Early Retirement – Early Days – What I’ve Learned from the First 3 Months

I officially retired from corporate life in December 2018 and now enjoy the idyllic, stress-free existence that I had been dreaming of for so long. Conference calls are a thing of the past, as is the feeling of not being in control of my own time and being at the beck and call of of the machine.

But what has the first three months really been like and what have I learned?

The Novelty Has Not Worn Off Yet

I may now have the freedom to choose exactly what I do with my time, but my teenagers don’t. Sleeping in while they have to get up for school feels all sorts of wrong, and a large part of the reason why I retired when I did was to be more present for my youngest.

So the alarm still rings (albeit at a somewhat luxurious 7.15 am) and I’m up and making lunches and locating stray PE kits – a scene replicated in millions of  households the world over. I’ve resisted the pleas to drive them the mile and a half to school on the basis that that would be a negative impact of my early retirement on both their health and the environment. And as I usher them out of the door by 8.00am, I can’t help but smile to myself.

Every single day it happens – that smile to myself. The jolt of excitement as I close the front door and remember that the corporate grind is no longer part of my life. Three months in and it still feels new every day 🙂

I won’t say I never make a coffee and go back to read the news in bed – the novelty of that hasn’t worn off yet either 😉

 

Everything Slows Down But Time Speeds Up

An unexpected consequence of early retirement is how much more patience I seem to have with everyday frustrations. Leaving the workplace is not a magic bullet – I still have to queue at the supermarket checkout or sit in traffic at the roadworks – things that would have had my blood pressure racing a few months ago.

Yet now it doesn’t feel the same. There’s no rush, I have all day and I feel compassion for people that don’t. So in queues of traffic I let people in rather than sitting nose to tail to the car in front. I drive at a modest speed focusing on fuel efficiency instead of racing to the speed limit as fast as possible. I let people with a smaller basket than me go in front at the shops.

It’s amazing the positive impact these things have on my mental well-being. I realise I had accepted as normal the constant low level anxiety of daily life. Trying to fit everything in, be everywhere I needed to be, do everything I needed to do, while constantly monitoring my email, my brain ticking over the latest work issue even as I’m preparing for the next call while standing at the checkout and the person in front is taking soooo long…. that is no way to live.

It’s not that I’ve become self-righteous, patting myself on the back for doing a good deed, it’s just that slowing down, being patient, being kind – that suits me far better.

But while the pace and rhythm of daily life might have slowed, my life itself is flying past at a rate of knots. It’s never been more true that time flies when you are having fun. I honestly don’t know where the days, weeks, months have gone.

We all seem to experience a speeding up of time as we get older and see the years slipping away but mixing in the boring bits like the hours spent at a desk on a sunny day serves to slow the days down. When you are freed of the mundane, there’s nothing to drag out time.

I have become more conscious than ever that time is precious and life short. Having reached the best part of my life so far, I want to hold onto and savour every second and yet it is racing by. If anyone has the answer to that one, I’m all ears 🙂

 

I’m Far More Relaxed About Money

I spent the last 10 years (at least) tracking my spending, playing with spreadsheets, projecting returns on my funds, tweaking and tweaking and tweaking. I loved it. Every single day, I would check in to my accounts and note the rises and falls. I would take a look at how the markets were faring several times a day.

Believe it or not, it was over 2 months after my last day at work before I checked in on my finances. I didn’t worry about tracking all my spending and reconciling my accounts at the end of each month. I’m not the sort to suddenly start frittering the cash away, so I had nothing to worry about on that score. And I gradually realised that in my previous life I had been diving into the numbers every day as a means of escape.

Sitting at work, dreaming of not sitting at work, it felt urgent to focus on the escape plan and make sure everything was still on track. Not being at work and enjoying my free time, it’s unnecessary. My plan is solid; I have already invested the hours to make sure of that – now is the time to reap the rewards.

This is perhaps the most surprising effect of early retirement to me – if someone had told me 6 months ago I would not know the exact value of my accounts at any point in time, I would have said they did not know me at all. And yet here I am – blissfully ignorant 🙂

As a good housekeeping practice I do intend to take a look once a month, if only because that is far easier than letting things lapse and trying to bring it up to date a few months later. But the obsession with modelling “what-if” scenario after scenario has passed and may it RIP. I have better things to do now.

(For those that have asked, I will write a post about the numbers soon).

 

Every Minute Does Not Need to be Productive

When time is limited, there is a temptation to fill it with productive tasks. Whenever I wasn’t working, I was reading blogs – looking for potential money making ideas and FIRE hacks – or working on existing ones. While walking the dog or driving to work I was listening to podcasts for the same reason. I gave myself time to read novels but looking back, there was no downtime where my mind was left just to wander.

Since I now have plenty of time to read and listen, I don’t feel compelled to always be striving forward or always learning. I haven’t hidden the fact that I was suffering from depression at the tail end of my career and a large part of that I am sure was due to being constantly switched on.

