When people talk about their future plans, they often begin talking about their dreams with a disclaimer - "someday when I retire..." - as if to say retirement keeps them from living their dreams now.

It's no surprise that most of us have misconceptions about retirement. The words used to describe it and the perceptions they send can make this transition seem rather negative.

Retirement shouldn't be the end of life, but rather a beginning, said author Chris Hogan in his new book, Retire Inspired. Hogan offers a different observation of retirement and has made it his mission to erase age with retirement and instead replace it with a financial number.

When planning your next steps, whether it's working for a new company or starting your own business, it starts with a dream in mind.

Hogan knows this well because he has spent countless hours listening to people talk about their dreams while helping guide them with their financial decisions. Throughout the years in working with people, he noticed a pattern of thinking that influenced him to talk about retirement in a different way.

According to Hogan, "dreams help you get to the why in what you want to do in life and are very important."

Job layoffs and unexpected turn of events do not have to leave you without hope, as you are in charge of your dreams.

That's important to remember because the marketplace has a tendency to paint dreams as whimsical fairy tales that only happen to other people, and it is difficult to sell dreams when you struggle with believing they can come true.

Dreams are great landing points in helping you get started with a plan of action, and the biggest influence you have in making them a reality is the power of choice each day. If you are like most people, your finances and what you want to do in life are connected, so a great place to start is being aware of where you spend your money.

The daily decisions you make now will influence your future decisions when confronted with what to do next in life.

Hogan offers three recommendations when facing a crossroad:

It is never too late to do something you have never done before - "your ship has not sailed." That's good advice because the marketplace can tug at your dreams and cause you to doubt yourself. Take for example the dream of starting your own business. There is risk involved and it often brings an element of fear, especially when you hear discouraging anticipations about quitting your job and starting something new. Starting a business does take time, yet it can be accomplished by keeping your full-time job while slowly easing into a new business on the side. You can back into dreams slowly instead of taking a deep dive by putting your finances in jeopardy.

Retirement is not an age issue, it's a financial number. Stop connecting your future steps to your age and instead look at your finances. In order for your dreams to become reality, the financial aspect has to be there no matter how old you are. Hogan mentioned his first client seeking financial advice as being in his 40s, a skilled laborer who referred to his choices in life as "what I want to do when I want to do it." Here was a guy who worked really hard and saved his money to the point where most would like to be - at a career crossroads where you are in the driver's seat deciding what you want to do and when you want to do it. While his age blew up the retirement perception, the financial number he chose gave him the freedom of choice.

Regardless of mistakes you made in the past, you can always make a new start. The new year gives you a fresh start to dream and turn them into action steps. Be kind to yourself; everyone makes blunders and can learn from them. The real mistake is when you quit dreaming and stay stuck by settling for a life unfulfilled. Forgive yourself, start again and move on.

Retire Inspired breaks down the aspects of retirement and offers practical advice including how debt and budgeting affect your career choices and dreams.

Hogan covers all age groups and addresses the need to be proactive regardless of your financial situation.

For more than a decade, Hogan served on Dave Ramsey's team as a financial coach and advisor. Hogan will be signing copies of his book Retire Inspired on Jan. 19 at Books-A-Million in Katy.

Kimberly Thompson is a national board-certified counselor. Send questions to careerrescue@yahoo.com or Houston Chronicle, P.O. Box 4260, Suite 323, Houston, TX 77210. Visit her blog at www.blogs.chron.com/careerrescue.