It’s not unusual to come across someone who tells me how lucky I am to have retired early, wish they could do the same, but don’t seem to be taking any action to make it happen.
Then there are others who can’t comprehend retiring early or perhaps even retiring at all. For some, that’s because they love their job, which is a perfectly good reason. But for others, they don’t particularly want to keep working, but simply can’t imagine what they would do if they didn’t go to their job each day. I understand the dilemma, but it seems a less good reason to me.
I’m now in my sixth year of early retirement and can honestly say that I haven’t regretted it for a moment. Not even once. An important aspect is that I put thought and effort into my retirement which I believe makes a difference - as the saying goes, you get out of life what you put into it. For me, retiring early has encouraged and enabled me to be more adventurous, take some big trips, move to a different country, learn to ski, start a blog and meet new and interesting people. It’s also delivered a change in mindset so that as well as having wish lists and dreams, I’m now better at believing it’s possible to convert those wishes and dreams into reality.
I don’t think early retirement is for everyone, and choosing to continue working is a perfectly valid option. But based on my positive experience, I do believe it makes sense to consider early retirement – is stopping work to follow other interests while younger, fitter and possibly healthier something you might want to do? Is it right to continue working simply because you can’t imagine what you would do to fill your days?
There’s no right or wrong answer as each of us are different, but these are a few reasons why I’m glad I took the opportunity to consider whether to continue working or to retire early.
Retiring early when you’re still active
About six weeks ago, I hurt my thumb in a ski fall and my knee when I slipped on ice while running. Both seemed innocuous at the time, but neither is yet properly healed. I’m still only 52, but I’m already realising that my body does not mend or recover as quickly as when I was younger. Then there are those times when I catch myself making the “old man noise” as I get up from sitting on the floor or from a low chair. I’m clearly getting older!😟
Physical activities get harder as we get older, which coincides with the time when most people retire. I accept that some of my retirement will be spent in my slower years, but I don’t want that to be all of my retirement. I have active pursuits and adventures that I want to enjoy, I want an active retirement. Retiring early lets me have that for a substantial period of time, waiting until normal retirement age, when I’d be in my late sixties, doesn’t.
Retiring early for freedom
This will mean different things to different people. Even my view of it differs depending on the day. A couple of weeks ago I missed my weekly posting deadline because it snowed and I instead chose to go out with friends searching for fresh powder to ski. My posting deadline didn’t matter, whereas if I was still working that certainly wouldn’t be the case.
Today, we’re in the campervan. We should have arrived at our destination yesterday, but we got sidetracked and stopped off amongst some vineyards. We might get there tonight but we might not. Maybe we’ll extend our trip, we’ll see how it goes.
Flexibility and freedom are two of the most prized aspects of my early retirement. I probably didn’t give these benefits enough weight during my early retirement decision, but now I guard them carefully.
Retiring early to buy time
Can money buy you more time? Well, it might not be able to make you live longer, but it can change how you live. By retiring early, we exchange the time commitment to our employers and give it back to ourselves.
Arguably, the most important time that we have is today. It’s the time we are guaranteed. We don’t know what the future may hold, other than we’re likely to become less able to be as active. My body and my mind can do more things now than in my seventies, eighties or nineties, which is a big benefit for me about early retirement.
Back to our campervan trip, we’re headed to the South of France, a drive we could have done in a day. Instead, we set the navigation to avoid motorways and toll roads and instead meandered along country roads and through small towns and villages. It takes longer, but it’s very picturesque and I’m enjoying the journey much more than bashing down multi-lane highways. It’s just a small part of what we can do with the time we buy when retiring early.
Retirement has to be figured out one day, so why not now?
Someone recently said this to me and it sounded so obvious. My full pension would start when I turn 67, and that could easily have been what I defaulted to. If that were the case, I guess at the age of 66 I’d figure out what I would do in retirement. Well, how is that different to addressing that same question when I’m 45, 55 or 60? I don’t think there is any difference, other than at a younger age I’ll have more options as I’m likely to be fitter, possibly more healthy and have more energy. Retirement has to be figured out one day, so why not now?
Of course, how we figure out what we’ll do in early retirement / how we’ll replace work can be a big question. Big enough to warrant it’s own post, so watch this space.
As I said earlier, I don’t think early retirement is for everyone, and choosing to continue working is a perfectly valid option. However, it also makes sense to consider the alternatives. Is stopping work to follow other interests while your younger, fitter and possibly healthier something you might want to do? If it is, with some thought, the actions required to move your retirement date forward might be more possible than you might imagine.