David @Iretiredyoung | Oct 20, 2023
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Coming towards the end of my seventh year of early retirement, I thought I’d reflect on some things that have gone well, and some areas that could perhaps have gone better.
1. Less stress. This was the most immediate benefit when I retired. I didn’t realise how heavily work stress weighed on my shoulders until it was taken away. It was almost a physical feeling of relief. Seven years later, it’s still one of the best feelings.
2. Change of mindset. This was a surprise benefit of retiring early. My new mindset includes being more positive, trying to say yes to opportunities that I might otherwise have shied away from, being more thoughtful, more compassionate and, overall, trying to be a little more adventurous than I used to be.
3. I’ve done new things. I’ve travelled in a way I’d never done before (my backpacking years took place closer to 50 than 20 years of age), I’m living in a ski resort, so ski, run and cycle in the mountains, I’m better at visiting friends, I started a blog, and bought a campervan to name a few.
4. The finances are working. An essential win! If the money wasn’t working, I guess I’d be back at work, and I’m mightily relieved that this isn’t the case!
5. I’ve not been bored. What would I do and would I be bored were two big things I worried about when battling with my early retirement decision. Then, when I announced my retirement, there were a few people who told me I’d be bored, I’d regret it, and I’d soon be looking to rejoin the workforce. They were wrong! It’s not been a problem in the slightest. I’m not saying there aren’t moments when life feels a little quiet, but I had more boring moments during my working life than I do in my retired life.
Five mistakes (or challenges might be a better description)
1. Sally and I weren’t on the same page. Clearly, Sally and I discussed my retirement plans, but I misunderstood what Sally wanted to do (in summary, she didn’t want anything to change). I can’t explain how this miscommunication occurred, but it was certainly my biggest mistake to not understand what Sally’s priorities were and to take them more into account.
2. I would like to have more activities / interests in common with Sally. When we were working and raising our kids, our priorities and interests were mostly aligned, perhaps because we didn’t have much spare time for other things. Now that our time is all our own, I’ve found that we don’t share as many common activities or interests as I’d thought. It’s good to have our individual interests, but I’m still searching for more common activities and interests that we can share and enjoy together.
3. Not knowing where home is. I’ve spent 23 of the last 30 years living outside of the country in which I was born and raised, the United Kingdom. The last time I lived there was 2005. I’ve lived in the UK, Jamaica, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates, South Africa and France. It’s been an awesome experience that I wouldn’t trade, but it also means that I haven’t put down deep roots and don’t have an established feeling of community or belonging. Places have mostly felt temporary (because they were), and I’m not quite sure where the permanent home should be. I like my current location in France, there are many positives to it, but it doesn’t yet feel one hundred percent like home.
4. Being too wedded to my rules and routines? I’m not ready to ditch my routines, I still think they help me make the most of my early retirement life, and I absolutely consider them a positive. However, might I be too wedded to them? Do I sometimes keep doing something because, at the start of the year, I wrote it on my to-do list? I wonder if, alongside the benefits that my routines bring, I should look to introduce some more flexibility.
5. Travelling is harder than I expected. I had big travel plans for my retirement, but travelling hasn’t always been as simple as I expected (and I’m not even talking about the lost Covid years!). Having pets, trying to be more environmentally aware, Sally being less interested, these things all make travel an early retirement activity that is a little tougher than I imagined.
I think it’s useful to reflect on how things are going, on what is working and what isn’t so easy. With seven years of blogging, it’s not surprising that the ten topics (five wins and five challenges) have all come up before in various posts, although with one difference. In the past, routines have solely been thought of as positive whereas, this time, I’m questioning whether they could also be a restrictive trait. I’m not thinking of ditching them, but perhaps I should consider taking a more relaxed approach to my routines at times.