This post was written by reader Daniel A as part of our retirement series.
Early retirement had always been a lifelong goal for me.
Having worked for nearly forty years with only a four month break between jobs, and watching many friends in-and-out of work, I was fortunate to have a steady job that allowed me to plan for the future.
Yes, they may have had different opportunities along the way, plus some down time between jobs, something that was never part of my life.
Related: Have You Made Your Retirement Plans?
I watched many people over the years who seemed to take charge of their lives in retirement, and that was what I wanted.
My working years
I stayed with a company for thirty plus years because the pension was good, as were the benefits.
I lived most of my life by a calendar – having worked shift-work almost from day one – so having control in my life was important.
With a defined benefit pension in front of me, I considered the best time for early retirement was between the ages of 55 and 58 – given the stress of shift work – with a drop dead date of 60.
From what I knew of retirement pensions, 20 years was the minimum for the defined benefit to pay off. At 25 years it became good, and at 30 years it was a real gift.
I received a buyout offer only once, in the early 1980s, but another came along in 2008. I thought, “Show me where to sign!” even though it was two years earlier than a commitment needed to be made.
I signed on for the early buyout. I knew my tax rate would drop, with no CPP or EI deductions or union dues coming off my cheque.
I would finally be in charge of my future; no more night work or meetings to attend.
That was three years ago and I don’t regret the choice I made.
Since then, I’ve had opportunities to work part-time but I’m busy with hobbies and no longer want to be tied down to a calendar.
My wife still works, which has been somewhat of an issue, but her goals were different than mine.
There’s bound to be problems when one spouse retires and the other is still working.
Our solution was to move closer to my wife’s place of work, which saves her two hours of commuting. We downsized and now live less than ten minutes away from her job.
I have hobbies that keep me busy, something everyone should have.
I’ve read more books since retiring than at any time before – an average of one per week – and started buying them second-hand to save money.
I bought a travel trailer fiberglass that I call my man cave; it has everything I need for road trips.
Having a bigger house made it easy to accumulate stuff. Even my wife today sees there is too much stuff and thinks about why she bought so much.
I’ve explained to my wife that I have no need for $100 shirts or pants. Life can be simple.
My kids still cost me, but in a measured way. They want to make their own way in life and only come to me when needed.
One has started attending trade school, which my wife and I support, and we’re paying the bill.
I’m sure grandchildren will enter the picture at some point, but I have a plan for that. Show them the world, spend time in my man cave, fly them to Mexico to visit, and be caring.
Winters in Mexico
I spend winters in Baja, Mexico with no need to look at the forecast – just easy living.
I subsidize my life with the buyout money in my RRSP and I’ll need to decide at what point to take CPP.
For now I am thinking of taking CPP early as it will pay my rent in Mexico.
A couple can live well in Mexico for around $2,000 per month, even in the Baja which is more expensive.
Friends of ours rent a full house off the grid overlooking the beach, a great house for $500 per month.
The interesting thing about Mexico is when one goes shopping everything is fresh and there’s very little in the way of frozen food.
It’s just twenty minutes to the airport. I did not have travel insurance last winter but I will for the next trip since I’ll be going for six months.
I dreamed of spending winters somewhere warm every day I worked and now I live it.
I may decide to travel somewhere else for a change in future. There are many places that interest me.
Getting out of the Rat Race
I’ve known many people over the years, who’ve retired long before me, and they’ve all said to get out of the rat race while you can. Even delaying retirement by five years is too long.
Recently I spoke to a man who worked until 65 – he is 70 now – and he was just two years into retirement when health issues surfaced for both him and his wife.
The last three years have been hard on him; recently his wife was diagnosed with lung cancer and he is left to wonder.
All he could do was point out that they could have retired five years earlier but thought they were in good health. He is not the first retiree to mention this to me.
Related: How My Retirement Plans Got Derailed
The most difficult issue for many people I’ve met over the years is they thought they would be millionaires by the time they were forty or fifty. This is only a dream for most of us. The average working person depends on either a company pension or savings.
My early retirement goal was in fact life long, not something I considered five or ten years before.
Final thoughts on Early Retirement
Today, I rarely look at a calendar even though I lived by one for close to 40 years.
When I first retired I thought about working part-time, as many do. It just doesn’t suit me and I have no interest in working any longer.
I’ve woken up to an alarm clock no more than a half dozen times since retiring.
I don’t plan my days or weeks, there’s no need for such things.
The first year after retiring was an odd sort of feeling, like I had one foot in and one foot out. I still related to work but was living a different life.
This feeling has passed.
In the mid-seventies I traveled to motorcycle rallies and met many people who owned their own businesses. They spent the warm months travelling, leaving their business in the hands of managers while they enjoyed motorcycle rallies.
I guess this was the catalyst for me, the ideal life, something I wanted that helped determine my direction.
I’ve read many books on retirement and many fail to mention the emotional issues, which I think most of us want to hear about.
Retirement is a big deal!
We don’t get younger, only smarter, and we have our own life journey to guide us.
I live on less than 50 percent of what I earned when I was working, and I’m having a good time.
Anyone open to change (plus adventure!) can have the same quality of life in retirement. We really don’t need to be locked in to our work lives.
Pull the pin and give it a shot.