Before I retired, the calendar moving from one year to the next wasn't a source of excitement for me. Work was what I spent most of my waking hours doing and ticking over into a new year didn't alter much.
That equation changed with early retirement. I'm now in control of my time and therefore I get to set the agenda. New year has become a good time to review whether I'm happy with how I've spent the past twelve months. It's also a time to look ahead to the next year to decide what I want to do. Writing this reminds me how fortunate I am to have these choices, but I also give myself a pat on the back for taking the actions that have created this opportunity.
Looking back at 2019 - what I did
The stand out items were spending my first ever winter season in a ski resort, cycling over the Alps from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean as well as from Berlin to the Baltic and also travelling for three months in Costa Rica, Colombia and California. Turn the clock back five years and these are things that I wouldn't imagine doing.
Other highlights were making new friends and meeting up with some old ones too, which I did in Berlin, California, the UK and Morzine. It's in vogue these days to focus on experiences rather than possessions, a fashion that makes complete sense - the best things are those that we do and the people we do them with, not the physical things that we own.
Then I had my targets that I'd set at the beginning of the year. The results are a mixed bag, but they weren't all easy targets so it's not surprising that they're not all bright green for achieved.
I wish I'd done better with my running and learning French. I made a reasonable effort with both but wasn't consistent enough throughout the year. I also suspect that I'm simply liguistically challenged! Although my GoPro target was my worst grade, I'm less disappointed about missing that one.
Travelling for three months to Costa Rica, Colombia and California was a big goal and a big success. After all, it accounted for 25% of my year. I find some aspects of travel quite challenging but I like that it tests me, it's good to be kept on my toes.
I'm also pleased that I hit my weekly blog post target. It gets harder to find topics to write about because the easier and more obvious subjects were already covered in the earlier years. My blog has turned into a hobby that I thoroughly enjoy and want to continue. In some ways I feel it is transitioning to be something of an online journal.
In overview, I got more A grades than anything else and I reckon an average of a B or B- if I were to give an overall grade. I'm happy enough with that. What I particularly like is that these are targets that I set myself, things that I wanted to do. That's a big change from my old life where, certainly I had targets, but many of them were set by my employer. I like it my new way a whole lot more!
Looking back at 2019 - Money
Money was one of the main drivers behind starting my blog. Not the idea that I might earn from the blog but, having struggled to figure out how much early retirement would cost, I thought I'd share my own expenditure in case it may be helpful to others.
In reality, I'm not sure how useful my cost information is to others given that year one of my early retirement life was spent living in Dubai, year two was half in Dubai and most of the rest travelling in Asia and Australia, and year three was mostly split between France and various travels. I'm guessing there aren't so many people planning a similar itinerary.
But there are still some things that can be learned. For a start, I've found that early retirement doesn't cost more than when I was working - I needn't have worried that it would be expensive entertaining myself during my old working hours, it isn't. Another learning is that a number of costs can be reduced when you have the time to focus on them, and early retirement gives that time.
Clearly, a very important thing about our costs is that we can afford them. In fact we could spend quite a bit more and still be living within our means but I don't see the point in spending just because we can.
Just as important is what we spend our money on. Of our discretionary spend:
the biggest spend was travel which accounted for 31% of our total costs
Next was sports and exercise related (11% of total expenditure). Sally's bike was the big ticket item as well as our ski lift passes for this winter.
Gifts and giving was 9% of total spend with a little less than half of this to charities which met the target from my feeling bad while trying to do good post. Sorry family, I'd like to swap the proportions in 2020 so that the amount to charity is the bigger half.
Going out and coffee shop/casual dining came in next at 8% of total costs.
Those four areas of expenditure account for almost 60% of our total costs. It's good to look back and realise that we spend the biggest portion of our costs on the things that we enjoy.
Outside of this, I'm surprised at how much our groceries cost as well as the cost of running a car (excluding the purchase price) given how little I believe we use it. Our medical costs were also higher because our high insurance deductable meant we had to pay for treatment to my knee and Sally's fractured scaphoid bone. Fingers crossed we don't have similar in 2020!
And that's about it for a quick look back at 2019. It was a good year, as each year has been since I retired early three years ago.
Now it's time to think of what I want to accomplish in 2020, which I'm sure will be another good year and the perfect subject for next week's post.