Reflections On A Year of Freedom

Freedom and Reflection

A little over a year ago, I quit my job.

In some ways it feels like yesterday.  But other times, it seems like a distant memory.  Funny how the human mind works.

Anyway, I thought it’d be a good idea to share what it’s been like so far – this thing they call early retirement.

So I’ll tell you what I’ve learned, or more accurately, am starting to learn since leaving work.

It’s a big life adjustment to make, that’s for sure.  I’ve read good experiences and bad (yes bad).  Like most things, there’s pros and cons.  As it turns out, we’ve found there to be much more pros!

 

First Realisations

Initially, I think we were in shock.  You know when something doesn’t quite seem real?

I finished my work after a stint of night-shift, where I’d normally get a 5-day break.  But after those 5 days, obviously, I didn’t go back!

After a week or two, it started feeling a little weird, like we were being naughty.  It almost felt as though we were ‘wagging’ from work.  As if we were supposed to be there, but were chilling at home instead.

Then it began to sink in…

  • Every day will start whenever we decide it will…no alarm clock ever again!

 

  • No driving to (or from) work in the pitch black of night (for me), or in peak traffic.

 

  • Errands and various shopping can be done during the quietest periods.

 

  • We’re more available to spend time with family/friends.

 

  • We have unlimited time to work on our hobbies or learn new things.

 

  • Exercise and health can be a priority, instead of squeezing it in around work and other commitments.

 

  • Time dedicated to preparing healthy food, even growing our own food, and learning more about nutrition.

 

  • No leaving our dog at home for 10-11 hours a day anymore, bored and lonely (which isn’t fair).  They’re like a child after all, so he gets his Mummy and Daddy back.

 

  • Complete choice of any work taken, hours involved or even working for yourself.

 

  • Plus many more things…

This stuff was pretty exciting, fresh in our minds.  As the days rolled on, each day felt a little less strange, and we began to carve out new routines, as we thought about the options available.

Here’s some of the things we got up to in the last year – Looking Back on 2017

 

Stuff That’s Sinking In Now…

Since we humans tend to adapt to change over time, we learn along the way.

Now, these might not be true for everyone, but here’s some less-instant realisations which I’m finding to be true.

Some of them I should have known already, but failed to appreciate.  And some actually surprised me…

  • Working on things is much more fun when it’s something you’re actually interested in.  And doing it, without the draining nature of a robotic, productivity-driven workplace also boosts it up a notch!  This leads to the next one…

 

  • Without direction, your mental state and happiness can suffer.  Maybe this differs from person to person?  But personally, I’m much happier when I have things to work on and learn about that are important to me.  This one actually surprised me for some reason.  Honestly, I thought I’d be totally happy just bumming around and not doing much at all.  But that’s just not the case.  While I’m still a laid-back guy who likes life to be simple and enjoys a small to-do-list, I still like to be productive.

 

  • Sadly, time still goes by quickly, unless you literally do nothing.  But remember, that’s hardly a good idea!  That only leads to boredom and depression – see point above.  So it seems a happy life is inevitably going to feel like it goes fast, because you’ll be busy doing stuff you enjoy!  Apparently, that’s the trade-off.  But I think we agree that it’s worth it.  Don’t you?

 

  • Money is less meaningful after reaching Financial Independence.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still important.  And I still find the game of investing to be endlessly interesting.  But after all, most of the time, money is simply a bunch of numbers on a screen, or a spreadsheet.
    Ideally, the new mission, after reaching early retirement, is about finding engaging hobbies or work that you’d do for free.  Because if you’re just doing it for the money, then it can’t be that good.

 

  • You’ll feel way more productive and energetic than you think.  After a soothing few months off and clearing your to-do-list, you’ll be refreshed and happy.  And a person who’s refreshed and happy is going to have plenty of energy to devote to some new endeavour.  This is provided you don’t have a bunch of hobbies to keep you busy, which many of us don’t, since work and sleep swallows up the majority of our time.  I was sceptical of this point too, after I’d seen it mentioned elsewhere.  But again, it’s proven to be true.  You’ll feel excited, and maybe even a little overwhelmed at the paths you can take at this point.

 

Final Thoughts

Overall, we feel healthier, happier and generally more settled and satisfied with life.  Strangely, it actually takes a bit of getting used to.  And you can even get a little down or overwhelmed by the thought of ‘what now’?

