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Welcome, welcome! We’ve been waiting for you. Please, come one in and pull up a chair! Here in Retirement, all our chairs are comfy. We also offer the world’s largest selection of Caribbean cruises, stressless days, and hard candies!

Retirement is a land where no one works and old men spend their days on the golf course, not unlike our current federal government. But don’t worry, ladies—here, we have plenty of amenities for you, too. Couples go on endless cruises and fly south for the winter. Some buy trailers and drive across the country, stopping at the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park, to take a dip in the hot springs in Colorado, and eat a steak the size of their faces in Texas.

I remember fantasizing about the great things I would do when I finally reached this magical wonderland of retirement. The 10 year-old Melissa wanted to swim with the dolphins in the Caribbean, go bungee jumping in Fiji, take a gondola ride through Venice, backpack through Europe. Oh the possibilities!

But, sadly, I now live in limbo. I’m not even close to being that innocent child, and I’m not even close to retirement. I’m in the real world.

Unfortunately, there are some rules before getting into the land of retirement.

Rule #1: You pay your own way.

My first paycheck hit me with a harsh reality. When I looked at the bottom line after tax, I didn’t even have enough to pay my car insurance and college loans. Not only that, I also had to take a piece out and put it into some sort of fund so that all of my retirement dreams would be funded by my last day of work. What a racket.

Rule #2: You can’t collect from that government dream fund until you reach the age of 65.

And, frankly, that age will likely increase by the time I get there. So, the aforementioned plans to bungee jump and swim with dolphins may likely be replaced with a seniors’ winery tour—which might not be so bad, aside from poor bladder control—or a bus trip to NYC to see a matinee and turn right back home.

Maybe retirement isn’t such a magical place anymore. Maybe it’s kind of a chore. So why we do it, then? Why don’t we spend that money now and go on our dream vacations?

Now don’t get me wrong, saving for retirement or kids’ college funds or emergencies is important. But do we really start living at retirement, or are we just setting ourselves up for disappointment when old age catches up with us?

A few years ago, I spoke to a wise man on a mountaintop. His name was Dad. And Dad told me a proverb I’ll never forget. He said, “I won’t leave you in debt, but I’m spending it all!”

The more I think about this, the more I’m inclined to agree with him. Dad has been responsible with savings his whole life, putting a roof over our heads and feeding us. Now with an empty nest, he and my mom have been cashing in on long weekends, island trips, and pretty much anything else they want to do. And why not? They’ve already made it to retirement! (I think I saw them on the brochure.)

My parents make retirement look good, which is maybe why I got this elaborate globetrotting fantasy in my head. But I still can’t help but ask: Is retirement really worth the wait or is it time to take a fresh look at that bucket list and start checking things off? Why do we push so many things off until we retire when we could be doing so much more now?

Why put our dreams on hold? Why risk the possibility that illness, hip replacements, kindergarten graduations, and other unexpected life events delay the things we truly want from life. So now that I have financial advisors cringing at my every word, I’m asking myself how much I really need to save to live comfortably after 65. Why not go on these adventures while we still have the stamina? Maybe retirement isn’t a wonderland, but right now really is. Time to plan some new adventures, fully enjoy each new place we discover, and do it while I still look good in that bikini!

Melissa Wyatt

Boasting with Philly pride, I’m a loud-mouthed Italian mama striving to achieve the perfect combination of marketing guru with a hint of Julia Child, Martha Stewart, and Beyonce.

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