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The other half of early retirement

The other half of early retirement

I retired in December 2016 but my wife, Sally, chose to continue working.

It wasn't long until we found Sally and I weren’t quite on the same page. I thought Sally would join me on early retirement adventures, but that didn’t fit with her job.

We’d talked at length before I took the early retirement plunge, but somehow we weren't quite on the same page. In hindsight, my retire early discussions with my partner should have been better.

So back in October 2017, when Sally was still working, I asked her what she thought about my early retirement, How the other half lives – my wife’s view of my early retirement.

I thought it was funny to use this picture in the earlier post. It still amuses me that I lived to tell the tale, but maybe I'm pushing my luck using it again.

With my retired life and Sally’s working life slightly at odds, we made a compromise. Sally would work another year, then take a year off during which we would travel. After the year, she'd go back to work.

We’re now in the middle of Sally’s career break or mini retirement, which has actually worked out to be 14 months. It’s pretty nice that she did that for me.

In the first seven months, we’ve spent four months travelling in Asia and Australia and also relocated from Dubai to the French Alps.

I hope Sally’s been OK with it, but rather than assume, I’ve asked her. Here’s what she said about the seven months of not working so far, her plans for the next seven months, and her thoughts about returning to work.

Were you happy to take a year off work, or did you feel pushed into it?

I was OK to take the year off, but there were a few things I had to come to terms with. Things like leaving a job I enjoyed and where I’d worked my way up to a good position. And for some reason, I found it annoying how many people said I was lucky to have the opportunity and should enjoy it.

For us, leaving work also meant leaving Dubai, our home of the last 13 years. That was a big wrench, leaving friends and having to start afresh somewhere else.

What about not working? Have you been bored, lonely, or anything else?

I haven’t had time to be bored or lonely. After finishing work we travelled for four months before visiting family in England. We then relocated to France where we’ve been busy organising bank accounts, a car purchase, insurance, furniture and lots more. It’s only just started to calm down, so it will be interesting to come back to this question in a few months.

How has it been spending more time with David?

Erm…is he hoping to hear me sing his praises or wanting to find out if he has any annoying habits?

Actually, it’s been ok. He has his routines and sticks to them quite rigidly, and provided he doesn’t complain about my lack of routine, all’s good! I don’t think we’ve annoyed each other too much, yet!

After stopping work, you travelled for four months to Asia and Australia? How was that?

Early retirement travels in Vietnam

Good, although some parts were a little rushed. I’d like to return to Australia and spend more time in a few locations, instead of cramming in so many places.

There were some disappointments, places that looked fantastic on the internet but reality didn’t match up – we didn’t book the 5 star beach front hotels! However, perhaps we saw destinations closer to what they’re really like, and met some lovely people along the way.

For me, four months was too long. I found it a long time to be away from home and it’s comforts.

Would you go travelling again? Do you think your ideas are the same as David’s?

Yes, I'd travel, but I’d choose to do it differently. Perhaps a month at a time, visiting one or two places. And not backpacking! I’d like to visit Australia again and parts of America.

Are my ideas the same as David’s? Probably not. He was fine travelling for four months and would do the same again.

What do you do to fill your days?

Not counting the travelling and moving, I’ve only had a few weeks of normal life. For now I’m enjoying that there are no expectations of me. I don’t have the rush or stress of work. I take two French lessons a week, potter around the house, go to the shops, watch a bit of TV, go skiing…

We’re trying to make friends so we occasionally meet a new friend for coffee, go skiing or go out with them in the evening. Last weekend I drove to Zurich to look after my daughter’s cats, and she’s coming to visit us this weekend.

Are you still planning to go back to work in August 2019?

No. My plan now is to start work again a year later in August 2020. That will mean I’ll have just over two years break from work.

But who knows what might come up in the meantime? Historically, it hasn’t taken me long to get bored and find a job to keep busy.

I would prefer to work overseas but that takes us away from family again and I am enjoying being closer. Away from teaching, perhaps I could do property refurbishments more locally, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.

Delaying your return to work - what made you change your plans?

More time with our family

Mostly because I’m enjoying being closer to our kids and my family. Also, to return to work in August of this year requires the application process to start now, which seems too soon.

You’ve delayed your back to work date by a year, do you think it might change again?

I’m not sure. Things change in teaching, and I worry that if my break is too long it will be harder for me to get a job.

Are you happy with life now or are there things missing or things you’d like to change?

It seems OK for now, but as I said, we’ve been busy. Now that we’re settling into a more routine life I will find out if I’ll be bored.

How about the money situation now that you are not working?

I’m assuming that it’s OK because David tells me we get more from our investments than we spend.

Other than that, I’m becoming more aware of what things cost. Before I didn’t know the cost of things in the supermarket whereas I’m now more aware and constantly think how overpriced they are.

What are the best and the worst things about taking this mini-retirement/career break?

The best things are not being stressed and being able to visit my family as I now have the time and we’re living much closer.

The worst things? Because we’ve moved to a new country, we need to find new friends and work would have been a good place to meet people. I think the worst part will be when I try to find a new job, going through the recruitment process. It’s a very stressful process and I think it will be a difficult decision to put myself through that again.

Has not working been different from what you expected?

Not really, or at least not yet. But it’s been busy until fairly recently so maybe ask me that question again in a few months. Having said that, February will also be busy as we have three sets of visitors and then a trip to England in March, so…

If you could turn the clock back, would you take a break from work again?

Yes and no - it’s complicated.

I enjoyed my life, my job and my friends in Dubai and I wouldn’t have made the decision to leave. However, it was an expensive place to live on a teacher’s salary.

On the plus side, I’m also enjoying being closer to my children and my family, which wouldn’t have been the case if I was still working – I’d have been thousands of kilometres away from them.

The break from work has given be some fantastic experiences. Our travelling took us to new places, to see new things and meet new people, even though I learned that I prefer shorter stints of travel, perhaps a month or so, centered around a certain place.

I’m worried about the recruitment process for getting back into teaching. It’s more like an audition than an interview and isn’t much fun. If I hadn’t left my job I wouldn’t have to worry about it. On the plus side, now that I’ve decided not to go back to work until August 2020, I don’t need to face that for another year.

That’s Sally’s update for now. Perhaps I should have waited until Sally has completed a few more months of normal life living to see if the "what will she do?" and "will she be lonely?" questions are becoming a concern.

On the other hand, she is seven months into her mini-retirement/career break, so that’s already a good amount of time.

Winter in the French Alps

So has this chat with Sally told us anything. Perhaps a few things:

  • That early retirement planning discussions are important. Sally and I tried to do this, but still got our messages mixed, and started off not quite on the same page. We should have done this better.

  • That there may be a need for compromise. Maybe it looks like Sally compromised more than me, but we’re happy with the balance that we struck.

  • That having an exciting and positive start to early retirement can help. Even though for Sally it’s just a mini-retirement/career break, the first seven months have flown by, she’s not had a chance to be bored, and even decided to extend her break.

I’m interested to see how she feels in another 3 or 4 months after we’ve been living a more normal life for a while. Fingers crossed that things are still be on track. And hopefully Sally will remember that I used this picture more than the one at the top of this post - fingers crossed again.


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