Prioritizing to rock retirement (and avoid the top 5 end-of-life regrets)

Putting important, non-urgent things on the backburner too long will burn you in retirement. See, retirement isn’t just about finding some magic number that will sustain you through your golden years. It’s about intentionally creating a better life.

It’s about time for social connection.

Charting a path that will keep you happy each day.

And yes, it’s about investing wisely.

What it’s not about? More TV.

In this week’s blog, I want to walk you through the top five regrets of the dying and help you avoid them by reprioritizing your life.

That starts now.

Why you don’t prioritize to rock retirement


Lack of time.

Urgent, easy, non-important priorities.

These things get in the way of planning an ideal retirement future.

People have the tendency to wave away the critical, but non-urgent things in life so they can focus on the urgent, non-important things.

We’ve got the quadrants of life all mixed up.

Heck, that’s why I work, work out, skim the pool, replace light bulbs, wash the dishes, respond to emails, finish projects and more most days. These things demand my attention right now and I fall for it.

You fall for it.

But how many people look back on their life and say, “I wish I would have skimmed the pool more often.” Or “I wish I’d have responded to every email within 24 hours.”

If there are any of these people out there, I think I’ll keep my distance.

5 regrets to avoid

Bronnie Ware is an Australian hospice nurse who wrote the best-selling book, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. Our regrets reflect what we wish we had prioritized differently. (I covered this a little in episode 117 of the Retirement Answer Man podcast.)

Reading her book made me realize that these regrets can sneak up on anyone. Even me.

If you lack intentionality to prioritize your life the right way, you’ll die with regrets.

By exposing you to these, I hope you can have little conversations that will help you avoid these, or any other regret, at the end of your retirement.

1. I wish I had had the courage to live a life true to myself

Don’t live a life based on other people’s expectations or rules. If your career, your family life or anything else is out of alignment with your values, learn to live more courageously and change that.

Dream up your ideal retirement, without the baggage of the past clouding your vision. Create a vision for what will be and start walking towards it.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard

Every single man, and a lot of women, die with this regret, according to Bronnie Ware.

Are you working just to avoid personal depth? To avoid long-term priorities? Answer this last one, especially, as honestly as you can. Have you ever stayed late at the office because you just didn’t want to go home?

You can fool yourself into thinking you work hard to meet your obligations, but I’ve watched a ton of clients breeze past financial independence without slowing down the pace of their work.

In fact, when they’re in their “A game” they end up with even more obligations.

Success is addictive. Don’t let it taint your personal prioritization legacy.

3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings

Little conversations that matter don’t come easily to many people. It can be scary telling someone “I love you,” “I’m sorry,” or “I’m afraid.” I’m not sure why it’s so hard, but it is.

For years, I had difficulty telling my wife these things. I felt them, I just couldn’t say them. I think she felt the same. As a result, our relationship was like a silent dance moving between closeness and separateness.

Once we matured and opened up, our relationship blossomed. By not expressing your feelings, you lose your voice. You’re not truly yourself.

Are you willing to lose yourself?

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends

Investing wisely for retirement financially will make you secure in retirement.

Investing in your relationships will make you happy and feel more alive.

One of these should sound better to you.

5. I wish I had let myself be happier

This one really hit me personally. I wish I had forgiven myself earlier for past mistakes. Allowing those things to fester muted my happiness. Forgiving myself released my past mistakes and allowed me to look forward at what could be.

You’ve screwed up a lot no matter how old you are. Your happiness affects your spouse, children and others in a real way.

Forgive yourself, move on and be happy.

You can’t change the past. But you can change the future.

And intentionally reprioritizing your life so you avoid these regrets of the dying will help you rock retirement.

In every sense.

Don’t wait to reprioritize your life

In my practice, I’ve found people only delve into the important, but not urgent, things when there’s an emotional trigger.

For example, when someone in their circle of friends passes away unexpectedly, it brings things like life insurance, estate planning or spending time with family to the forefront.

Even with an emotional trigger that hits close to home, there’s still only a small window of time when these long-term things get reprioritized to the top of the list. If you don’t take care of the important things when it feels urgent, the urgency will pass.

You fall back into the rhythm of routine.

After reading this blog post, you can either intentionally start making the changes you need to avoid a retirement filled with regrets, or you can stew on it for a little while and forget about it.

One path leads to an abundant retirement. The other to a retirement of regrets.

What’s your choice?