Why Settle For A Good Retirement, When You Can Go For A Great One?

Don't settle for a good retirement, go for a great retirement!

It's a worthwhile goal to be great at something – top one percent great. Being a jack of all trades, master of none is an excuse many of us use because we aren't willing to try harder. We know this, so we settle for good enough. Good enough is good enough if you're content. But if there's something bothering you deep inside, then maybe it's because you know you can do better.

Fritz's post called Seven Days To A Great Retirement was an insightful read that warmed my heart. It's actually part two of a three part series that talks about how they decided to simplify life and live more intentionally once they became empty nesters .

Given Fritz's retirement plan is closer to the traditional retirement path, I thought it would be good to share his thoughts on how everyone can live their best retirement lives possible. 

From A Good Retirement To A Great One

My wife and I realized we were Settling For Good.

We weren't doing it intentionally, but we recognized the signs. We decided to take action. Now, we're moving toward Great. It's been a heckuva a few years as we've pulled up the anchor (twice!), but we've learned some really good lessons from our two downsizing moves in 18 months. We've had some bumps along the way, but the bruises are healing and we're moving on. Toward Great.

View our story as an analogy and focus on the broader issues raised. Think about how you can apply the lessons we're learning in your own life.

Go For Great!

11 Lessons To Move Your Life From Good To Great

Here are some thoughts on going from a good retirement to a great retirement. Even if you have a fake retirement, like Sam mentioned in his 10-year anniversary retirement post, these lessons will matter for you.

Lesson 1 – Ask Yourself The Question

Stop for a minute, and ask yourself a simple question: Are you “Settling for Good” in your Life, or are you “Pursuing Great”? Regardless of your age, sex or stage of life, you need to ask yourself that question. Do you want Good? Or do you want Great?

Before you can start moving to Great, you've got to think about what “Great” means to you, and how it compares to your current life. Are you taking action now to improve your life? What areas of your life can you move to a better place?

Some examples. If you're….

  • Starting To Make Money...Are you settling for “Good” Money or pursuing “Great” Money?
  • Starting A Career…Do you want a have a “Good” Career or a “Great” Career?
  • Getting Married...Do you want to be a “Good” or “Great” husband or wife?
  • Starting A Family….Do you want to be a “Good” Parent or a “Great” Parent?
  • Buying A House….Do you want a “Good” House or a “Great” House?
  • Designing A Life…Do you want a “Good” Life or a “Great” Life?

The first lesson and the most important thing is to take some time to think about where you want to go. Do that before proceeding to the implementation of Lesson 2.

In our case, we decided it was time to take some action to move our upcoming retirement from Good To Great.

Lesson 2 – Think Long Term

Once you've decided on an what you're going to move from Good To Great, take the next step. First, take a breath. Then, Exhale. In this age of hyperactivity, it's hard to think much further ahead than the weekend. For Lesson 2, you need to slow down and think about the long term.

Think 5, 10, 20 years out, and imagine what “Great” looks like in your future. Identify the Gap between your current state of “Good” and your ideal state of “Great”. What steps can you take in the next 1 month, 1 year, 5 years to start budging yourself out of your “Settled” state, and begin planning the first step?

Cross The Stream

Think about the steps you could take to get from Here to There, from Good To Great. Imagine it a bit like eyeing out rocks you're going to use to get across a turbulent stream.

In our case, we recognized 7 years ago that we were drawn to the mountains of North Georgia, near the trailhead for The Appalachian Trail. We started to think about it as a potential retirement location. We were living in the City at the time but knew that's not what we wanted longer term.

Would living in the mountains help us to achieve a “Great” retirement? We decided “Yes”, and we started to dream.

Lesson 3 – Dream

Take some time to dream. This isn't something you have to have done by tomorrow (or next weekend). Take some time over the next 6-12 months to really think about what you want your life to be. Find ways to explore ideas that interest you, build experiences in the areas you're thinking about. Experiment.

In our case, we dreamt about living a retired life in the mountains. We booked a cabin rental for a week in October week via AirB-N-B. We started to explore the targeted “great” area, and we thought about where we could live, and what we could do, in retirement.

Related: It's Always Good To Dream About Living The Dream

Lesson 4 – Take The First Step

After you have an idea of where you want to go, take the first step. Step on that first rock in the stream, and begin to move. Identify something you can do, anything, that will start moving you in the direction you're trying to go. It doesn't have to be big, but it has to be something. The goal is to start the ball rolling, the momentum will build later. Just take the first step.

