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Imagine each of our careers as a long train ride. We get on at the start of our work life and ride until it is time to get off. But when and where will that be?

As we ride along we notice that some people get off our train at various stations and switch to other trains riding off in different directions than the one we are taking. Perhaps these folks switched careers and are off to other destinations.

We notice that some people get off at resort-like stops that do not have connecting trains or tracks. They waive us goodbye with big smiles on their faces. We watch as they join parties with colorful umbrellas in their drinks. How did they get so lucky and how can we get off at one of those stops?

Then some of the passengers on our train exit at a train station, but there are no connecting trains and there is no party atmosphere. Why did these folks get off and what happens to these stranded individuals? This certainly does not appear to be an exit we would want from our comfortable seats.

Then we notice riders boarding some of the empty cattle cars at the back of the train. Why are they getting into those and, more importantly, how do we avoid ending up with them?

We actually have choices in our train ride. Certainly if the train we are on is not going where we want to go changing directions at a train station would be appropriate. We can gather adequate information to make a good decision about our next destination and there are plenty of great trains out there to take us where we want to go.

If we want to get off at a festive stop we need to start planning today about what our optimal destination would be. First is the goal of determining what we want that stop to look like. Beach, mountain and lake destinations are always attractive. Time with family and friends with plenty of resources to travel is a goal we should all wrap our minds around. It probably will not take millions of dollars, but certainly we need to address how much money this dream will require and we need to set the wheels in motion to help us reach our goals.

Second, we need to be sure that we have our health so that we can actually do the things we would like to do. What we eat, how much we exercise and how we manage stress NOW will have long ranging impact on how we live out our dreams. Good habits pay dividends not only in the physical condition in which we find ourselves, but also in the reduced cost for maintaining chronic conditions. We would all much rather spend our dollars on fun stuff than on prescriptions and doctors’ visits and lab work that are the alternative.

Last, how do we avoid being dropped off at a ghost station or, worse yet, in a cattle car just riding on and on? A little discipline today can reduce the chance that we will either have to continue to work at menial work or that we find ourselves stranded. Good health and strong financial resources buy us a lot of choices we would not otherwise have. So, let’s dig in and address our money and our health with the attitude that a little effort can pay big dividends. Today is not too late to get serious in these two areas. We just need to exercise some discipline and start recording the inroads we make on our goals as we go along!