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Factoring travel dollars into your retirement

Though a majority of retirees' wish lists include trekking the world, few plan ahead for such costs

By Mary Beth Franklin

Dec 13, 2013 @ 12:13 pm EST

Ask almost any near-retiree what they hope to do with their newfound leisure time, and most will say “travel.” Whether it's hitting the road in an RV for a tour of the national parks or cruising down the Rhine to visit medieval European castles, travel is the stuff of retirement dreams.

But travel doesn't come cheap, and unfortunately, few Americans set aside specific funds to make their travel dreams come true.

A new study released Thursday by the Global Coalition on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that 59% of Americans surveyed dream of traveling during retirement, but just 15% have placed a high priority on saving for travel.

When it comes to taking action, only 18% of the 1,500 adults who participated in the nationally representative survey in October said they had specifically factored travel into their financial strategy in retirement.

That certainly seems like a disconnect between dreams and reality. But here's a clue why: Only 17% of those surveyed said they use a financial adviser. Any adviser worth his or her salt knows to add a travel budget line-item into retirement income plans for any client who has it on their “wants” list.

In fact, the new survey suggests that investors and their advisers may want to move travel into the “needs” column.

To complement the survey, the GCOA also released a white paper, “Destination Healthy Aging: The Physical, Cognitive and Social Benefits of Travel.” The paper links travel and the activities associated with travel with positive health outcomes, including decreased risk of heart attack and depression — and even the promotion of brain health.

“Travel is good medicine,” Dr. Paul Nussbaum, a clinical neuropsychologist and professor at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Medicine, said in a statement accompanying the release of the survey and paper. “Because it challenges the brain with new and different experiences and environments, it is an important behavior that promotes brain health and builds brain resilience across the lifespan.”

“While lack of financial resources is the largest barrier to saving for travel, Americans are only just beginning to understand the value of travel for physical and mental wellbeing and social connection,” said Catherine Collinson, president of TCRS, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to educating the public about emerging trends surrounding retirement security.

“We're trying to reframe the conversation and put a spotlight on travel in retirement as a goal of healthy aging,” Ms. Collinson said.

One of the interesting tidbits in the survey is that 28% of respondents said they would be interested in receiving financial advice on how to incorporate travel into their retirement planning.

“After working for decades, travel is the reward,” Ms. Collinson said. “People of all ages need to plan and save to make their retirement dreams of traveling a reality.”

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