So it definitely pays to start thinking about what you’ll do afterwards, now, or you’ll end up free, but a little lost as well!

In some ways, it’s easier being at work, where you don’t have to think so hard about what it all (life) means, and which path to take.  But at the end of the day, it’s still glorious, and truly like a weekend that never ends.

And this extended weekend can be filled with all of your favourite activities.

Some folks who love lots of social interaction will find themselves looking for community work, or a people-focused part-time job.  Others, like myself – the quiet ones – are free to work on their own little projects and hobbies in peace and quiet at their own pace.

To me, Financial Independence is about being able to align your time with your true values and priorities, while building a healthier and more enjoyable life.

Anyway, I hope this little peek through the window of freedom has got you thinking!

So tell me, what will you do when you reach early retirement?  Do you have new projects or activities lined up that you want to pursue?  Or will your life stay roughly the same, but with more free time?

Please share in the comments…

 

34 comments

  1. Great to see what your retirement looks like… some really interesting points. We are not retired yet but hopefully one day in the future😊… one thing that resonates with me is how you can feel directionless without something to go to.. I always wonder whether I will be able to stay of my job and yet keep myself focussed … I am still young and would like to think my most productive years are ahead of me even after I decide to quit my job.. good to see your perspective on it and how you have dealt. Well done

    1. Cheers Max.
      It’s not as easy as it sounds. Definitely a good idea to build a list of new part-time work options or projects/hobbies to get engaged in. The mind is happier with productive things to focus on.

      You make a good point – retiring at a young age means we still have many, many decades of productive life energy to put to use, just a case of deciding where to direct it!

  2. Hey mate, reading your posts it sounds like you’re a very health conscious person. You take time to exercise and prepare healthy food.

    How did you go about exercising and healthy diet in those 10 years of frugal saving? I mean gyms and healthy diets (including lean meats etc.) are super expensive nowadays:).

    1. Hey buddy, nice to see you around here. Hope you’ve been going well!

      I don’t subscribe to the theory that being healthy is expensive 😉 That’s a good blog post idea, thanks!

      In short, walking is free, bike riding is near free, we bought a weight rack, bench and weights for $800 about 8-9 years ago. And for food, fruit and veg is cheap, we used to eat a lot of meat and eggs but now don’t for ethical reasons, now eat more beans, nuts, tofu. Even back then, we used to buy more on special or optimise by eating more of the lower cost (but still lean) meats which I preferred anyway.

      Like most things, I simply don’t think it’s as expensive as people make it.

  3. Enjoyed reading that post. Time is the most limited, non-renewable resource we have as humans. We don’t know when it will all end. Money, however, is an artificial construct which is infinitely renewable and therefore, by its widespread availability, is far less valuable than time. We need to cease selling time for money as that is a terrible waste.

    1. Thanks Jon. Couldn’t agree more!

      We can never get our time back, but we can always go back to earning money again. That reason alone, for me, is enough to make a case for reaching financial independence as quickly as possible, on as little as possible, or even just semi-retirement. Such a huge trade-off to stay at work to build more wealth.

  4. Love it! I glad to hear that you are happier and content with your early retirement. So many people always use that argument ‘well what would you do all day.’ I have a big list of things I’d love to spend more time on if I could, so I know exactly what I’d do, though at a much slower pace than life is today.

    Glad to hear it is possible and you aren’t wishing you were back at a desk 😉

    1. Oh that old line – ‘but what do you do all day’ – I get that one a lot! I think it shows a terrible lack of imagination and/or interests!
      Great that you’ve got a plan Miss B, I think it can be dangerous not to.

      Ha, absolutely not! Although in my case of warehouse work, it’s ‘back behind the wheel of a forklift’ and ‘back picking/packing orders’ 🙂
      I still have friends there and hear what’s happening, reminds me it was a good move!

  5. I retired at 47, husband at 50 now he is terminally ill and entering nursing home at 55. We own our home, I am financially taken care of and have more than enough in super. The thing is, life is about balance, we saved, invested, took great but frugal holidays jn a camper etc,. Now he is so unwell, I would of preferred us to balance our life, live well, see the world and all the things we planned to do now but will never do together. Just keep balance.

