Back to the Future

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…..

55 thoughts on “Back to the Future

  1. What a pleasure to see your email pop up in an otherwise long abandoned email account and I’m so glad you picked the renew option. Now you have to write some updates! Good luck with retirement take 2!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Glad you are getting back to the blog now that you are fully retired again. Plenty of subjects for you to explore – it sounds like you are looking after yourself better than before which is an interesting benefit of being retired, as you are now fitter than you’ve ever been and spending more time connecting with others and cooking. These all sound like the core of the good life. Look forward to reading your next update.
    Cheers,
    Paul

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  3. Woo hoo! I too got a little bit excited when this popped up in my email – welcome back, Jim! Looking forward to reading more about your Retirement ver.2.0!

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      • I had only started my drawdown 3 months when the markets started to drop…in January we stopped them, because that was the plan we had decided much earlier, and moved to using cash reserves.
        Still siphoning the cash (we have around 3 yrs in cash ‘assets’).
        Hard to see when markets will climb back up to make us comfortable to restart the drawdown. My best guess is 6-18months, but who knows!

        Also curious to hear more on your strategy 😎👍

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  4. “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.”

    Yet more thoughts that had never occurred to me! This is what I love about your blog, Jim. I feel like I genuinely learn some things, where with most FIRE blogs I feel like I rarely get anything new out of them. The “work” of retirement is something nobody likes to touch on, but I think it’s super important. I’m still a few years away from quitting, but I hope to be prepared when I do. Glad to have you back and looking forward to reading more.

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  5. I’m so pleased that you are blogging again. I really enjoyed your blog earlier and look forward to reading your new insights on retirement.

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  6. So good to see you -I always loved your wit. I’m thinking about the future and will be glad to hear your perspective, especially how the hell do you convert retirement savings into income !?

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    • Thanks Deb, for sure I will be being going on at length on the spending v saving situation that retirement brings. It’s one of the biggest changes to your lifestyle, especially when you’ve been investing and saving for decades, as I was. And then it stops and you have to start spending it.

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  7. second time lucky on the retirement front?
    I had two unplanned micro retirements and they didn’t do me any good at all
    Its not that easy retiring
    I’m trying to write a blog post about it but its slow going…

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    • Hi Rhino, I feel your pain (but not so much as I did the first time ’round)! One of the big differences for our generation is wondering how long retirement will be, how will our finances last and what about our health? On boring days it’s hard not to think “Am I really in for forty years of this?!!” 🙂

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  8. Pingback: Weekend reading: The blogger bringing sexy back (as well as health, money, and death) – Monevator – Indigo News

  9. I recommend joining your local U3A group (https://www.u3a.org.uk/). I moved house and joined and now have new friends, plus plenty of interesting things to do. I even setup groups that interest me or where I wanted to learn something. Add to this another local volunteer group where I maintain public footpaths, install gates and do waymarking. It certainly beats going to any gym or stretch class, plus I get to see more of our beautiful countryside on my doorstep.
    I really do not have time for paid work.

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  10. It seems odd to say “welcome back” on your own blog site but it is good to see you posting again – another one here who has enjoyed reading your previous postings. I too found myself retired at 57 last year having been made redundant. I dithered over retiring during my early 50s, went part time at 55 then they finally gave me the boot. It was very strange being made redundant over a video call while working at home during the pandemic, but it meant I didn’t have the guilt of leaving colleagues with my work to take over if I had left of my own accord. Not missing the work life at all to be honest!

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    • Thanks Bill, I’m not sure I’d be “retired” again had redundancy not come along. The trouble for me is that I actually enjoyed a lot of working life. Retirement is often portrayed as a dream state of never ending pleasure but, for people like me who enjoyed their jobs, it just isn’t.

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  11. Great to see you back, Jim! Totally agree about the need for some structure. This part resonated with me too:

    “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!”

    The good thing is that the balance between coasting and grafting seems much better in retirement!

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    • Cheers TA, it does amaze me what I can classify as “work” during retirement. A bit of “hard graft” can be mowing the lawn, after which one needs to retire with a cup of tea, or something stronger, for at least an hour or two.

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  12. Fantastic to see you writing again! Glad I left your feed subscribed in Inoreader – was quite surprised, but very pleased, when I saw “one unread post” in your feed! 🙂

    Much for you to write about. I am struggling with figuring out retirement – and I’ve not even retired yet! 🙂 The truth is it’s not the money – the FI has been relatively straightforward – it’s more I don’t feel I’ve sussed out early retirement in my head – and that doubt keeps me plodding along in a job, piling up cash I’m not sure I’ll ever need. Perhaps the solution is just to take the plunge – and then figure things out, but I suspect there’s a danger if I do that I’ll just end up going back to work.

