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  • David Cox

Alternatives to early retirement

My early retirement arrived as a bit of a surprise, not something I’d planned years in advance. The economy was in a slump, behaviour in my industry was worsening, and parts of my role were heading in the wrong direction.

These things triggered my lightbulb moment, that day when I kicked my office door shut and asked, "do I really needed to put up with this $#!%?" It was a shock to find the answer was no. I had options. Someone else could deal with the 💩!

That’s when I started to think seriously about early retirement. Looking back, it seems a bit strange that I didn’t really consider other options. There might have been some brief thoughts about getting a different but similar job, but not enough to have me pouring over job adverts or contacting recruiters. Jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire wasn’t grabbing me.

But from frying pan to FIRE wasn’t the only option, it’s just that I didn’t think of the alternatives at the time. Now I realise there were other routes that I didn't considered - I wonder whether they would have been good alternatives for me?

Mini retirement

Why wait for FIRE? How about a mini retirement now?

It could be a one off, or a number of mini retirements throughout a career. I don’t know that there’s a rule of how long a mini retirement can be, maybe a year, but I don’t see why it can't be longer or shorter.

Pros of a mini retirement

  • Avoids waiting twenty, thirty or forty years until retirement to do the things you want

  • Having time out to reset and recharge can be good

  • Can be timed to suit life events such as travel or to fit around family plans and commitments

  • Time away from a hectic work life may provide the mind space to consider other paths and options

Cons of a mini retirement

  • By definition, the “mini” part means it's temporary - going back to work might not seem so attractive once you’ve tasted a different type of life

  • Possibly could hinder career opportunities or progression

Part time work

I had enough money to retire early, so I would be able to maintain my lifestyle on the reduced salary of a part time role. But even if that wasn’t the case, part time work could still have been an option. It might mean having to cut some costs or work some additional years, but the upsides could be worth it.

Pros of part time working

  • Improved work life balance – more time for family/personal life on a continuous basis

  • Maintains career/continuous employment on CV/resumé

Cons of part time working

  • Some employers might expect full time output from part time hours (particularly if the role was formerly full time)

  • Could hinder career opportunities or progression with some employers

  • Part time hours = part time pay

Career change

A different career might avoid the things that I’d grown to dislike about my existing industry/role.

Pros of a career change

  • If there is a specific dislike in the current career, a change may resolve this

  • A chance to do something that you enjoy more

  • A change can be as good as a rest

Cons of a career change

  • A lack of experience may mean starting at the bottom, having to prove yourself again and getting paid less while doing so

  • The reality of the new career may not be what you hope

Working differently - online working / digital nomad

A once niche subject that has suddenly become mainstream with Covid-19.

Pros of online working/digital nomad

Me pretending to be a digital nomad in Chiang Mai
  • Often location independent – I could see myself working from a coffee shop in Chiang Mai, Medellin, Prague, Cochin, Melbourne…

  • Hours taken for commute are eliminated

  • Being a digital nomad sounds cool😉

Cons of online working/digital nomad

  • Some people prefer the discipline and community of a more formal workplace

  • Not all jobs can be done remotely

Traditional FIRE (financial independence, retire early) says to save and invest now because of the promise of early retirement in the future. That's different from mini retirements, part time working and maybe the working from home/digital nomad options which transfer some of the future promise to the present day. Not having to wait sounds tempting, particularly given our current Coronavirus experience shows just how uncertain the future can be. As the saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

There will be other alternatives and other pros and cons as well – let me know in the comments, it would be great to hear of the options that I’m still not thinking about, or if you've tried any of them out.

Do I wish I'd done things differently?

I'd find it hard to trade the freedom I now have, and the work stress that I now don’t have. With a mini retirement, there'd always be a nagging in the back of my mind reminding me that it's going to end. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t have enjoyed one or more of the other options, but I enjoy sleeping soundly knowing that workplace stresses and strains will never have to be faced again.

But what if I didn’t have enough money for full time early retirement. What would I choose? I'd be tempted by a mix of part time working and online/digital nomad. Maybe that would require a career shift, perhaps an adjustment rather than a complete change, and I’m sure it wouldn’t pay as well. But for the extra free time and freedom, achievable sooner, I'd think seriously about making that trade. And like I said, being a digital nomad really does sound kind of cool!😎

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About Me

I think I'm a normal kind of guy, although I've perhaps had a slightly non-typical life in some respects.  I'm from the UK, 47 years old, married to Sally and with two

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