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Two years of early retirement

Happy New Year

Best wishes for the new year. I hope it will be full of wonderful things for you.

A new year means I've now completed two full years of early retirement, a good time to look back and see how it's gone.

What I've done in the past 12 months

Here are the main events:

  • January - ran Dubai marathon in a new personal best time of 3:03:42. I was shocked, but over the moon.

  • February - went on a family skiing holiday to Morzine, France, plus spent a week with my daughter in Switzerland during the same trip.

  • April - away for a month visiting Switzerland to see my daughter, the UK to see my son, Boston to run the marathon, and New York just because I could. Oh, and I got another new marathon PB of 3:00:39 in Boston - bitter sweet as a short time ago that time seemed impossible, but to finish just the wrong side of the magical sub 3 hour mark, grrrr.

  • June - packed up and left Dubai and the many friends we had there after 13 years.

  • July to November - four months of travelling to Bali, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Dubai. I posted weekly about our travels.

  • December - moved into our new apartment in Morzine in the French Alps.

  • Year long - made contact with numerous people through this blog, either via the comments or in person. I never expected that, but I thoroughly enjoy it. It's been one of my biggest early retirement wins.

  • Oh, and I had a bit of normal life in between these things. Or is this what my normal life is now?

Wow, that seems to be a lot of things - I've never done close to that many things before in a single year. Being early retired sure keeps me busy😂

What about the money?

I recorded our costs for January to July and posted them on my blog (you can see them on the money tab). Then, once we started our 4 months of travelling, I posted our weekly costs and the total travel costs for the whole trip - we weren't basic budget travellers nor were we flashpackers, but somewhere in between.

I've also recorded our costs for November and December, staying in hotels while we waited for the keys to our apartment, buying furniture and fittings etc. I haven't posted these costs as there didn't seem to be much point other than as a curiosity. My life this year has been quite unusual, and I can't imagine these final month's cost records are going to help other existing or potential early retirees with their decisions.

But I still watch our costs. I don't want to be viewed as mean or unnecessarily frugal, but we should look after our money and, when we choose to spend, do so consciously and wisely. Doing so helped me retire much earlier than would otherwise have been the case.

2018 had over five months of travelling, relocating from Dubai and moving into and furnishing a new apartment in France. Even with all of that, our passive income covered our costs for the year, so we didn't dip into our savings at all. That's a good feeling.

My 2018 year was pretty busy - has it taught me anything about early retirement?

1. Am I doing too much, fooling myself that this lifestyle is normal retirement when it really isn't?

I've really enjoyed my first two years of early retirement, I've found some new interests, not been bored nor lonely, and I wouldn't want to turn back the clock. But have I enjoyed it because I've done so many things. Will I find that I settle down to a life where boredom hits me, and find that the two years so far have just been a delay to boredom's arrival? Maybe, but I suspect not.

I feel that having a busy and ambitious start to my early retirement has worked well. Stopping work is a big deal, and the fact that I've spent time making plans for, and then doing, exciting things has helped me transition into early retired life. It's helped me have a positive mindset and meant that I've always had something to plan and look forward to.

So my solution is to keep doing the same thing. More plans and activities that interest and excite me. They don't have to be big or expensive, they just need to be interesting. With a little imagination, I'm sure I can think of some things.

I'd recommend new early retirees to think about making exciting plans. They don't have to involve travelling for 4 or 5 months like mine did, but it's good to have something to be excited about. Something that will take planning is best as it's a good way to help with the transition - go from being busy at work to being busy planning and doing exciting early retirement activities.

2. What about the money?

During my first two years of early retirement, the biggest thing I've learned about money is that I've been too cautious.

We've had an expensive year, yet our passive property rental income still fully covered our costs. In addition, we have some funds invested in low cost ETFs which we haven't even had to take income from (we've just let these accumulate).

That tells me that I could have retired earlier. I didn't realise that I had the choice because I was too cautious, too risk adverse - every time I reached my target number, I decided I needed a little more just to be safe.

There's nothing wrong with being cautious and, in my case, I don't regret working a bit longer as my job was still mostly OK at that time. But others may not be enjoying their job but continue because they are similarly too cautious and are chasing an unnecessarily large financial target.

It's a fine balance, I'm not suggesting taking inappropriate risks, but it is possible to be too cautious, and that isn't always the right thing to do. If I did it, I'm sure there are others taking too cautious a position as well.

Whether it's concerns about having enough money or being bored, the thing I've learned most of all is that sometimes the best decision is to just get up and do it. It's surprising how we can make things work when we really want to.


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