Have you been inspired by early retirement?
Are you saving diligently, longing for the day when you can hand in your notice, wave bye-bye to your boss and never have to go back to work again??
I did exactly that 10 months ago – I retired from my job at the age of 35.
I still don’t know if it’s the bravest or stupidest thing I’ve ever done – I guess time will tell!
What no one ever tells you is what happens AFTER that. After all the planning and saving and dreaming…once reality sets in. Is early retirement really as good as it sounds? REALLY?
Here are the top 10 things I wish I’d known before I retired.
1. The first month you don’t get any money into your bank, you will panic.
I mean, seriously PANIC. It’s a terrifying moment when you look at your bank account and realize that’s it. Forever. You either make this money last or you go back to work!
Nothing will ever make you so frugal in your entire life.
2. When you phone your pension company, they will laugh at you.
I called them up and explained that I had retired… to which the man on the phone laughed and said “You’re not drawing your pension at 35, therefore you haven’t retired. You’re just not working.” Oh.
I don’t really know why, but this took the wind out of my sails a little bit. I’d just told the world I was retiring (seriously, there’s a video on Youtube and everything!)
And now he was saying that I wasn’t.
Heck, maybe he’s right. I can’t swear that I’ll never work again – I just hope I don’t HAVE to. (There is a subtle but fundamental difference.)
3. You become (even more) uncomfortable talking about money.
I’m British, so it was already tough to discuss finances, but now I hate it. People seem to think it’s perfectly acceptable to ask you how much you spend in a month and how your savings are doing – questions they’d likely never ask if you were still working!
They also want to hear intimate details about whether you earn anything extra (from savings, investments, or freelance work, etc) It can be intimidating and sometimes uncomfortable, especially if I’ve only just met them!
Having said this, if I’d met someone who had done exactly what I was trying to do before I retired, I’d probably have asked some pretty intense questions too!
4. Speaking of being introduced, you start to dread the question ‘So what do you do?”
I went from having a well-respected job as an Air Traffic Controller (which most people found interesting and would lead to a further conversation) to now saying “Uh…well… I don’t work.”
I feel stupid saying I’m retired, and I feel uncomfortable saying I’m a travel blogger, so I often say I’m a freelance writer – although in truth I try my hardest to avoid the question!
Before I retired I never realized how much of our social identity is based on our jobs – or how often we ask (and are asked) that question!
5. You will get used to ‘not working’ ridiculously quickly.
I couldn’t believe how quickly I adapted to not working shifts, not having to plan my holidays with the rest of the team, not having to work out rotas/schedules or sleep days (I used to work nights several times a month.)
I thought I would feel weird for months, but I don’t think I really thought about work after the first week. Sometimes it still just feels like I’m on a really long holiday – but without that countdown of having to go back!
And it’s wonderful not to have to work Christmas, or Bank Holidays, or weekends anymore – that’s just heaven. My husband still works remotely, and our daughter is still in college, so Monday mornings are still a ‘thing’ in our household- we’re counting down the days (months) until they’re not!
6. Most of the people you thought were friends won’t return your calls.
Ahhhh, the big one. Most of the things I’ve mentioned so far have been funny/weird/uncomfortable but, for me at least, this has definitely been the worst part of retiring early.
My social life was wrapped up with my job. Because I worked shifts, I couldn’t join sports teams or clubs as I worked on different cycles each week. And we regularly worked weekends and had days off during the week. So our team all socialized together. And as soon as I left, that pretty much stopped.
Many of the people I thought I would stay in touch with have dropped contact completely, which honestly has been sad. Christmas was weird – not having a Christmas party to go to was totally alien. One of the few downsides of traveling so much is we aren’t really part of a community, although we have met some fantastic people on the road.
I don’t say this to deter you (and heck, maybe it’s just me!), but it’s definitely been the biggest downside and one I wasn’t prepared for at all. I haven’t missed work for a single second, but I do miss the social interactions.
