Retirement bliss with the ultimate bucket list

We surveyed thousands of people to find out which retirement experiences people are planning for. Did your dream make the list?

Retirement should be the opportunity of a lifetime. With – hopefully – more free time on your hands, there are thousands of hobbies, pastimes and exciting experiences you'll be able to enjoy. 

By Dee Pilgrim

Having worked hard all your life, the thought of being able to do exactly what you please when you retire is irresistible. Although more than a third of people surveyed  saw retirement as a time to have fun and relax more, others said they can't wait to get started on new and exciting ventures.

World travel 

Unsurprisingly, one of the top things people want to do when they retire is to go out and explore far flung places they may not have been to before. This urge to travel in the future is even more understandable in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, when the chance even to go on our usual holidays abroad has been extremely limited.

More than 40% of respondents to the survey put travel at the top of their bucket lists, with cruises and round the world trips proving very popular (23% and 20%). Many people listed journeying to see specific sights, such as the Northern Lights (27%), the Great Wall of China and the Rocky Mountains in America (both on around 11%). Others want to go overseas in order to have specific experiences, such as whale watching (nearly 13%) or seeing the Ashes cricket series in Australia (6%). 

If travelling is top of your bucket list, there are plenty of specialist travel companies offering tours and trips catering to the needs of older travellers. It's also important to check you have adequate insurance before you leave, to cover you if things don't go to plan. 

Adventure and activities

While many people want to put their feet up and slow down in retirement, there are plenty of others dreaming of going on adventures and coming over all Indiana Jones. 

Activities listed range from hot air ballooning and skydiving (8% and 6%), to swimming with dolphins and mountain climbing (nearly 12% and 6%). More than 4% have bungee jumping included on their list, while almost 5% plan to take up a new sporting hobby, showing it's never too late to get active.

Being adventurous can mean different things to different individuals and some people want to tackle new challenges and ventures when they retire, such as starting their own business (nearly 6%).The more unusual things people have plans for include getting a tattoo (5%), cosmetic surgery (4%) and learning a musical instrument (7%).

Make a meaningful lifestyle change

Approaching the end of your working life also gives you the opportunity to think about any lifestyle changes you might like to make. The survey showed many people are planning on making quite drastic changes to the way they live when they no longer have to work. 

With the need to commute to the office a thing of the past, more than a quarter of respondents dream of moving to live near the sea and nearly 16% want to move abroad. 

During lockdown, many people's relationship with the natural environment and engagement with green issues have become increasingly important, So it's little wonder that a fifth of respondents want to spend time gardening, own a vineyard (nearly 5%) or a small holding (7%), and nearly 7% want to build their own eco-home and/or live off the land. Impressive!

Retirement bucket list in full

  All   All
Travel 40.94% Buy a sports car 7.22%
See the Northern Lights 27.29% Go scuba diving / snorkelling 6.82%
Go on a cruise 23.26% See the Ashes in Australia 6.03%
Go on a round the world trip 20.42% Go sky diving / parachuting 5.93%
Go on a safari 17.68% Start a business 5.78%
Nothing / Don't know 17.48% Go on dates 5.73%
Go on a multi-generation family holiday 14.49% Go mountain climbing 5.68%
Go to Disneyland / Disney World 13.99% Join a club 5.58%
Drive route 66 13.50% Renew wedding vows 5.53%
Go whale watching 12.75% Get a tattoo 5.33%
Swim with dolphins 11.85% Write memoirs 5.13%
Buy pets 11.60% Join a gym 4.98%
See the Great Wall of China 11.30% Go to Graceland 4.78%
See the Rocky Mountains 11.11% Take up a sporting hobby 4.53%
Take up an artistic hobby 8.22% Have cosmetic surgery 4.28%
Go hot air ballooning 8.12% Do a bungee jump 4.23%
Own a small holding 7.42% Buy a motorbike 4.13%
Learn a musical instrument 7.27% Start further education 3.74%

Lifestyle changes

People were also asked if they planned to adapt their lifestyle in retirement.
  All Count
Enjoy myself / have fun 37.95% 762
Relax more 34.66% 696
Spend time with family / friends 34.51% 693
Become financially secure 29.68% 569
Live near the sea 26.20% 526
Spend time gardening 20.87% 419
Spend time with grandchildren 19.37% 389
Buy a holiday home 16.93% 340
Live abroad 15.64% 314
Buy a camper van / motor home 13.15% 264
Do home renovations 11.40% 229
Own a bungalow 10.16% 204
Build my own home 7.52% 151
Start a new business / sideline 6.77% 136
No particular changes 6.77% 136
Build my own eco-home / live off the land 6.62% 133
Not sure 5.93% 119
Become a landlord 5.68% 114
Own a vineyard 4.38% 88
Start dating 3.74% 75
Other 0.90% 18

Counting the cost

Before you get started putting pen to paper on your very own bucket list, it's good to bear in mind that many of the activities are expensive, so you need to have some idea of what funds you will have at your disposal. However, the majority (three-quarters) of people who replied to the survey have not taken any financial advice about their retirement plans. Yet getting financial advice could help make some of your dreams a reality. 

For help managing pensions and investments, think about taking Aviva Financial Advice. For a small fee, this could help you get the retirement you want by being smarter with your existing money and investments – because it's not so much about how much you have, it’s what you do with it that counts.

Download the full ultimate retirement bucket list survey