Riding RTW: now or after retirement?

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Dear Lynda,

We dream of a big adventure, going round the world on our bikes, but we’re not sure: go now, and risk our financial future, or wait until we retire and risk being unable to travel because of age-related health issues?

– Julie

Hi Julie,

Always a tough decision: financial security or grand adventure. The answer is that it depends on several factors, including your comfort with risk, the intensity of your dream, and if you are both in agreement with whatever you decide.

Either option has its share of risks. The question is really which ones are you more comfortable living with? Waiting until you have the financial security to carry you into old age runs the risk that life will interfere, not just due to aging but also because of the unpredictability of life itself. Job losses, unplanned illnesses, caring for aging parents, unexpected pregnancies, sudden death; the list is endless. Anything can derail your savings plan, and squash your dream of seeing the world in an instant. So ask yourselves how important this adventure is to who you are individually and as a couple, and how it fits into the vision you have for your life together. Would the memories you create offset any downside in the future? See what shows up.

The risk of leaving everything behind, spending all your money, having a grand experience, and coming home broke, unemployed, and homeless is also a real concern. How comfortable are each of you with that level of uncertainty, and how confident are you that you will manage whatever fallout does occur? Are you easily employable with a high demand job that will tolerate time away? Can you work and travel, finding a way to create a new career in the process? Will you have a safe place to land upon your return to give you time to get back on your feet? And finally, have you mapped out what your life might look like with fewer resources in your golden years, and can you be okay living with less?

The most critical element of all is that the two of you land on the same page. When my husband walked away from his high-paying job we planned for three years in advance. We evolved our life to be mobile, downsized from a house to a 38’ RV, and gave away 80% of our belongings. We both morphed our careers into ones that we could manage on the road and have never looked back. What I learned in the process was threefold: time was going to run out and I wanted to seize as much of it as I could while I could; being with my husband was where home was; and having a permanent place to come back to was important for me. While that wasn’t an issue for my husband, by addressing it together we found a mutually satisfying solution, and by answering those questions we were able to carve the path that made sense to us.

There are risks everywhere you turn. Learning to live with that reality while focusing your eyes on where you most want to be will help point you in the best direction for the two of you.

– Lynda

PHOTO: PAUL STEWART

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