How to create a great retirement and not just a good retirement

In our case, we took a big first step. We took the plunge and bought a cabin. The Dream was to retire to a cabin, so we knew we had to own a cabin at some point for the dream to come true. The first step, done.

Perhaps for others, your dream is to buy an ocean front property or a forever home in the hills with panoramic ocean views in retirement.

Lesson 5 – Be Creative

Testing out areas that you think may lead to “Great” doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Find ways to minimize the costs associated with your “trial runs”. If you want a new job, start working on your resume or try a side hustle while you're still working. We spent a lot of weekends (and weeks) at the cabin before we moved their full time. As you move through Lesson 5, find ways to reduce the expense.

In our case, we really didn't want the expense of a second home. We were on track for an early retirement, and spending the extra cash was something we wanted to avoid. We experimented with renting our cabin out, perfected the process through trial & error, and ended up with a nice “rental income” side business which totally paid for 5 years of cabin expenses.

We were building equity, and not spending a dime. We were also able to enjoy the cabin any time we wanted to since we were managing the rental schedule and simply blocked out weeks and weekends we wanted to use for ourselves.

Sam here. And for me, constantly being creative has been a huge motivator and blessing in my retirement. From 2020 to 2022, I wrote a new personal finance book called, Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom.

Now, when I look back during the pandemic period, I will feel proud that I didn't waste my time. Instead, I took advantage of more solitude by creating a book that will help potentially millions get their finances right. I truly believe BTNT will be the best personal finance book you'll ever read.

Lesson 6 – Downsize & Simplify

No matter what area you're focusing on, find a way to simplify / declutter / dowsize that area of your life. Strip the thing back to it's bare essentials, the thing that makes it Great. There's a big movement underway of folks moving their lives to the basics that matter to them.

You don't have to “Go Minimialist”, but realize that “more” is not always the best way to “Great”. Sometimes less is a better path. Think about it in your life, and apply where it makes sense.

In our case, we literally downsized, and sold 30 years worth of belongings in 24 hours. From first-hand experience, I can tell you that really felt good, and was a major step on our move To Great.

Lesson 7 – Be Patient

It can take a lot of steps to get across the stream. Have the patience to hop from rock to rock, and realize you're working toward longer term dreams. Sometimes it takes longer than you'd like to get there, but take comfort in the fact that you're moving in the right direction and you're making progress, however slowly, toward your goal.

In our case, it took us 32 years of work to achieve Financial Independence. We waited 5 years after buying the cabin before we could position ourselves to make the move from The City. Play long ball. Be patient.

Lesson 8 – Enjoy The Journey

Recognize it's a long journey, and don't pin all of your life's dreams on the eventual goal. Live a little along the way, and enjoy each day you're given. Don't put off everything for tomorrow, but don't do everything today. Have some balance, but carve out time for fun on your way down the road.

In our case, we knew we wanted to retire earlier than “normal”, but we also wanted our life to be “Great” as we were living it. We were intentional about taking nice vacations every year with our daughter (now 22 and recently married, we'll never regret those memories we built). We traveled the world (thank you, frequent flier miles), and probably sacrificed a few more years of work for the experience. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Now that we're coming out of a pandemic, living the YOLO lifestyle and doing some revenge spending is a totally appropriate move! Life will go quickly. Enjoy the most of it.

Lesson 9 – Expect Some Lumps Along The Way

Expect your feet to get a little wet as you cross the stream. You're going to slip on a few rocks. Expect it, and wear some nice wool socks. Be prepared for the lumps, and don't let them knock you off track (See Lesson 10).

After we completed our “Downsize #1 and became 100% Debt Free!!, we revisited our “Good to Great” strategy and re-evaluated our situation (see Lesson 11). Now that we were living full time in our dream retirement, we noticing some things that “weren't Great” for our longer term retirement lifestyle dreams. We had to once again decide if we were going to settle for Good, or if we were going to go for Great. We chose Great (again) and made a plan to move once more if we were able to find a “Great Cabin”. We put together our list of criteria, and started our new search.

It was inconvenient, it was a “lump along the way”. That's ok, it's part of the process, and we'll be closer to Great as a result.