    1. Thanks for sharing Lorry – I’m really sorry to hear about your husband.

      You’re fortunate in the sense that you don’t have to worry about money while dealing with this. I think we can all appreciate your message, not to lose focus of what’s really important while we still aim for our goals.

      It’s hard, because we can’t see the future, so as you say, balance is key.

  6. Great to hear your thoughts on this Dave. I’d definitely still want to ‘work’ plenty on things that I care about and interest me, it’s very satisfying. I’m a fair way off financial independence, but I focus very hard on trying to live the way I would choose if money wasn’t a factor. I’m fortunate I have a relatively flexible job that I enjoy, and can still tick a few of the positives on your list like no alarm clock and shopping / errands in quieter parts of the day.

    I’d certainly rather cut it down to a 2 or 3 day week though and fill the rest of the ‘work’ with some of the more personally rewarding ‘work’ I do outside the day job! (including being a dad!)

    Look forward to hearing more thoughts from you as your early retirement adventures evolve!

    Cheers,

    Frankie

    1. Thanks Frankie.

      That sounds like a great lifestyle setup and philosophy you have going on there!

      I think you’ll be plenty busy, also managing and reporting on 3 different people’s portfolios 😉

  7. Thanks for the post Dave. I’ve found recently that as the kids are now in their 20’s (but still at home) and my 2nd job has come to an end I am starting to think about this topic of what to do once we retire in a few years’ time. I have to say that nothing comes to mind as yet … … …

    1. Well it depends on what you like to do and whether you need the income or not. Maybe you have a hobby or two that you could earn a little income from, or that just simply gives you satisfaction. If not, there’s probably at least 1 or 2 things you’re good at – perhaps you can help people in some way in those areas.

      There’s always the option of finding some part-time work doing what you were doing before…or something new altogether? You can always try something and if you don’t like it, try something else 🙂

  8. Love your work , And I’m enjoying all your blogs – telling all my mates about your site !!

    My activity’s would be around farming , although I do not have this as a background I really would like to get in to the hobby side of it ..self sufficiently based hunting / fishing gardening.
    I’m 37 years old and I reckon myself and my wife should be financially independent in another 3 -4 years.

    I can’t wait !!

    Again love your work keep it up !!

    Luke

    1. Thanks very much Luke!

      Sounds awesome, you guys are killing it! Self-sufficiency farming sounds interesting, not all that common I wouldn’t think.

      Not long to go now mate, hope it goes quick for you!

  9. Been early retired a bit over a year and loving it, I had a lot of leave planned before I went so I took it all in sections so I could get a taste of not working and planning what to do with ourselves. When I did retire we downsized as our children were all out of home and having a big home didnt make sense, so we bought something smaller that was where we wanted but needed a bit of work. Being a DIYer that suited me fine and has given and still does give me regular projects that keep me busy. Got into a exercise routine, the wife does her zumba and yep you can visit more people and catch up with family more and having a large German Shepherd also means we could walk her more and spend more time taking her with us as Sheps are very family orientated and dont like being left at home or kennels.

    I am going to raise one issue we found and that is some folk when you say you are retired look at you like you are some alien that just landed, family members also start treating you like you are a bit different because you dont work, its like you left a club or a cult and joined another! You get.. you are too young to retire, what are you going to do with yourself etc etc…..how can you afford it, you never told me you knew anything about financial planning, the stockmarket etc….
    Thats probably the only negative apart from having to wait for your divvies to land in the bank account and not having that fortnightly salary.

    We have also started travelling a bit more and seeing some of Australia we have not seen as well as making some regular trips to see family who live interstate.
    Just came back from Adelaide and have another trip planned to Sydney in a couple of weeks for a mini holiday…little tip I have is I plan some trips around company AGM’s so going from Melb to Syd for example I can claim some part costs for travel/accommodation for a AGM…..Smartgroup is my next one in early May and my wife can catch up with her sister while I listen to how much money SIQ is going to make me…been a ripper investment actually.
    Wilson’s have some investment seminars planned around the country in different states and have sent out invites so i might wander along to one of those and get a free lunch courtesy of Geoff Wilson and Malcom Turnbull…..mid May I think they are happening.
    Anyway thats a quick summary of how early etirement has treated me, been able to spend more time honing my investments skills too and finding out how much money I could have made being switched on a bit more in my younger years but retiring at 57 you cant complain and I can recommend it totally…..love the sleep ins too…

    PS There is zero info around for early retirees in general, Superguide being the best..most information is aimed at 65 plus retirees and I found a big gap in what your super fund tells you, bank managers etc…this site is a gem for stock reviews and early retirement musings….keep it going, its great value.

