More often than not, I start with the costs. Perhaps because I used to be an accountant, or possibly it's that readers seem more interested in the money side of early retirement.
Money posts get more reads than lifestyle posts. I get it, money is a huge part of an early retirement decision, and it's something to get right, or as close to right as we can. But the lifestyle side of early retirement is just as important.
So today, I'm going to put the money/costs second and start with the lifestyle side of things, in this case, how I'm progressing with my goals for 2021.
Goals & targets update
We're still at the start of the year so I'm not expecting everything to be green yet. But checking in with my targets at least once a month keeps my goals in mind and my efforts moving in the right direction. If I'm ignoring or have forgotten something, it's a reminder to jump back on it before I get too far behind. In summary, I find setting targets and then regularly reviewing them to be one of my best early retirement tools.
Here's my snapshot of progress at the end of January:
I'm pretty happy with how it's going so far. I'm keeping on top of the frequency part of my exercise goal and I'm still posting on my blog. When our daughter visited last weekend, instead of sitting inside watching Netflix, we kept active with ski/snowshoe/snowboard excursions in the mountains. These things scored a green on my traffic light system.
Only a month into the year, orange scores are also OK. They mean I'm doing something with that goal, progress is being made, but there's still more work to do. I'm not far off booking our Northern Lights trip but ran out of time - it's a good sign when your early retirement is too busy to fit everything in.
I have a suspicion that the target of finding a new adventure for Sally and me could stay orange for a while. Our brainstorming so far has suggested 1. camper conversion, 2. big camper trip, 3. build a low cost tiny/off grid house for our UK property (these three were my ideas), 4. eight to ten week trip to Australia and New Zealand (this last one is Sally's idea). I think Sally is going to ban me from YouTube which is where I find some of my inspiration -Sally uses a different word😮
The item I'm not happy with is investing cash. We have a sizeable lump sum that I should have invested last June, but didn't because I figured the markets would drop due to Covid-19. Oops, I got that wrong and consequently missed the market increases since then. Now I'm stuck, do we invest at the now higher prices, do we spread our investment over the next three years to kind of hedge our bets, or do we hold off still believing that markets are overvalued? I know I'm talking about timing the market which isn't the ethos I try to follow, but it's tough not to. I don't know, I'm leaning towards the three year spread or the hold the cash and wait and see options, but my track record on these things is not good.
Early retirement costs
Yet again we spent much more on groceries compared to others who publish their costs - I'm hoping one day to figure out why, or even better, see it reduce closer to what it was a few years ago. The next biggest item was car costs, mostly because we drove from UK to France which means fuel and tolls, the latter costing £71/€80/US$96 which seems a lot - no wonder the toll roads aren't busy.
I'm still amazed that we have to pay for our debit card in France as well as have charges on our current account. Instead of getting reward points or airmiles, we pay £209/€236/US$284. We do get travel insurance for that provided we use those cards to book the travel, which we don't often do. I ought to look for an online only bank that doesn't have these fees.
In the final quarter of last year we decided to split our time between France and the UK, and took back one of our UK rental properties for our own use. I've separated the costs of our two homes to keep track of how much the luxury of living across two properties cost. In January, the UK property costs were £311/€351/US$423 and on top of this we forego the rental income which was £556/€628/US$755 after costs and taxes. Added together, having two homes costs us an additional £867/€979/US$1,178 in January. I'm not convinced it's a good financial nor lifestyle decision, although Sally is more positive about it than me.
The full detail of our January costs are shown in the table below: