I’m often motivated by Monevator, and the people who comment on the posts, and lately I was nudged to update this long dormant blog. I’d also been notified by WordPress that it was time to pay up for another year or close up permanently, so I chose the former. Having paid for it, I might as well use it.
Just to recap, I originally started this blog when I retired at the (not quite so) early age of fifty-one and discovered that FIRE wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped it would be. I liked the FI part, but wasn’t so keen on how I was finding Retiring Early. In a nutshell, it certainly wasn’t worse than working, but on many days it certainly wasn’t any better either. Meanwhile the relentless optimism of many of the American FIRE bloggers began to rankle versus my experience and I thought I could write about how I was finding it difficult to reconcile the dream versus the reality.
To cut a long story short I eventually decided to go back to paid employment because I missed it. I found a job and stayed in it for the best part of the next six years. I would still be there had I not been made redundant in March last year. Given that I was now 57, given that my wife was retiring and given that I was even better placed financially than I was before, I decided that maybe retirement was worth another go.
At that point I thought I might go back to blogging as a more committed retiree, but I still wasn’t sure that I actually was retired (and am still not!) What did I have to say though? Was FIRE still a thing? Could I credibly write about it if it was? On the other hand, was writing about “real” retirement something I, or anyone else, would be interested in writing and reading?
Resultantly I decided to give myself a bit more time to form any further opinions about full time retirement. As the months go by though, there’s no doubt that it’s still a curate’s egg. It’s like the opinion I eventually formed about “work life balance”. There’s no such thing, really, it’s all just “life”. It’s the same when you try to compare working life versus retirement – they’re both just “life” and what you do with it is essentially up to you.
On the other hand, I do find myself thinking that this retirement life does require you to stretch yourself a bit in different ways to what you did at work.. It requires more “self starting” as there’s nobody pushing you to do anything with your days. You still need structure but you have to provide it for yourself. It’s almost like a job where you need to figure out priorities, goals and objectives for the days and weeks (which is a lot better than some idiot boss deciding them for you!) Then you have to work at them, commit to taking action and find things which are the right side of enjoyable. Just like at the office, some days you need to graft, some days you can coast and the more you can pepper your days with coffee breaks with friends and colleagues, the better!
One of the main observations about retirement that I read somewhere, and that has stuck with me, is that you need to actually try new things. It’s not enough to think, “I might join that stretching class at the gym.” You actually have to go and do it (and it’s so easy not to!) Even more awkward, you might have to arrange something yourself – start a book club, or an investment club, or a walking group and invite like minded people. This way lies rejection, so it’s much easier to wish that someone else would present you with things to do and meetings to attend, just like management does in your career. I used to like to think I was one of those “self starters” at work. Retirement has definitely challenged me to demonstrate that this is true. The stretching class at the gym – which I have attended – is generally full of older women. Very few men go along. Perhaps this is because it’s somewhat embarrassing to try and bend into a pose and hear your fellow attendees, or yourself, fart for England. Honestly, I’d much rather be in a class of blokes. So why don’t I start one?
Having to work at retirement is maybe not a revelation to many people but I’d say that it has been an increasing revelation to me. Much as I’d love someone to fill my day with stuff that I like to do, it ain’t going to happen. It’s up to me. I certainly didn’t want to moan about retirement in a blog, but maybe I could share some of the challenges and what positive things I have found to come from them. Off the top of my head, in the last year I’ve learned loads about pensions and developed a hard-won withdrawal strategy that I’m finally comfortable with; I’m way fitter than I’ve ever been; I’ve massively expanded my cooking repertoire; I’ve discovered Youtube DIY videos and saved hundreds of pounds in repair costs; I’ve learned a bit about gardening; I’ve read more books than I ever have; I’ve worked hard to increase my social circle; in any given week I average 15,000 steps a day, double what I used to do when working; I make time for audiobooks and podcasts; my golf handicap….nah, you don’t want to know about that. I’m busy enough and not often bored, but another revelation is that the amount of time you have to do things in full-time retirement is incredible. When you hear people say they don’t know how they managed to fit everything in around a working life, I think that’s a reflection of suddenly realising how much time you have to fill when you’re not working eight hours a day, five days a week. It really is a luxury that you come to appreciate. But, like I say, I needed to, and still need to, work quite hard at appreciating it!
Given this amount of time available, going back to blogging is now something I can do, so I’m going to give it a go. I’m not sure what I’ll write about, but given I never actually wrote much about “Sex, Health, Money, Death” the first time around, perhaps this time I can widen the scope! As I’ve just written, it’s actually doing something and taking action that counts…..