Lesson 10 – Adapt, & Overcome

Remain flexible, and realize that your plan's going to change. Be prepared for it, and meet the challenges with a longer term view on your direction to “Great”. It's ok to sidestep every now and again, and it won't hurt you to suffer a few staggers back. The important thing is that you're always leaning forward, and you know the general direction you're trying to go.

In our case, we adapted and made the move to buy a second retirement cabin. We found a Great place, and made the purchase. After we moved from our “Good” to our “Great” cabin, we put our “Good” cabin on the market. We got an offer, and we accepted. Things were going great until I got this email from the buyer, which ultimately led to the sale falling apart. The house is back on the market, and we're continuing to adapt & overcome.

Lesson 11 – Repeat #1

The move to “Great” is a never-ending process. Continue to challenge your situation in life, and check-in from time to time to make sure you're moving forward on your journey to Great.

In our case, we're getting closer to retirement. We're spending a lot of time thinkng about how we're going to spend our newfound Freedom doing the things that matter the most to us. We're continually modifying the plan, and we're working our way across the stream. I suspect we'll be doing it until the day we die.

Go For A Great Retirement

Life is like a car with no reverse. You can't change the miles you've already driven, but you can change the miles ahead. Figure out what you want from your life. Decide to pursue Great.

Look for ways to apply the 11 Lessons above, and take your first step on that stone in the stream.

Decide to start your journey toward Great.

Your life will be better as a result.


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29 thoughts on “Why Settle For A Good Retirement, When You Can Go For A Great One?”

  1. Being willing to take a risk and step out on your desires is so important. Kudos for being willing to admit that your first cabin was not the right choice for you. It’s easy to be stubborn and pretend that our previous choices, made after careful deliberation, were not ideal.

  2. Chris @ Keep Thrifty

    Awesome post as always Fritz. I get a lot of inspiration from your focus on living the best life possible. Thanks for the breakdown of what’s worked to go from good to great!

    As I’m in my mini-retirement, I want to remind myself every day that I might only get to do this once, so I need to make it GREAT!

  3. Ms. Conviviality

    At the moment, I’m taking to heart lesson 9 to “expect some lumps along the way.” My husband and I have set ourselves up for greatness ever since we started reading Financial Samurai. Then along comes Hurricane Irma flooding our house and property up to 5 ft in some places. It was only yesterday that the water had receded enough for us to start tearing out the wet drywall and insulation. Given that we don’t have any flood insurance, we will be doing all the repairs ourselves. It’s been a lot of work but it’s also given us the sense that we can accomplish anything together and this will make our relationship stronger. Years from now, we’ll talk about the crazy flood of 2017 along with stories of how my husband canoed me out to the car each day before work since the property was still flooded.

  4. Great post. This is why I’ll be working past the point when I can FIRE. I don’t want to just subsist in early retirement, I will live a very comfortable life. Settling for anything short of what you want in the short term actively works against obtaining it in the long term.

  5. Thanks for the awesome post – and a good (no, great!) reminder to keep checking in with yourself and your partner/family to ensure everyone is heading in the right direction. I like your line: life is like a car with no reverse.

  6. I think the last point is the most important. Nothing is ever perfect, it’s the pursuit of continuous improvement that drives us forward. There is always room to improve.

  7. This day in age people are so focused on the here and now that they forget about the long term plans and goals. I am definitely guilty of this myself! Good (GREAT) for you guys for recognizing your latest move was needed despite having recently bought the other place. Some people would have just settled but you had the stones to reach beyond!! :)

  8. Mr. Freaky Frugal

    Fritz – This is great, balanced advice!

    We did the downsizing thing a few years after we FIREd and I have no regrets – it’s very refreshing.

    I particular like the “Enjoy the Ride” advice. I have a habit of setting a goal and then deciding I’ll be happy only AFTER I achieve that goal. Bad idea. The older I get the more I realize that life is about enjoying this day, hour, and minute and spending lots of time with the people I love.

  9. I enjoyed this post. My husband and I aren’t close to retiring at all, and neither of us has thought about retiring early, but these are definitely some thoughts to keep in mind. Instead of retiring early we’re more set on having the ability to not “need” a job. For us, that is what would be great (at least at this moment).

    Right now the lesson that sticks out the most is “enjoying the process.” We usually try to go on vacation once per year, and although it didn’t happen for this year, we’re ok with that and enjoying it as well because we accomplished some other major goals.

