I've been full time early retired for just over two years now, and it's great. That's not the case for everyone. For some it doesn't work, and there are others who'd like to try but find it difficult to take the plunge fearing it won't work out.
Why is my early retirement working? It wasn't that I hated work. Yes, I did fall out of love with my career at the end, but that was only the final 5%. Even though the other 95% of my work life was rewarding. If I got the chance to turn the clock back...no chance, what I'm doing now is way better.
Some may say that's obvious, what's not to like about not having to work. But there are a lot who find transitioning from work life to retirement life difficult.
So what are the things that work for me and make me like my early retirement so much? These are the five things that matter most in making my early retirement work for me.
1. I truly value that I now own my time
In the first draft I called this "freedom", then it became "being in control of my own destiny", before I realised that owning my time is the thing that's so great.
I like the sense of freedom that comes with being able to choose what I do with my time, and that I can also set the pace at which I want to do things.
It's difficult to buy more time, so it feels like the big treat that comes with early retirement. I know that I worked hard to earn this privilege, but I still feel lucky to have it. Keeping this in mind sets the right tone for much of my early retirement.
2. A determination to be busy
Now that I own my time, I don't want to waste it, so I think of things to keep busy. They're not necessarily big and exciting things, but they keep me occupied and amused, two things I think are fundamental to a successful retirement.
I started my retirement thinking that I needed to have a big sense of purpose. But I've gone away from that a little. It's lots of smaller senses of purpose that work for me, and quite possibly ones that others would scoff at. But so long as they work for me then that's OK.
My just over two years of early retirement has had three phases so far.
Normal early retirement life in Dubai. Back in November 2017, I posted a diary for a month of what I did.
Then packing up to leave Dubai, four months of travelling and moving to France. I posted a weekly update of our travels and also this post travel summary.
And I've recently started my new normal early retirement life in France. In the next month or two, I'll keep a diary and publish what a month's worth of daily life looks like now.
3. Getting out of my comfort zone and finding achievements
This used to come from work, a crisis to be dealt with, a deal done, a presentation to be given. These things stretched me and also gave me pride when they were achieved.
Although sometimes stressful, they added to the spice of life. I'm conscious that I still need to have achievements in my life, and also that occasionally being out of my comfort zone is no bad thing. These can't now come from work, so I make them myself.
Starting a blog, travelling for four months, staying in hostels, moving to a vegetarian diet, relocating to France and trying to learn a new language were all out of my comfort zone. All challenging, but with a sense of achievement when accomplished or when progress is made. OK, learning French is the exception - challenging: yes, progress: not much, embarrassment: lots, but at least I'm trying!
My running has demanded a heap of effort. I don't win things, but I compete against my own targets and expectations, and certainly outside my comfort zone. Finishing Boston Marathon last year in 3 hours and 39 seconds gave me a huge high (although I kick myself that I didn't find an extra 40 seconds). I've fallen away from my running over the past seven months, and must now get back to it.
4. Mindset change
I typed the title because my gut told me to, but now I'm not sure what to write. I instinctively know it's important, but how has it made my early retirement work?
Firstly, what has changed with my mindset? I feel more willing to try things, and less concerned about what others may think.
The old me wouldn't have travelled for four months, certainly not in hostels, and wouldn't have spoken French for fear of embarrassment and, believe me, there is a lot of embarrassment!. The old me might have aspired to a Mercedes or BMW and a bigger house rather than my Nissan (which is still pretty nice) and a 61 sqm (650 sq ft) apartment (which we actually like a lot).
The old me would have played it safe and, while we're not taking huge risks, we're living a life the old me wouldn't have imagined.
At least under the surface, old me worried a lot and thought of the things that could go wrong, whereas new me is far more relaxed and concentrates on the rewards, the things that go right.
I'm more than capable of sitting around all day watching YouTube, letting the chores pile up, generally being lazy and therefore missing out on the better things that I could be doing.
Routines are my secret weapon to stop this. For example, my routine allows me to be lazy before 9am and after 5pm, but not between these times, and my routine of keeping a To Do list helps as well.
I wrote a post called Routine Early Retirement back in September 2017. The writing style may have changed, but not the benefits that routines give me.
Routine can help with the transition from work life to retired life
We still have chores, and routine helps us get them done
Our retirement time is valuable, and routine helps us to not waste it
Routines ensure that you do the things you want
Nobody said your routine can't include luxury
And your retirement routine can even include work!
I'm pleased to have found these five things that work for me. No doubt others will have a different list of items. For those that may be struggling with retirement or are worried about it, perhaps some of these could work for you and, remember, if you don't get it perfectly right first time, simply try something else.