7. You will NEED something to do.
Having too much free time really does mean that you will NEED something to do with your time. Anything. Find something you enjoy and do it. Learn a language, travel, learn new skills- what have you always wanted to do?
For me, I’ve started a travel blog to document our adventures around Europe in our motorhome. I’ve never written a blog before, and it’s been a HUGE learning curve. Seriously – don’t ever underestimate how much work blogging takes, especially as a beginner. Nothing is straight-forward and everything takes SO MUCH TIME. I think I spend longer on my blog now than I ever did in work!! 🙂
(If you’re interested in starting a blog to help push you towards early retirement, check out our post about starting a blog, and our how to earn money from your blog article to see if you’re up for it!)
I’ve also taken up crochet (easy to do on the move) and we just got a puppy, which was completely unplanned but he’s an awesome addition to our lives. Even at 4 am when he’s crying for a cuddle.
We couldn’t have a dog whilst I worked, so this has been one of the biggest positives to come from this year! (As I write this he’s cuddled up to me on the couch, wondering if he can reach my biscuit without me seeing!!)
8. All that choice can be overwhelming.
Being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it can be overwhelming. There are SO MANY possibilities, for any kind of budget and location, that sometimes it’s hard to know what to do.
Because I retired about 3 years earlier than planned (due to us moving onto a boat & being really good at living on one wage), our daughter is still in full-time education, which means we have some structure to our lives for the next year or so. But there are often days when I ask myself what I should do today! (Hint – it nearly always come back to ‘make a YouTube video or write a blog post!’)
9. You sometimes feel really guilty for not working, especially if your partner still is!
We worked our butts off to save as much money as possible and downsize our lives so I could give up work and we could travel more. But I often feel really guilty about the fact that I’m not working and my husband is. (To the point that I now do his book-keeping, something that also falls under point 7 for me!)
It’s really hard to feel free-as-a-bird when others around you are still plugged in, so if you are planning to early-retire one person at a time, bear that in mind. That’s another reason I’m grateful for my blog- now that it earns me a little money each month I feel like I’m contributing to the household again.
It can also feel like a mismatch when it comes to spending money. I felt guilty about buying my husband’s Christmas and birthday presents, as it’s technically his earnings (not that he ever calls them that)! This is my own mindset which needs to shift – I’m so used to having my own cash to spend that it’s taking a while to adjust.
10. You become a ‘smug retired’ saying annoying things like ‘I don’t know how I ever had time to work.’
I said this for the first time the other month, and nearly slapped myself! It’s true, we are ridiculously busy. Nearly every other week we are traveling somewhere. This means we cram all the ‘seeing family friends, etc’ into the few days we are back at our home base in the UK.
Our lives are planned out with military precision, way more than they ever were when I was working. And I am often that annoying person who can’t meet up for coffee for 6 weeks (see point 6!)
Final Thoughts on Early Retirement
As a footnote, I’d like to clarify something. As you can see above, there is a mixture of good and bad points. I think the nature of writing a list of ‘Things I wish I’d known’ will naturally highlight the things which caught me by surprise, and those aren’t always positive.
But I wouldn’t change our decision to save hard and for me to leave my job for anything. The freedom we’ve enjoyed since has allowed us to explore over 15 countries throughout Europe, as well as a fantastic road trip to Mexico.
We’ve had extra time to spend with family and friends and we feel like we’ve actually LIVED this year, instead of just going through the motions. To us, that is absolutely priceless.
I encourage anyone thinking about downsizing their life and aiming for early retirement to go for it – really go for it. It’ll be the best decision you ever make.
Kathryn Bird decided to get out of the rat race whilst she was still young enough to enjoy it. Together with her husband, teenage daughter, and puppy, she explores Europe by motorhome and motorbike, sharing her experiences on the award-winning travel blog Wandering Bird. In less than two years they have visited 15 countries and driven nearly 30,000 miles in their motorhome- not including the times they were lost!
She is passionate about inspiring others to have their own adventures and create their dream life. You can start now by downloading her FREE eBook: 5 Steps to Freedom- Create a life you love!