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Retiring early during Covid-19! CJ's story

Yay, I’ve found another early retirement story! I love these real life stories because there is clearly more than one way of retiring early, and there's lots to be learned from what others have done.

I remember back to my own early retirement decision, looking for that one story that really spoke to me. For some, reading about someone from the same country might be important, for others it might be family circumstances or a similar work background. For me, I searched for people with a similar outlook to read about what worked for them in early retirement. But perhaps the most important part was that each story gave me a little bit of confidence to help me take the leap into early retirement.

Because of this, I believe the more real life stories we can share, the better – there will be more chance of finding the one that really connects, which is why I’m pleased to bring you CJ’s early retirement story.

To start off, can you tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, what you’ve done, what you like doing etc?

I’m from the UK, married, with one grown kid who hasn’t yet flown the nest, which I kind of like. My interests include cooking, walking and reading - I’m a huge fan of Terry Pratchett. My father was in the military so I had quite a nomadic childhood until being packed off to boarding school.

By the way, I’m now sixty, and I’ve known David @iretiredyoung for over twenty years.

Although this is about early retirement, I’d best ask what you did as a job?

I was a Legal Administrator and worked for the same company for 37 years!

David here: CJ was my go to guy for help with legal stuff about bonds and guarantees that were too complicated for me to understand. He knew his stuff, and I wasn’t too shy to cadge his expertise for free🤣

What made you decide to retire early? Was it always an ambition you worked towards, or did it happen some other way?

Retiring at sixty was something that sounded good but I didn’t imagine was doable. That changed when I asked for a pension illustration in 2018 and realised that the numbers could work. It was my Wow! moment, and I pretty much decided on the spot that I would retire in 2020 at sixty.

Was there anything specific that made you retire, or did it just kind of happen by chance 60?

There was an underlying dissatisfaction with my job. There were a lot of positives, but I’d being doing it a long time and various issues within my company and the economy were making it harder and harder to do. In the end, I wasn’t enjoying it enough.

Can you tell us about your early retirement decision? Was it easy or difficult and how did it feel having to continue working once you’d made the decision?

It was actually an easy decision once I received the pension illustration and realised the money could work. The difficult part was the period from my decision in 2018 until my early retirement start in April 2020, but that was mostly because my company was struggling during that time more than because I was desperate to start my early retirement.

What did your friends and family think when you told them you were retiring? Have you had any negative comments from people about your decision?

My wife was happy for me to do what I wanted so long as it was affordable. She knew that I wasn’t enjoying my job anymore.

From friends, there was a little envy (in a nice way) from some, while others were concerned I’d be bored, but nothing drastic either way. What stands out was concern from colleagues about who would do my job once I’d gone!

Is your wife joining you in early retirement or will she continue with her career? Do you think it makes a difference whether you both retire at around the same time?

My wife doesn’t have any plans to join me in early retirement just yet although financially it is an option. It might be something that we think about in a few years, but I suspect she may choose to carry on working.

For us, I don’t feel it makes a difference whether or not we retire at the same time. Although I know that David had plans for his early retirement that weren’t possible if Sally continued to work. So the answer isn’t the same for everyone.

You must have done well financially to retire early, or did you win the lottery?

I have a huge benefit in that most of my income will come from a final salary pension scheme (aka defined benefits). That means my income is fixed and I don’t have to worry about stock market performance so I can be quite relaxed about the income side.

But to be honest, I didn’t do any in depth financial calculations. Once I’d received the pension illustration, I knew that I was going to retire at sixty and that I’d make the money work.

What do you do to keep yourself busy in retirement? What changes in your life have you made - any new hobbies or interests you plan to spend time on? What does a normal day look like and how is it different to before?

At the moment, we’re having a lot of building work done on our house which impacts everyday life a lot. Coronavirus is also a big influence. Outside of these things, I’m enjoying cooking, walking and reading for pleasure at the moment. It will be interesting to check back once the building work is finished and Coronavirus is no longer a restriction to see what everyday life looks like.

What changes in your life have you made, or are planning, since you retired?

I’m planning to give up driving because I don’t like it anymore – that might not seem like a big thing, but it’s something that becomes doable now but wasn’t an option when I worked.

I’m pondering whether to get a dog, or whether it makes more sense to walk a friend’s dog or volunteer at an animal shelter. I’d also like to do some cookery classes.

In general, I’m not someone looking for big projects or big adventures.

Have you found yourself being bored or sometimes find yourself at a loose end? Or maybe lonely or isolated since retiring early? Have you some strategies for this and did you prepare for this in advance?

Not so far, the house renovations have been quite frantic and pressurised so there’s not been time for boredom or loneliness yet.

David @iretiredyoung tells me that I’m an oxymoron. He says I’m the most detailed and organised person he knows who then doesn’t plan for the important things that I really should plan for. So no, I didn’t worry about or plan strategies to combat potential boredom or loneliness in advance. I still don’t see this as an issue as I’m quite comfortable in my own company.

