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The Truth About Early Retirement – 1 Year In

Early Retirement

Table of Contents

On the 30th of November last year, I left the working world behind and started a new phase of my life. It took 13 years of saving, investing and growing my income to become financially independent and to be able to retire early.

The truth is that early retirement is pretty awesome, but it’s not without challenges. I did cover some of these previously in another video a few months back, and you can check it out on the link at the top of the screen now, but since then many experiences unique to being an early retiree have prompted me to create this follow-on video. I hope it helps you prepare for early retirement or gives some insight into the challenges and opportunities you might face. 

Budgeting sucks

No one likes budgeting and the truth is I never had to budget on my journey to early retirement. For me, just making more money came easier than watching the pennies and that’s what I did. Of course, I kept my expenses low and by paying myself first every month, I built wealth on autopilot.

In business, I used to say that if we made more money, everything would work out. That’s not always the case, but money solves many problems, if you have enough of it. Because my income had grown from £20,000 to 6 figures over the space of a year or two, I put much of that new wealth into paying down my mortgage and then into my investments. I never had to budget, because I knew that generally speaking, I was investing a large proportion of my income and anything that remained could be spent.

Today is vastly different. As someone who isn’t earning an income and drawing down from our retirement pot, we have a withdrawal strategy and a budget to stick to. We do this both as a household and personally. This has been one of the biggest struggles I faced this year. It’s not for lack of money, we’re doing fine, but as someone who has lived their life with an abundance mindset, this year and the process of budgeting has flicked a mental switch where I now think of money with a feeling of scarcity. 

Speaking to other retirees, this is incredibly common as you move into retirement. It’s not the most pleasant feeling I’ve ever had and I’ve not found the solution yet. If anyone has, please let me know in the comments. 

Hands up who wants a Ferrari? I do and I’ve wanted one for the longest time. When I could afford one, the appeal didn’t disappear, rather it dwindled into insignificance. These past few months I’ve started thinking about nice cars and holiday homes again. We could afford these, but it would change our current plans and we’d have to adjust our budget. Something I’m not sure if I’m prepared to do.

But don’t cry for me just yet. Dale Carnegie is quoted as saying “Success is getting what you want, and happiness is wanting what you get.” 

And honestly, this first year of retirement was worth all the effort and focus I’d put into the last 14 years of my life.  It doesn’t matter how much you achieve, you often want more. The finish line keeps on moving.

When I first left work, I felt the overwhelming need to be productive all the time. The foundered site and this channel were born and have continued to grow because I’ve put in thousands of hours of work into them. Recently though I have been putting less and less time in my diary to work on content. 

It’s not that I’ve fallen out of love with personal finance, in fact, the longer I do this, the more I see the need for objective personal finance content. I want to help promote financial well-being and this will continue, but I’m finally putting my priorities first. I’ve been in the gym more frequently. I’m spending quality time with my family and I’ve cooked more meals this year than I have in the last 10.

What I’m noticing more is that my priorities are being prioritised and this is great. I’m no less productive, but my definition of productivity is shifting. Let me explain. I’ve been wired to make money at all costs for the past 14 years. It’s been my sole focus at the expense of many things. Now I regularly drop off and pick up my daughter from school, we’re learning Python slowly and I taught her to ride her bike this year. 

My old self wouldn’t have had the time to do this, nor would I celebrate the achievement, because they were small things. Whereas now this is a huge deal to me and equally as big a thing for her. My daughter is 8 years old and right now I’ve probably spent around 70% of all the time I’ll ever spend with her. That’s a sombre thought and this early retirement will allow me to make the most of all our time together. For that alone, it’s a noble cause to pursue.

I used the word wholesome a lot this year and it’s exactly how I’d describe my life right now. It’s less stressful, super enjoyable and I spend my days exactly how I choose.

That’s something to touch on as well. 

My perception of the week has shifted massively. I no longer live for the weekend or dread a Monday. Every day has equal value. This took some getting used to, primarily because family and friends are still working, but I’m happy going out on a weeknight or working on a video on a Saturday afternoon. Because the day doesn’t matter. When I once got up at 3.30 am to start my day, my alarm now wakes me up to start breakfast for the family.

Every day feels like Thursday and that’s pretty class

One of the biggest disappointments I’ve had this year if you could even call it is what I’d call the success of my website and YouTube channel. If I tallied up the hours I’ve put in, it would be thousands and the money I’ve invested in it, verging on tens of thousands. Growth is slow and often it feels like you’re posting into the ether with no response.

It was never my intent to make money or to have the site be self-sustaining, but the fact it hasn’t feels like an underachievement. Then all of a sudden you get a dozen messages from people who react positively to the content and it’s all worthwhile.

If foundered helps 1 person to better understand that’s enough. Thankfully it’s helping many more. But if my content resonates with you, please hit that like button or share it with someone who might be interested.

This year I’ve heard about death a lot and I now understand why older generations talk about people who’ve died recently. We are all going to die. That’s a fact. But as we grow older those around us sadly become fewer and the rate at which we lose them only speeds up.

This caused me to think about my mortality a whole lot more. Not more, for the first time in my life. Frankly, I don’t want to die. I hope it won’t happen anytime soon and I intend to make the remaining years of my life the most enjoyable for myself and my family. 

And this brings me to the biggest argument I hear from people who shun the idea of early retirement.  The question from them is often “What if I die?” and my answer is always “what if you don’t?”

Even if you retire at 60 or 70, there’s a good chance you’ll live well into your 80s. What if you couldn’t feed yourself or heat your home? That’s a sad reality for many older people in our society now. Will it be better 30 years from now?

Any happy stories Connor? Actually yes and I am going to end on a positive.

My very worst day this year was better than any day I’ve had at work, bar three days. The first was the day started my business, the second, was the I sold it and the last was the day I left it.

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