  10. “Good is the enemy of Great”… Too many times I think this quote is so true. We risk moving to great because good is “safer”. Good pays the bills but nothing more. Good lets you sleep at night but leaves you wanting more. I think these 10 lessons are a wonderful blueprint to move from good to great. Then of course Rinse and Repeat.

  11. You asked great questions. I think we also might have settled for good. But we’re trying for the great. My husband and I have a vague idea of when we want to retire (before 50), but we don’t really have any specific plan yet.

    All we know is that we need to work hard, make more money, save more, invest more, and don’t forget to enjoy life. I think sometimes the journey is more enjoyable than the outcome. We currently both like our jobs, but I think we might change our minds in the future. Thanks for sharing your story!

  12. Thinking long term is my favorite lesson among all these lessons. The fruit will be sweeter if you leave it on the tree a little longer :)

    We’re pretty far off from our retirement Fritz but my husband’s parents have been retired for a few years now and I notice they have more of a social life than us! We call them on any given week to catch up and 7/10 times, they’re out dancing, on a cruise or with the grandkids. I’m starting to think they screen our calls!!! ;)

    1. Always a good sign when your folks are too busy in retirement to answer the calls of the children! Good analogy of “fruit will be sweeter if it’s on the tree a little longer”. My fruit is ripe, and I’ll be picking it in 9 months! Looking forward to FIRE (tho my “RE” may be a bit later than many, at least my fruit will be sweet)!!

  13. Great post. Don’t settle for good enough. Dream big. Always keep striving to make improvements in all areas of your life. Excellent guest post.

  14. Ms. Raggedly

    These are great :) Enjoying the journey is so important – if you truly take time to be honest and figure out what you want, and take the time to enjoy the journey, then I feel like regrets are going to be so much fewer and further between. No point in getting anywhere if you don’t like how you get there! And no point in going if you don’t know where you’re getting! (even if it’s in that vague sort of way)

  15. I like the “Enjoy the Journey” lesson. During my first 10 years of working the only vacations I took were inexpensive camping trips. I really enjoy camping, but now that I’m more established I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice as much. I’ll still go camping but can try other trips as well. I guess it’s experiencing the results from the delayed gratification. This year my wife and I went on a trip to Europe for the first time. Traveling to new and exciting locations throughout our lives is one of our goals. We don’t want to wait until we are too old and unable to travel.

    1. “We don’t want to wait until we are too old….”

      MC, that’s been exactly our mantra. We’ve lived life as we’ve walked it. If that cost us a few years of work, that’s a trade we’ve been willing to make. No regrets on the journey. Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Great points about enjoying the ride along the way. I recognize now that Mrs. BD and I could retire extremely early if we saved 50-70% of our incomes which works for some and for others it might not.

        We don’t mind taking a balanced approach, but – to your other points – you do need to take the first step and be patient.

  16. I thought this headline sounded like a Fritz headline when I saw Sam’s email this morning. Great surprise!

    Great story and lessons. Seems so important to decide what “great” means for you individually and go for it. It’s too easy to settle. Alternatively, for some, it’s also too easy to pursue someone else’s meaning of “great” and that’s when they get into trouble.

    1. Amy, great to see you in Sam’s neighborhood. Cool that you recognized my “voice” from the headline! Great point about each of us needing to decide what “Great” means to us. Figure it out, then pursue it. No reverse!

  17. Brad - MaximizeYourMoney.com

    Downsizing and simplifying was huge for us!

    It was a big deal mentally because we found out just how much all our “stuff” was distracting us and creating concern. Things to fix, maintain, clean, keep looking well so other people didn’t think we were slackers, etc.

    It was also a big deal financially because it was the step that allowed us to retire early. Without that move, it wouldn’t have happened. Downsizing enough to pay cash for the new house freed up enough cash flow to shrink our budget into FIRE-manageable range.

  18. Thanks for sharing that “Great” post ;) I really like the quote about life being like driving a car with no reverse, that you can’t change the mileage on the car already but can change the miles ahead.

    Sounds like you took cautious but bold steps towards realizing your dreams, actions of intention. A lot of us live lives of unintention and are less mindful than we wish to be so this is a great reminder to wake up and move towards a life we want, thank you!

  19. Great post!!! The hardest step is realizing that there is more out there and that you could do better. I have to admit that I settled for far too long and now that I know what i want, it’s been a lot more fun pursuing the dreams as well as reaching them. Love the story Fritz!!!

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