My workday internal alarm clock wakes me before six this morning. Today is Friday, a day when I usually lived the average working man’s fantasy – I tended to “work from home” that day. Have you ever had the facility to “work from home”? Do you agree with the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, when he called the practice a “skiver’s paradise”?

Personally, although I chose to do it, I hated having to work from home. Firstly, you could almost guarantee an early phone call from a colleague in the office that inevitably began “Morning! Where are you today?”

“Ehrm, I’m actually working from home today, loads to do”.

“Oh, right. So you’re at home now?”

Just to induce the guilt. Mind you, that was better than the boss, who would inevitably call around lunchtime and ask the same question. This was to establish the fact that you were, indeed, a skiver.

Well, if I had been deliberately skiving then maybe I could have lived with the guilt. But generally I would have the laptop fired up by eight in the morning in my home office, mobile ‘phone by it’s side, proving to myself that I was really set to work and earn my day’s pay. Ten minutes later and I would have cleared the unread mail, the ‘phone would not have rung yet and I’d hear my wife in the kitchen downstairs fixing her breakfast. Maybe I should go down and have a coffee with her? No! I might miss an important mail from the boss and I’ve got my weekly report to write. I need to get on with that.

In the peace and quiet, I’d be able to write the weekly report in half an hour. No nipping in to see a colleague’s office to have a chat about the dismal state of the business. No opportunity to chat to the lads in supply chain about the week’s football. Just work to get on with.

Okay, report done. Now what? Well, I’ve that budget strategy presentation to write for the end of the month. I could do that. Nah, fuck it, that can wait. Aha! An e-mail to answer. Suddenly the mobile rings, and the name of a colleague flashes up (a colleague I actually don’t mind chatting to) so I answer:

“Hi, you okay”?

“Yeah, good. Where are you today?”

“Home, working on that budget strategy presentation. Where are you”.

“Yeah, I’m working from home too. Loads to do. It’s amazing how much you can get done at home, isn’t it?”

“For sure. I probably get three times the work done here that I would do in the office”.

“Totally agree.”

We’d then go on to talk about nothing for fifteen minutes while I secretly hoped the boss would try and call me now so he’d realise I was actually on the ‘phone and working. No such luck, so I decide to ‘phone another colleague who I bet is also “working from home” to repeat the conversation I’d just had.

Okay. Now what. Better start that strategy presentation. Nah, I’ll do that this afternoon. Ah, three more e-mails to answer.

And so the morning would progress. I’d sit in that office at home finding ways to get absolutely nothing done that didn’t have an urgent deadline to do it within. Meanwhile I’d hear my wife calling her friends, arranging her day, leaving me in peace and putting off the hoovering so as not to cause an awkward moment if and when the boss called. “Jim. Where are you today? Is that a hoover I can hear? Are you hoovering?”

Lunchtime would come ‘round and, maybe if she wasn’t doing anything else, I’d take my other half for a Chinese business lunch down the road. This was a big step for me in the guilt stakes, upping the pressure for the hour of not being welded to my laptop in the home office awaiting e-mails that I could respond to so as to prove that I was working, instead of skiving off having lunch with the wife. So, absolute maximum time I could afford for lunch would be an hour.

We’d get to the Chinese and take our seats, order up our food. I’d check the phone for mail. Hmm. Do I answer that one from the boss’s PA? If I do, it’ll tell her the message has been “Sent from a Window’s Mobile” and she’ll know I’m out and about. I’ll leave that one ‘til I’m back home.

The starters arrive. And, I kid you not, the mobile would suddenly vibrate on the table with an incoming call. The caller’s name? The Boss. The number of times this happened was incredible and inevitably lunch was then rushed and ruined because no way was I calling back from a Chinese restaurant. “Jim? Where are you? Is that Chinese music I can hear? Are you in a Chinese restaurant?! Aren’t you supposed to be working?”

I’d literally twitch through the meal to get back home and return that call. I’d run upstairs to my laptop and quickly return the boss’s call. “Hey, just noticed I missed a call from you?”

“Yes……Where are you today?”

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.