I’d Rather Be Fishing: My Early Retirement Story

This is a guest post from reader Jamie, who shares his early retirement story as part of our retirement series.

I lived and worked in Port Hardy, B.C. since 1984. On January 13th of this year I came to work on a midnight shift to find that it was my turn to pick holiday time. Vacations were chosen by rotation to be fair for the new employees. I got to pick last – even though I had 20 years on the next senior employee – which meant everything to the end of September had already been taken.

I have two boats, and I love to fish and cruise. I asked my wife if she would be disappointed if I retired. She said, “hell no!

new boat

Thirty-one years of shift work in a high stress job had taken its toll, and so I put in my papers and officially retired on May 4th – about three months shy of my 61st birthday.

Related: On retirement – Early or never?

I pulled the pin several months early so that I could have a summer off. At my age, I don’t know how many more good ones I have left. I found that after a month or so I did not miss one single aspect of my job (except the pay), which tells me it was time to go.

More time to run our small business

My wife and I run a small business that started off as a salmon fishing charter. In the early 90s I designed some salmon lures that are still popular on the west coast. Business was slow in 2008 so we bid on a government contract to do environmental monitoring. We re-upped that contract in 2013 for another 5 years.

My wife works about half the shifts, and now that I’ve retired I’ve taken some of those shifts to give her a break. We also hired two part-time employees. We work three days a week and it’s great! I’ve worked on-and-off for 49 years and I feel guilty if I do nothing. The few shifts a week gives me some structure.

The business provides just over one-third of our total income. My wife has no pension, aside from the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (they offer pension planning for small businesses at no cost), so we will run the business as long as the government wants us to. This will allow us to live a much richer retirement.

Related: 16 habits that helped me retire wealthy

Although some might say that I’m not retired because I’m still technically working, I have control over my hours, which was not the case at my regular job.

Cost of living in retirement

I have a copper-plated defined benefit pension, which replaced about half of my working salary. It has been a bit of a trial getting used to the smaller income and the fact that it comes once a month.

Boating is an expensive hobby. We still have the charter boat and for more personal use we have a 3818 Bayliner motor yacht. Insurance, moorage, and fuel are high in the summer. We also have a Victory Vision Tour motorcycle that we do trips on.

Summers are expensive at the best of times but I will get everything in order this fall and winter so we don’t have a cash crunch next summer.

Related: How this couple spends their retirement travelling

We have two children; my daughter is a physiotherapist and lives down island, and my son lives in Port Hardy and works for us on the weekends. Both kids are in their early 30s and own their own homes. We have grand-twins by our daughter. They just turned three.

Retiring with debt

We still have some debt, but we can handle it. We owe about $27,000 on a home equity line of credit – a third of which is owed by our son to pay for his new car. We got a much better deal on credit than he could; 3.20% versus 7-9%. It’s not much, but I originally vowed to retire with no debt. I figure that we could pay it off from our investments but they are making more than the interest on the HELOC.

We saved as much as possible and over the last year paid our line of credit down by quite a bit. Last year I did some modifications to the big boat to make it more cruise-worthy and that got a bit out of control. We paid that off without increasing the HELOC.

Final thoughts on my early retirement story

The only regret I have is beyond my control. We would have been in better shape if tax-free savings accounts had been introduced much earlier.

I start collecting CPP next month; 48 months early. Because of a spotty work history I have used up my eight “zero years” and I would lose another 10% if I waited until 65. I therefore look at the 27% reduction as just a 17% reduction and will use the money to pay off the HELOC and top up our TFSAs.

Related: An easy way to estimate your CPP benefits

If you ever come to Port Hardy for the salmon fishing, drop me a line and I will give you some tips and sell you some lures.

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  1. Kady on August 21, 2015 at 7:34 am

    Great anecdote! I love when people choose to design their life in a way that makes them happy. I know a number of people who would have definitely would have stopped workig with the thought of a whole summer without fishing.

  2. Robert on August 21, 2015 at 8:41 am

    I retired at 60 also and have pursued other activities, but not for profit.

    I found your story different to mine in one major respect. I worked through my last summer so that I’d have a little more money for fall and winter. For me, summer months are for being at home and the rest of the year is about freedom to travel without crowds.

    I hope I can fish with you one day. I want to spend more time on the water.

    • Jamie on August 21, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      Fishing isn’t a matter of life or death, it is more important than that.
      Summer is our big thing here. The rest of the year we hide from the rain. We hope to start taking some smaller trips this coming winter.

      Maybe we will see you up here!

  3. Nancy on August 22, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Great post!
    Get more retirees to tell us how they are doing. How else are we going to learn what works and what doesn’t? Also posts on drawing down RRSPs would be very informative.

    • Jamie on August 22, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      That is currently our dilemma. After a lifetime of accumulation how do you de-accumulate? In the last year or so I am seeing more articles on the subject but still have no set plan.

  4. Sean Cooper, Financial Journalist on August 22, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    That’s a good point about CPP. If you retire early and wait to start it, even though it won’t be reduced by as much, your zero earning years will increase if you aren’t working part-time and earning pensionable earnings.

  5. John Ryan on August 23, 2015 at 7:10 am

    Great post and good for you for retiring when you could get the summer schedule you wanted – I love it!

    “Retirement” is such a funny word. Many of us need to put caveats on what we’re talking about as everyone assumes retirement means sitting around in your undershirt watching daytime TV.

    • Robert on August 23, 2015 at 7:28 am

      I agree with your comment about the word retirement being undefined. I have long noticed that for all the articles about it, everyone apparently has a different definition

      For me it was and is an opportunity to develop new skills an work at new things. I haven’t owned acTV in years

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