfill it can take you. And then feed it with the lifeblood it needs and so truly deserves – a solid plan for your financial future.