    It’s going to be interesting to see how retirement goes for you second time around…

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    • Thanks Codefreeze, I’m really working at committing to being retired this time around, but if an attractive job offer came my way I have to be honest and say I’d probably go for it. Like you say, the financial side wouldn’t be the driver, it’s more the social side and contributing to something outside of your own interests that gives a different type of fulfilment (within which being paid for it counts too.)

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      • Yeah, I get it. I had a couple of attempts at retiring already. I had fun working on my own projects, but missed working on larger projects in a company with a team of individuals I admired and could learn from. It will happen at some point though. Good luck with your own retirement this time around!

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  13. Very pleased to see you back Jim! Since you’ve been gone, I have gone part-time and finally retired at Easter. As we are moving house and I’ve been helping my daughter start her business, I have not had time to feel retired just yet. I think another few months of moving, unpacking and then a building project will keep me occupied for a while. Looking forward to the next exciting installment!

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  14. Great to see your blog coming back to life Jim, i always enjoyed reading it and it helped me prepare mentally for my own switch from consulting gigs to living off the portfolio and cash reserves in 2019. I hope that you will find your purpose this time round suspect that with your Mrs retiring as well that will open up more opportunites for travel and adventures together. Look forward to following your journey and thought processes again Goodluck !

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    • > suspect that with your Mrs retiring as well that will open up more opportunites for travel and adventures together.

      I agree – but it’s an interesting dynamic. You need to get the balance right between doing your own thing, and doing things together. I think that can take a while to get right. It’s going to be interesting to see how that pans out! 🙂

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  15. It was great to read your post after such a long absence, and congratulations on your second early retirement. Your blog was important to me as I planned my own early retirement when I was 57. Now 6 years in, what seemed like a great leap into the dark has turned into a very fulfilling time of my life. My worries about finances proved to be unfounded (although the cost of living crisis is a little scary) and I’ve been able to do voluntary work, pursue study and look after the grandkids. I can’t imagine working now, though I do still miss some of the intellectual stimulation of working with colleagues. I wish you well in this new venture and look forward to hearing more. And finally – thank you for inspiring me to take the plunge.

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    • That’s really nice to hear ynott, and I’m glad it has turned out well for you. I was definitely too “young” last time I retired at 51 and I’m much more sanguine about it this time ’round. I still think there is a big mental adjustment to make though, and I restarted the blog partly to try and work through that.

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  16. Welcome back! I’m planning my own retirement at the end of the year but I’m already down to a four day week and have booked a lot of time off. As you point out, it’s important to build up a selection of things to do in your spare time while working so that you’re ready to switch to these when the time comes.

    I think I’ve done a fair bit of this already and it definitely helps to have a group of friends who are retired, part-time or similarly available in the day time. And living near the sea gives a lot of options for ostensibly healthy activities (trail running, sea swimming, hiking, SUPing etc.) even if these often turn out to be a convoluted excuse for visits to the pub.

    The U3A link was really helpful – as a regular user of footpaths and the South West Coast Path (itself a retirement target) I can see myself ‘putting something back’ by doing some maintenance at some point during retirement.

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    • Thanks for the update and Facebook link, which I’ll check out. I’d agree that as I’m now approaching sixty I have a lot more contacts and friends who are retiring too. It makes a big difference, and has made me reflect on the Boomer generation and whether we’ll be the last to have the luxury of retiring in our fifties?

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      • I don’t think so. My father retired in his fifties (in the 1980s) from a civil service job where it was very unusual and I think the current generation will be a lot more savvy about work/life balance. Or at least some of them…

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  17. Hi Jim
    Great to see you posting again and congratulations on your 2nd retirement.

    I also decided to escape the rat race last summer and retired on my 57th birthday. I’d been planning to retire for a while but kept thinking “just one more year”.
    I have not missed work at all but like you I do miss the social interaction & banter and perhaps some job satisfaction/intellectual challenge.

    I have joined a gym for the first time and do lots of classes which are fun. I have also joined a bowls club (it was golf or bowls – might try golf next year). Also volunteering which all keeps me busy and provides some structure to my days.
    I have been offered some short term project work but decided I don’t have enough time to spare as I have lots of holidays plans – just back from a 700 mile cycle trip around Europe.

    Have you found it easy to switch from accumulating to de cumulating ? I’m trying hard not to check my investment portfolio every day and calculate how much it’s dipped this year.

    I look forward to reading your blog.

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    • Thanks AJ, looks like you’re throwing yourself into retirement, which is the best approach! The switch from accumulating to de
      cumulating is really challenging on many levels, and that’s even when the markets are going your way. I keep trying to write a post on it, and will get round to it soon 🙂

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