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My early retirement - Five wins and five mistakes

Coming towards the end of my seventh year of early retirement, I thought I'd reflect on some things that have gone well, and some areas that could perhaps have gone better.

Five wins

1. Less stress. This was the most immediate benefit when I retired. I didn't realise how heavily work stress weighed on my shoulders until it was taken away. It was almost a physical feeling of relief. Seven years later, it's still one of the best feelings.

2. Change of mindset. This was a surprise benefit of retiring early. My new mindset includes being more positive, trying to say yes to opportunities that I might otherwise have shied away from, being more thoughtful, more compassionate and, overall, trying to be a little more adventurous than I used to be.

3. I've done new things. I've travelled in a way I'd never done before (my backpacking years took place closer to 50 than 20 years of age), I'm living in a ski resort, so ski, run and cycle in the mountains, I'm better at visiting friends, I started a blog, and bought a campervan to name a few.

4. The finances are working. An essential win! If the money wasn't working, I guess I'd be back at work, and I'm mightily relieved that this isn't the case!

5. I've not been bored. What would I do and would I be bored were two big things I worried about when battling with my early retirement decision. Then, when I announced my retirement, there were a few people who told me I'd be bored, I'd regret it, and I'd soon be looking to rejoin the workforce. They were wrong! It's not been a problem in the slightest. I'm not saying there aren't moments when life feels a little quiet, but I had more boring moments during my working life than I do in my retired life.

Five mistakes (or challenges might be a better description)

1. Sally and I weren't on the same page. Clearly, Sally and I discussed my retirement plans, but I misunderstood what Sally wanted to do (in summary, she didn't want anything to change). I can't explain how this miscommunication occurred, but it was certainly my biggest mistake to not understand what Sally's priorities were and to take them more into account.

2. I would like to have more activities / interests in common with Sally. When we were working and raising our kids, our priorities and interests were mostly aligned, perhaps because we didn't have much spare time for other things. Now that our time is all our own, I've found that we don't share as many common activities or interests as I'd thought. It's good to have our individual interests, but I'm still searching for more common activities and interests that we can share and enjoy together.

3. Not knowing where home is. I've spent 23 of the last 30 years living outside of the country in which I was born and raised, the United Kingdom. The last time I lived there was 2005. I've lived in the UK, Jamaica, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates, South Africa and France. It's been an awesome experience that I wouldn't trade, but it also means that I haven't put down deep roots and don't have an established feeling of community or belonging. Places have mostly felt temporary (because they were), and I'm not quite sure where the permanent home should be. I like my current location in France, there are many positives to it, but it doesn't yet feel one hundred percent like home.

4. Being too wedded to my rules and routines? I'm not ready to ditch my routines, I still think they help me make the most of my early retirement life, and I absolutely consider them a positive. However, might I be too wedded to them? Do I sometimes keep doing something because, at the start of the year, I wrote it on my to-do list? I wonder if, alongside the benefits that my routines bring, I should look to introduce some more flexibility.

5. Travelling is harder than I expected. I had big travel plans for my retirement, but travelling hasn't always been as simple as I expected (and I'm not even talking about the lost Covid years!). Having pets, trying to be more environmentally aware, Sally being less interested, these things all make travel an early retirement activity that is a little tougher than I imagined.

I think it's useful to reflect on how things are going, on what is working and what isn't so easy. With seven years of blogging, it's not surprising that the ten topics (five wins and five challenges) have all come up before in various posts, although with one difference. In the past, routines have solely been thought of as positive whereas, this time, I'm questioning whether they could also be a restrictive trait. I'm not thinking of ditching them, but perhaps I should consider taking a more relaxed approach to my routines at times.


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Oct 22, 2023

Hi David,

You’re living my dream of living in another country, and you have lived in many! I’ve lived in one country all my life, and in a city. We moved to a regional town when I was in my mid forties, a bit like weening my way out of the city without going overboard. It’s been a bit mixed in terms of change, including retiring at 47 (same as you). It might take some time to ween the city out of me yet. But I think the stepping stone is helping me find a new way.

I am very conscious of your traveling dilemma; we made some conscious decisions when we moved. Our priority was to do more travelling…

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It sounds like you've found the best of both worlds with your good sized regional town - the conveniences of the city without it being quite so hectic and crowded. The tourists are an interesting addition, something we have too. On balance, I think the tourists add a little something extra - it's nice to be in a place where people are happy and hopefully, as they are on holiday, they should be enjoying themselves.

As to my travelling, I think it sounds odd to say that it's not something I'm particularly good at, but it's true. However, it's not the worst thing if that's the thing I find difficult!🤣


Hi David, a thought provoking post as usual, your comments on shared interests with Sally in particular captured my interest. I have been retired now for four years and if I am honest Maureen and I have struggled to adapt notwithstanding her health issues. My original working assumption on retiring was that I needed to fill the time previously spent working with new activities, allowing some time of course for shared activities with Maureen which I assumed would be mostly trips out as that is what we enjoy, However, whilst this worked for myself, Maureen clearly felt that whilst I was benefitting from no longer working with lots of new activities, for her not much had changed, apart from a…

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Hi Peter

First off, I can report that like you and Maureen, we are also good at sharing the chores, so no issues there.

As I'm sure I've said before, I'm surprised that the "couples dynamic" doesn't come up more often in FIRE blogs. It's a huge change in lifestyle, so it seems the probability is quite likely that there may be some teething issues or at least a period of time while everyone finds their feet. I'm a believer that we can learn much from others, so thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'll have to cast my mind back to see if there are any nuggets from what we used to do before we got busy with careers and…


Hi David, thank you, a really good honest review, great stuff.

What does Sally do with her time now she's not working, or does she still do some online teaching? Also what's it like spending so much time with your wife, as when you were working you were both just together in the evenings and weekends, when the kids were around too?

I work from home 4 days per week, with 1 day in the office. My wife is 2 days at home and 3 in the office. We get on really well but defo do need to plan our post work life with something that gives us both space and shared interests like travelling, as I'm sure we'd go…

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I will probably get into trouble for giving my view of how Sally spends her days, but I would say that it's mostly a combination of sleeping later, watching quiz and detective shows on TV, and doing craft stuff. On the latter, if we'd know we'd have come to live in what was bought as a vacation apartment, then we'd have looked for somewhere more suited to Sally's crafting.

In terms of spending more time together, it seems easy enough to me, but maybe that's because our activities/interests are mostly different. Again, Sally may have a different view!

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