Artist explores "bucket lists" from around the world

A girl helps her friend write a message on a ''Before I die'' wall, where people can write what they would like to do before they die, on Sept. 25, 2013, in Prague,

MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

What do you want to do in retirement, and how much money will that cost? These are two of the most important retirement planning questions you need to answer, and you can get valuable insights to help you from a new book, "Before I Die," by artist Candy Chang.

Chang’s book is a poignant and moving account of a project that she was inspired to create after losing someone she loved. She painted the side of an abandoned house in her New Orleans neighborhood with chalkboard paint and stenciled the sentence, "Before I die, I want to _____." Within a day, the wall was covered in inspirations and dreams as neighbors stopped by to write their own contributions.

Since then, more than four hundred "Before I die" walls have been created by people all over the world, and the book beautifully documents the highlights in words and photos.

Thinking about what you want to do before you die, and how you want to be remembered, can give you clarity that acts as a guide for people of any age, but particularly for people approaching retirement. Most people want to be happy and fulfilled in their retirement years, and these goals often involve relationships with loved ones and friends. After thinking about it, you may find that what you really want might not cost all that much.

Here are some of my favorite ideas from the book (along with the writers' locations) that could result in a very satisfying retirement without requiring millions in your 401(k):

·  Teach my grandkids to garden (New Orleans)

·  Take less and give more (Auckland, New Zealand)

·  Live without fearing death (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

·  Taste all the fruit there is (San Francisco)

·  Canoe the Mississippi (Milwaukee)

·  See beauty in everything (Chicago)

·  Live in a trailer on the beach (Vancouver, Canada)

·  Find closure (Erfurt, Germany)

·  Love like my dog (Savannah, Ga.)

·  Read every book on my shelf (Vancouver, Canada)

·  Make someone’s day (Milwaukee)

·  Treat my husband the way he deserves (Minneapolis)

·  Tell her I love her (Newport News, Va.)

·  Live without a cluttered mind (Portsmouth, N.H.)

·  Speak with my children one last time (Cordoba, Argentina)

Of course, some aspirations could cost a lot of money, such as "travel the world." And some were fanciful, like the people who wanted to meet an alien, go to Mars or get a talking dog. Others were unlikely to be achievable in our lifetimes, such as a desire for world peace or to see the New York Mets win a World Series.

One common theme in the book was how many of the wishes were achievable but hadn’t yet been achieved. Said Dierdre, a wall organizer from Jersey City, N.J., about the dreams posted on her wall, “They seemed totally attainable – things people could do very easily. It was fascinating to realize that everyone sees different limitations and different possibilities in their lives.”

Laura, a wall organizer in Sao Paulo, Brazil, added, “This project has opened our eyes and made us realize our time here is limited, and we should spend more time doing what we love.”

The book contains hundreds of people’s dreams along with photos that illustrate the passion of the organizers and ordinary citizens.

What do you want to do in your retirement and before you die? What are you waiting for?

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    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck and Recession-Proof Your Retirement Years.