I credit my recovery largely to long walks – nothing but my dog and my own thoughts for company, allowing my exhausted brain to calm itself and make peace with the world. Whatever you want to call it – mindfulness, meditation, reflection – it is absolutely necessary and healthy that we give ourselves the space to process what is going on in our lives, without the guilt that we could be doing something more worthwhile.

Life Is Good

I know it’s early days, but I don’t think I will ever take for granted this freedom I now have. I am so so grateful; almost in awe of my good fortune I try to suppress the thoughts that nobody gets to be this lucky.

Life is good – let’s enjoy it.

 

23 thoughts on “Early Retirement – Early Days – What I’ve Learned from the First 3 Months”

  1. Nice to think that you are so relaxed about money.
    Many retirees *boomers spend their days panicking or living in fear – I’ve seen it. They can’t just enjoy life and actively read thigs like the daily mail to get a daily dose of scaremongering.

    Thanks

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    1. To be honest, I was expecting to be far more conscious of it so it is a surprise to me, but I’m glad. I have lots of plan B’s should things go awry so there’s nothing to fear.

      Like

  2. Fantastic write up! You’ve had me nodding along at several of your experiences, my semi-retirements have felt much the same way.

    Now that you’re over the finishing line, are you finding yourself drifting away from the FIRE niche/hobby?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Sadly, yes I’m drifting. I read far fewer blogs than I used to and have broken my daily FIRE Twitter habit. I want to stay involved and “pay it forward” and I will do that on a more relaxed scale, but the fixation I had with anything FIRE related seems to have eased. Every time I write a post though, I’m reminded of how much I enjoy the interaction with people of like mind, so this might be a temporary break. I was all-in there for a while – a bit of moderation would be healthier 😊

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Fantastic update and given the tough months you were enduring before you called quits, I’m not surprised the novelty hasn’t worn off yet and I’m sure it’ll continue for a long while as you continue to decompress.

    I don’t want to wish my life away but I look forward to the day when I don’t have to rush off in the morning to work. That’s why I love weekends and my days off where I can just do things in a leisurely fashion and in my own time (and do my matched betting without having to be sneaky about it haha!). I am looking forward to the Easter break – what have I got planned? Absolutely nothing and I plan to keep it that way!

    It’s only natural to not be so involved in FIRE now that you are there – you’ve reached your goal and you no longer need to read the blogs to justify or to motivate.

    But I do hope you do continue to write as I’d like to read what’s going on, on the other side of the finish line!

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  4. So good to read about your retirement. Even though I am on the other side of the world – Australia, I have been following you with your quest. Your thoughts are so much like mine. I am older than you but finished work in January and am enjoying the same benefits as you are. I know what you mean about slowing down and not having to rush everywhere. Just going on a recent holiday without having to ask permission to have time off to go was lovely. Will look forward to your next instalment.

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  5. Great post, read it twice and it frankly sounds fantastic. You’ve earned this so enjoy it! Like everyone else, I really hope you carry on posting occasionally, to see where the journey takes you. This is the exciting bit.

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  6. Very inspiring read! Thanks for sharing – I’m extremely jealous of you 😉
    Hoping you’ll continue to share thoughts/experiences of your post-corporate life. The feelings and emotions that you describe are so relatable to me. I still quite cant fathom how we got to this point. How are we still accepting this every day? (The stress of the 9to5). I’m definitely more motivated than ever to get out 😉 thank you.

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  7. I feel more by relaxed just by reading how your life has changed since December. It is awesome to hear you’re enjoying early retirement! If I had more time during FI, I would definitely incorporate long walks and taking photos. It’s nice being in your own head for a while on a long walk. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. I completely can relate to the feeling that every minute needs to be productive. That’s what I most want to get rid of by FIRE. I used a lot of time on my _honeymoon_ to blog about stuff that mattered much less than it seemed. I’m getting there. I’m glad you already have!

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  9. So glad that things are working out so well. Your point about kindness really resonated with me. I really, really don’t like myself when I’m locked up tight after a day at work and I’m short with my kids. They won’t even have done anything other than just be normal kids but I react badly. I tend to retreat into myself rather than snap at them but I’m not sure if that’s worse.

    It’s actually made me take my foot off the FI pedal a bit. Even if it takes longer to get there I’m a better person during the journey and I will have the relationships I value at the other end.

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  10. I retired early in December too and can totally relate to all of this! I am sleeping better, reading more, fitter than I’ve been for years, dinner with the family every evening, meeting old friends I haven’t seen for years, discovering new places…the list goes on.

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  11. Such an inspiration to hear of the benefits on health of FIRE! What a journey it must have seemed! I’ve only just started (back end of July 2018 initially) but I’m so glad I came across FIRE. The re-wiring of the brain to not spend on unnecessary things is the biggest benefit I see at my current stage which has had such an impact on my spending habits!

    Super chuffed that it’s all worked out for you!

    Cheers, Jase

    Like

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