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You don't have to be brave to retire early, but it can help

Earlier this week, I was quizzed on some aspects of my early retirement. How did I make the decision? What did people think when I told them? Did it make for awkward conversations? What do I do, and have I regretted my decision? It was interesting to think back and remember that, at least for me, retiring early required a little bit of bravery.


Of course, when I say "brave", I really mean being a little out of my comfort zone and maybe taking a leap of faith. My type of brave is getting over a fear of doing something when I might fail or could be embarrassed. That's not to be compared to truly brave people, those who put themselves at risk to help others, or deal with horrendous adversity such as war, natural disaster, illness or famine (sadly this could be a long list). It's always worth pausing to think of those much braver but less fortunate than us.


So, how has being my tiny version of brave, mostly trying something I've not done before or risking failure or embarrassment, helped with my early retirement?


It helped me make my early retirement decision

We can make as many plans as we want, but mostly we won't know if early retirement is going to work out.

  • Might the money run out?

  • How will I find enough things to do, or will I be bored?

  • Will I be lonely if I'm retired and everyone else is still working?

  • What will my family and friends think? How will they judge the new me?

Although I spent time trying to plan my early retirement, I didn't have concrete answers to any of these questions. My early retirement only happened because I took a leap of faith, something that didn't feel easy or comfortable at the time. I had to be a little bit brave - it turns out it was definitely a risk worth taking.


It helps me make the most of my early retirement life

I'm sure early retired life would be fine if I just did the things that I knew and that I was familiar and comfortable with. But perhaps it would be a little bit bland and I'm certain it wouldn't be as good as it could be.


You don't have to be brave to retire early, but it can help
Not me, but I'm working on it!

My natural inclination is to err on the side of caution and stick to things that are tried and tested. I'm the kind of person who'd rather be an hour early than five minutes late, and who checks once, twice, and maybe even three times before diving in - in fact, diving in head first sounds a bit risky, so often I'd think that maybe I shouldn't even dive in at all.


But not diving in might mean missing out on things that could be rewarding. Being a little bit brave can give me a fuller and richer life. In my own little way, that's what I try to do, push myself out of my comfort zone and try to be a little bit braver to give things a go. Without my version of trying to be brave, maybe I wouldn't:

  • Be living in France.

  • Have travelled to many new places since retiring, and wouldn't have had the experience of staying in hostels and lower cost accommodation.

  • Have got the campervan.

  • Be blogging and wouldn't have done some of the newspaper, podcast or radio interviews that I would never have thought were for me.

  • Be trying to get the hang of off piste skiing, even if currently I'm largely failing!

  • Have booked the accommodation for my Tour du Mont Blanc hike.

  • Have achieved my marathon personal best time when I was 52, then improved it aged 53.

I know these might not be exciting or seemingly worthwhile to everyone, but they all involved stepping out of my comfort zone and they have all made my life fuller and more interesting. Some decisions might not work out, the jury is still out on the campervan for example, but at least I'll find out rather than not trying it. I don't want to look back at some point in the future and say "I wish" or "I wonder."


While I can sometimes give myself a congratulatory pat on the back for giving things a go, there are other areas where I still need to be braver:

  • Learning French. I should have lessons - this is a great example of where the fear of failing and being embarrassed is stopping me.

  • To volunteer. I can't really explain why I struggle to do this but, for some reason, I do.


There are sure to be more examples of my early retirement life that are better because I managed to be a tiny bit brave and ventured out of my comfort zone. Just as there are certainly other things that I could be doing if only I were a little braver.


As I said in the post title, you don't have to be brave to retire early, but it can help. I bet there are some people who would like to retire but find it difficult to muster the confidence to make the leap. And if we do leap, early retirement can be even better when we are a little braver, step out of our comfort zones and do some more of the things that we might ordinarily say "hmm, I'm not sure that's for me."

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Guest
Jun 03, 2023

I was searching for courage early retirement and found your article. I just told my work yesterday that I’m leaving in October. I’ll be 53 5hen. I’m always cautious and after 27 years in the job I feel like I’ve fired myself. I’ll get over it but it is not easy.

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Sorry that I didn't see your comment before and therefore didn't reply sooner. I think I'm also naturally cautious, but I find that knowing that let's me take some deliberate steps to move beyond that in my own way. In my experience, each of the small steps I've made to try to be a bit "braver" in what I do have all been worthwhile, and I'm glad I've done them. You've made the first step, I 100% get that it feels scary, but my instinct is that you'll find it worth it. Good luck.

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Maybe you're just brave enough. At times in my life I have been a little too brave. I can't tell you the number times I have found myself at the very top of something- figurative or real- (a scary looking ski slope, a really high diving board, etc) and thought "how exactly did I end up here, and why did I think this was a good idea??" "Do you want to help me break my horse" is one that landed me in the hospital. In college, I moved 400 miles from home and sold books door to door for college money. My Husband is the voice of caution and sense and talks me out of some things. I'm st…


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I mostly like the result when I try to be a little bit brave, but I do have to push myself to do it. I'm normally glad that I took the risk. I don't think I'd be good on the really high diving board though, I'll definitely leave that to you. Sally is more like your husband, but I'm sure even more cautious - she's an expert at describing the one thing that might go wrong rather than the nine things likely to go right!

Top tip though, try to stop short of the things that will put you in hospital!

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Really enjoyed the article. Especially appreciated your comments on the things that you have experienced in life BECAUSE you took the leap. It is interesting to ask yourself how that would compare to the things that you could have anticipated had you stayed along the same course. Would be great to get your thoughts on that mind experiment.

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Hi Matthew, you're probably absolutely right, typically with not much changing, if anything.

I'm still tempted to think through the scenario though, perhaps because my circumstances might have been a little different.

Your comment about that extra FIRE dividend is spot on!

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