Has retiring during the Coronavirus made a difference, either positive or negative?

Yes, it’s made a big difference and ironically in a positive way. My final two weeks of work were done from home because of Coronavirus and my early retirement started under lockdown rules. When we are at work, we mostly operate in a rule driven environment, and the rules brought in because of Coronavirus means that my early retirement so far has also been in a very rule driven environment. I think that might be helping with the transition.

Is there anything about early retirement that worried you ahead of time, and did you employ any strategies to deal with these? Have any worries been justified now that you can reflect on them in hindsight?

No, there was nothing that worried me ahead of time, I was just keen to get on with it.

Where does your money come from to pay for your retirement? What sort of investments generate the money that you need for your retirement? Do you worry that you won’t have enough money to last for your retirement?

As I mentioned earlier, most of my money comes from a defined benefit pension with a small amount from an annuity. It means my income is fixed and reliable, and I don’t have to worry that my income won’t last for the entirety of my retirement. I know that defined benefit pensions aren’t normal these days, so I count myself lucky.

I don’t have a bunch of stocks, ETF’s etc.

Do you still work at all? Do you think you could be tempted to return to work (re Andrew’s recent experience), either doing what you did before, or something different, even if only part time?

It’s possible that I might do something for satisfaction/enjoyment. Volunteering is an option, things that come to mind are roles associated with food banks or dog walking. I also saw an advert for a job in a school canteen which could interest me.

What I don’t want, is to go back to the type of job I used to have.

Do you miss work or anything about the workplace? Do you think your current views might change over time?

The one thing I miss are my colleagues. A benefit of growing up in a military family is that I know I will keep in contact with them, and possibly new friends will come along. A negative of coronavirus is that for the first six months of my early retirement I haven’t been able to see them which gives me a slight worry that some work friendships could fade away, but hopefully not.

Do you have any advice for others thinking of retiring early?

You have to be confident that you have the finances in place for a long period of time. Fortunately, that’s relatively easy for me because of the type of pension that I have.

Looking back, would you have done things differently?

No. In an ideal world, I might have liked to make my early retirement decision a little earlier, but it wasn’t until I got the pension illustration in 2018 that I had the information I needed. I guess I could have asked for the illustration earlier, but I never thought of that because I didn’t expect it would tell me that I could retire early!

What are your plans for the future?

At the moment, I’m not looking much further than getting back to a non-Coronavirus life. I’m looking forward to holidays and treating ourselves to the things we want, afternoon tea at the Ritz Hotel for example. I don’t have any grand plans, other than turning the house renovation from the bombsite that it currently resembles into the finished article that we foresee.

Oh, and I’ll be going to visit David and Sally in the Alps.

Is there anything else that I should have asked you?

You should have asked more about food and drink!

David here: I don’t think CJ quite comprehends my alcohol free, vegan diet! In my pre vegetarian/vegan days, I remember CJ cooking a chicken and banana dish for us. Maybe that’s what turned me veggie!🤣

And, most importantly, have you subscribed to my blog, and do you think everyone else should?🤣

David here: I didn’t ask CJ this question because I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t read my blog. Maybe he’ll read this post though.

I've no picture of CJ, so George Clooney is standing in

Thanks to CJ for sharing his story. I find it interesting that where I have plans, routines, big travel ideas, campervan projects etc, CJ is just going with the flow, a bit of cooking, reading, maybe some volunteering. It’s quite different…how are we even friends?😂 But that’s the point in trying to share different people’s stories, mine might not resonate, but CJ’s might (or vice versa), or maybe it will be one of the others that I’d previously shared such as:

David's (not me, a different David) adventurous early retirement

Andrew's (a different Andrew) FIRE with a twist


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I wonder why that is? I few things that spring to mind could be:

  1. Working from home is taking people off the "hamster wheel" for a while and perhaps giving a chance to think what alternatives there are

  2. People are getting used to the idea of not having to go to the workplace and are thinking how they could do that on a more permanent basis

  3. Maybe some people who are worried about their jobs are wondering what they might do instead, and retirement might be one of the options

  4. The pandemic has made some people realise that we don't know what the future holds, and so are questioning whether waiting to do the things they want to is the…


Seems lots of people are wondering about retirement during the covid period.


Hi Philip, Yes, a defined benefit pension is very unusual these days. My understanding is that CJ's employer did phase it out but it still makes up the majority of CJ's pension - a benefit of being with the same employer for such a long time. CJ did tell me that he thought there would be some feedback about how fortunate he is to have a defined benefit pension. Most of us do have to consider market performance. Although I guess we could buy a fixed income, but we tend not to because we think we can get a better return by not doing so. I just went through an annuity calculator out of interest, and I'm getting a much…


Oct 31, 2020

Very interesting to hear CJ's perspective on early retirement. Just shows everyone is different.

Having a defined benefits pension would be an enormous help in early retirement (or retirement in general). Unfortunately, I don't have that benefit and have to rely on my own resources (and the uncertainty of the markets / uncertainty of tenants etc).

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