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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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