My Journey to Early Retirement

Long Road Home

I never set out with the goal to retire early. I remember sitting down with a financial adviser, retained by my work at the the time, to review my pensions. He was a bit of a blunt Glaswegian, and quickly got to the nitty gritty. “Now Jim, what are your retirement goals. And don’t say “to retire at 55” because every ***** tells me that and none of them ever gets there’.

I resisted the temptation to tell him he might be part of the problem in case he “sank the heid” in me with a Glasgow kiss. I, too, had the vague ambition of having the choice to retire at 55 – the choice, mind you, not the absolute objective. I quite liked my job, but in my industry the casualty rate was high the older you got, so I saw saving and investing as more of a safety net than anything else.

As it turned out I became a casualty myself when I turned 51 when my career ended in “redundancy”. Fortunately, by that time, I’d amassed enough savings to retire – if that’s what I choose to do, which was always my objective.

How did I do it? Well, in the spirit of keeping things simple, I’ve listed below what I think I learned over the years

  • Take a company pension, if offered. I signed up on Day One of my employment and never even thought about it. Thirty years later and you wouldn’t believe how often I think about it now (with joy!)
  • Save regularly. It doesn’t matter how much. Even a tenner a week will build up. the important thing is to start the habit and continue with it.
  • Increase your earnings. Go for that promotion at work. Take that evening job. Build that eBay business from home. Work hard and save the extra it brings.
  • Stick with an investment strategy that suits you.  Over the long run you’ll come to understand what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it, and build confidence that you have half an idea about what you’re doing too.
  • The clearer your goals, the better chance you’ll have of obtaining them. Write down what they might be. Have a plan to get there.
  • Be frugal (within reason!) I like saving money and being tight. There is a limit though and it’s  important to occasionally treat yourself too. I spent a load of cash on some great holidays over the years and don’t regret it one bit.

I think that they’re the main themes I followed over the almost three decades I was in work. I was pretty fortunate in terms of my career, but if I was to pick one of the points above as being the key one, it would be to save regularly, even if it’s only in a glass jar on your sideboard. The principle, and the pennies, all add up.