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Early retirement costs & targets - January 2021

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:

My early retirement targets tracker - January 2021

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:

Our early retirement costs for January 2021


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I'm surprised (shocked) at hoe much we're spending on groceries as I also thought we'd spend less in Europe than we did in the UAE. Maybe it's the non dairy milk and nuts etc that aren't helping as they're expensive. Sally is following a keto diet and that seems to have quite a number of costly items in it. As to cooking, yes, Sally is a good cook, but we've always shared the cooking duties. Now we tend to eat different meals so she cooks hers and I cook mine - that means we use a lot of pans! Like Vince who also commented about my French efforts, you're being too kind. I'm not convinced I deserve the orange category, but…


I'm impressed with your 15 minutes of French a day too. I think you ought to give yourself a better score on that. I'm curious about your grocery budget too. I find that groceries in many parts of Europe are cheaper than in the US, and you aren't even eating meat! Is Sally an amazing cook?


Hi Vince, I appreciate your generous assessment of my French learning. Unfortunately I know the truth, but I'll stick with your more upbeat view right up to the point that I need to talk to someone and get a big dose of reality🤣


Feb 08, 2021

Hi David, sorry I have not been commenting much lately, but still appreciate the Friday read of your blog which I look forward to every week. I like the mix of money/costs and lifestyle and how you find the right balance to make your time so meaningful. Great to see very few red lines on your targets tracker, I think the "learn French" should be coloured green with that effort and every little bit helps even if it isn't obvious at first!


Hi Pete (sorry I can't reply immediately below your comment, unfortunately the blog platform hasn't yet figured out that it needs to provide that feature).

I also only stumbled upon the FIRE movement late on, I think after I had already made my decision and was trying to figure out if it would work - those questions we all have of what would it cost?, what would I do? and would our investments would generate enough in income for long enough to pay for it? Even with research, there's still likely to be a leap of faith that's required.

When you're looking at my costs, bear in mind that I'm not living a low cost early retirement and I'm confident…

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