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A different early retirement - I'm tempted

Sunset in Phuket, Thailand

This week's post is about Andrew's early retirement story.

What I know so far is he’s a nice guy. I can tell this because he reads my blog, and anybody who reads my blog is great in my eyes😂

From a comment he left on one of my posts, I know Andrew is now 49, having retired early at 47. I also know that he has relocated to Thailand for his retirement.

That piqued my interest. I’m always wondering if relocating for retirement is a good idea, and Andrew has kindly agreed to answer some questions about it, and also about his journey to financial independence and his early retirement experience so far.

The purpose of my blog is to describe how I retired early at 47, what I do, and what it costs, because these were the questions that I struggled with for my retire early decision. The hope is that sharing my experience may help others trying to make a similar decision.

But there is clearly more than one way of doing early retirement, and because Andrew will have done it differently to me, I’m excited to share his story.

Thanks for agreeing to talk with me Andrew. To start off, can you tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, what you’ve done, what you like doing etc?

Andrew: Hi David. I would describe myself as your typical polite, unassuming Canadian. I grew up in a small province on the East Coast, studied business in university and travelled to the big city (Toronto) to find fame and fortune.

What did you do as a job?

Andrew: I spent my entire career in banking. Shortly after landing a job in Toronto out of university, I had the chance to take an overseas posting in Singapore on the bank’s foreign exchange desk. What was supposed to be a 2 year gig turned into 20+ years.

What made you decide to retire early? Was it always an ambition you worked towards, or did it happen some other way?

Andrew: I always was a firm believer in “I work to live, I don’t live to work”. Besides, I never really had the overriding ambition to become CEO. Both of my parents instilled in me a strong work ethic, but my father was the one who introduced me to the “finer things in life” as he used to call it, including travel, holiday homes, skiing and golf. In order to enjoy these pursuits as an adult, I would have to work hard, and earn a good living. And if I was successful, maybe I could enjoy this sort of lifestyle in retirement at a relatively young age.

Was there anything specific that made you retire at 47, or did it just kind of happen by chance at that age?

Andrew: Well it was a confluence of factors, but the timing was mainly dictated by seizing on a window of opportunity for an attractive exit package from my employer, plus reaching my “magic number” through savings and investing.

What did your family and friends think when you told them you were retiring and moving to Thailand?

Andrew: It wasn’t really that big of a shock to my family, but friends and colleagues were pretty surprised. Early retirement is not something many people consider or plan for. As far as Thailand goes, it has always been a favorite holiday destination of mine for a long time, so it was a logical choice for me and most people knew of my love for the place.

Have you had any negative comments from people about your decision?

Andrew: Absolutely, I get negativity all the time. “Aren’t you too young to retire?”, “Won’t you get bored?”, “Surely you will go back to work at some point?”. I rarely hear anything positive like “Congratulations!” or “Good for you!”. Undoubtedly people are probably a bit jealous and would secretly be very happy to trade places with me (LOL).

I believe people view early retirement from their own personal situation. If someone asks me “won’t you get bored?”, that only tells me that person has no outside interests or hobbies apart from work, or it's just totally unrealistic for them financially (living from cheque to cheque or too many responsibilities).

If you have a spouse, how have they settled into retirement with you, or are they still working?

Andrew: I have managed to stay single all of these years, which probably has helped in some respects on my early retirement journey. It is no secret that raising a family is an expensive proposition these days.

You must have done well financially to retire early, or did you win the lottery?

Andrew: I was fortunate to have a good income, plus being a single guy didn’t hurt either, allowing me to save a good percentage of what I earned.

Bad luck on not winning the lottery, but still, to save enough to allow you to retire early isn't easy

Andrew: I never took my job or income for granted, it can be very fleeting. With that thought in mind, I have always been a disciplined saver and investor. I guess I was always a bit paranoid that it could all come crashing down, so I better have money in the bank just in case.

Was there one thing in particular that you think helped you retire early? Any top tips to share?

Andrew: My main tip? Avoid “lifestyle creep”. I have seen many friends and colleagues who received promotions or bonuses move their kids from public schools to private ones, buy new sports cars, or take the family to Club Med holidays on Business Class.

But me? I invested any raises/bonuses I was lucky enough to get, RELIGIOUSLY, and always maintained my current lifestyle. Sure I usually treated myself to something nice, but 90% of any extra cash was always socked away.

It is still quite unusual to retire to a different country. What were your reasons for it, and why did you choose Thailand?

Cost of living in Phuket compared to Toronto

Working overseas for over 20 years exposed me to many cultures, customs, fantastic food and languages. Thailand has all of these in spades, on top of having a very reasonable cost of living compared to Western countries. It is no wonder that the country is known as “The Land of Smiles” and Bangkok is the most visited city in the world!

I got this cost of living comparison from which certainly supports Andrew's comments about the cost of living.

Can you tell us a bit about the country, the area you live, the facilities and what your house or apartment is like?

Andrew: I had the foresight to purchase a condo on the island of Phuket 10 years ago, so my retirement life was pretty much ready to go the day I retired. Phuket is a popular tourist destination so there is access to most Western products and services, not to mention high speed WiFi, world class medical facilities, beaches, golf courses and shopping galore. From my balcony I have a lovely view of the Andaman Sea, and can see the Phi Phi Islands (where “The Beach” starring Leo DiCaprio was filmed). It doesn’t get any better than this!

Would you recommend retiring to a different country to others? What are the benefits and what are the potential pitfalls of doing so, perhaps in general and also specifically for Thailand?

Andrew: Well it is not for everyone. In Thailand, for example, the food is delicious but very spicy (compared to Western cuisine) and weather is tropical. That means sunny and warm weather much of the year but also unbearable heat (35C+) on occasion, not to mention heavy rain during the monsoon season. In addition, you need to have a lot of patience. Locals are lovely, friendly people but also follow “Thai time”, never in a hurry and rarely punctual. If you schedule a delivery, it could show up hours late or not at all!

I would recommend to anyone to spend 3-6 months initially renting and/or travelling throughout the country they are considering. Also speak to other expats and ask lots of questions. Try to benefit from other people’s experiences and advice. Work smarter I always say.

What changes in your life have you made since you retired?

Andrew: I haven’t made too many changes. I am doing what I have always enjoyed, the difference now is I have all the time in the world. This includes running and staying in shape, golfing, or enjoying a good book by the pool or on the beach. Of course I have a bucket list I want to tackle, but the joy of early retirement is that I have plenty of time to do everything, rather than being 65 or 70 and limited years to do it all. So what’s the rush?

How do you keep yourself busy in retirement? Do you get bored or sometimes find yourself at a loose end?

Andrew: I am still enjoying the “honeymoon” period of ER so boredom has not really been an issue. I have always been a glass-half full kind of guy, so rather than feel bored there are always errands to run, home improvements to finish, or upcoming trips to plan. So far so good.

What sort of investments generate the money that you need for your retirement?

Andrew: I have a good balance of income-producing mutual funds, equity investments (dividends and investment trusts) and real estate (rental homes in Canada and US / commercial property)

Do you still work at all, or have any side hustles to earn some additional income?

Nothing at the moment to be honest. I spend a little time with my investments but that’s about it.

Passive income is the way to go, I would rather have my money work for me rather than the other way around.

In the interest of full disclosure I did have a brief return to the working world last year, which I immediately regretted. It was a momentary lapse of judgement (haha). Perhaps I was listening too much to the voices around me. Nevertheless, it didn't last long and here I am back "Living the Dream".

Do you worry that you won’t have enough money to last for your full retirement?

Andrew: That’s probably the over-riding concern for most retirees. I have done plenty of research, and crunched the numbers using a variety of scenarios and withdrawal rates. I think I am in pretty good shape (fingers crossed).

I am in very good health and I don’t drink or smoke, so I am hopeful that health costs and insurance won’t be a serious worry down the road either.

Looking back, would you have done things differently?

Andrew: I probably could have been more conservative with some investments. I missed out on some future returns by losing on high-risk investments and “hot tips” from friends. If I could go back in time and speak to my 30 year old self, it would be to follow a more balanced investment approach, and don’t roll the dice so much. I think a good rule of thumb is limit the “play money” to 5% of your portfolio. Only bet as much as you can afford to lose - that’s what all the experts say.

What are your plans for the future?

Andrew: With respect to a side hustle or anything work-related, I haven’t really given it a lot of thought but any part time gigs would undoubtedly be entrepreneurial in nature. I am 99.9% sure I would not want to work for a large organization again. No more office politics or drinking the company Kool-Aid for this guy.

I am simply enjoying the freedom that ER provides and not having to answer to anyone but myself.

Do you have any advice for others thinking of retiring early and/or retiring to a different country?

Andrew: I would say it really takes a particular mindset, and lots of self-discipline. Save as much as you can and start early. You can’t just wake up at 40, and decide to retire in 5 or 10 years. Start with your first pay-cheque.

Is there anything else that I should have asked you?

Perhaps something along the lines of impact on health /sleep?

I never realized the negative health implications of sitting in front of computer screens 10 hours a day. Since I left my job, I have improved my flexibility and posture, not to mention weight loss due to simply moving and walking more throughout the day. Physical fitness has now become a daily part of my routine including early morning runs, stretching and body weight exercises. Did I mention the health benefits of walking (not riding) for 18 holes of golf ?- that’s 8 km of excellent cardio. I now weigh the same I did in college nearly 30 years ago and feel 15 years younger.

Sleep and mental health has also improved dramatically. Most people will say that they are able to recharge their “batteries” with periodic holiday. But in reality your mind can never truly remove itself from work when you are constantly checking emails and thinking about unfinished projects left back at the office. Now that I am retired, those hang-ups and work stresses are no more, and I haven’t slept this soundly in years!

I really enjoyed hearing Andrew's story, he certainly seems to be enjoying his early retirement. I found it interesting that so many of the things that he described are similar to my own experiences. Sally and I are heading to Thailand on our "big trip" later this year, so I'll be able to see the paradise that he calls home first hand.

By the way, if anyone else wants to share their early retirement experience, good or bad, please get in contact with me via the comments. I'd love to hear from you so that we tell your story too.


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