    1. That’s awesome Mark. I did something similar in taking my leave in increments, where I worked 2-3 days a week sometimes and it was so good!

      Sounds like you carved out a great routine with lots of productive and healthy things. Building that routine I think is key to avoiding the downward mental spiral. We have a bulldog and he sooks when even one of us isn’t there, so it’s nice to have more time for him.

      Haha you raise a good point. I definitely find some awkward conversations on meeting people or old friends. It is like you’re from another planet, great description! Definitely opens up a can of worms.

      That’s a clever way to structure your trips. We went to a Wilson presentation last year – nice spread of food. A good lunch is the least they can do for the fees they charge 😉 Also went to QVE recently, way less people and food, but good to see Anton and Simon say their bit.

      It’s true, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of info from people who aren’t flogging something. Thanks for the kind words. Great to hear you’re enjoying your retirement!

  10. when we FIRE i plan to study. study more cybersecurity where i am now but also human body and biodiversity. saying this we had some conversation with DW which lead to “why are you not doing it now?”
    after all i m fairly happy at work but it seems after all that the whole FIRE project is about discovering your true personality work related when you don t need the money.
    and i haven t found the balance yet 🙂

    i like your post and would really want to have bi yearly updates to understand the pros and the cons
    i guess some people around you might have started to ask questions maybe?

    1. That sounds interesting. Maybe you could do some part-time study for it now? Or is it too demanding?

      I think there’s a case for building up your ‘stash’ first, before branching off into new roles, just in case. But if someone is miserable they should definitely look for other work as a priority.

      No questions really, just thought this article would be interesting ‘from the other side’ and provide a brief and balanced view on some of the positives and negatives. Glad you liked it 🙂

  11. A great article that speaks about some real truths. Thanks for your unique perspective.

    This is my first time here and after reading a little it sounds like we are at a similar point in time but got there slightly different ways. By FI journey started at 22 after 2 years of working. I hated it so started a business instead as I felt that would be quicker as I’d have more control over my earning potential. After 10 years of frugal living and investing I also had a windfall when I sold the business in January last year. Happy days right? Wrong!

    For the first 6 months I struggled big time. Nearly everyday I felt I had no direction or meaning despite all the time I wanted to do whatever I wanted! Then the meta guilt kicked in. I felt bad for feeling bad and that wasted another 3 months.

    In retrospect I feel it was a habit or conditioning problem. For 10 years my main driver had been business and money so I could reach FI. Then, once I had it I found that impulse difficult to turn off.

    For those in my position I think the best advice is to think hard about what you’ll do after you reach FI. FI itself can’t be the only goal.

    I’m new to the FI scene and didn’t even realise there was such a big movement in Australia. Thanks for doing what you do 🙂

    1. Thanks for coming and sharing your story Mike! Great to get some more voices on the topic. It’s not always rainbows and sunshine, there’s some unexpected mental hurdles which don’t get discussed much.

      What you’ve described is called the Feedback Loop From Hell, as I’ve learned recently – we feel bad for feeling bad, which makes us feel worse! Completely agree with your point – very important to think about life after FI. Luckily I did start thinking about this, but a little late in the journey.

      Welcome to the FI community and hope to see you around here again!

        1. Haha it sucks, but we’re all guilty of it. I try to remind myself that it’s super unhelpful and to snap out of it.

  12. Thanks for sharing! Your experience shares alot of commonality with other bloggers/redditors that have recently FIRE’d.

    After taking a 8 month sabbatical almost 3 years ago, despite travelling, living overseas and enrolled in a full-time intensive language course, I realised I needed to have meaningful pursuits/projects to keep me occupied, contented and fulfilled in retirement.

    I learnt that I can never see myself as ‘retired’.

    I ended up deciding to start my own business that I can operate mostly location-independently. So I can combine my two passions in life: travel and making a difference in people’s lives.

    1. Thanks Jack – awesome stuff. Great to hear you’ve created the ideal working lifestyle for yourself!

      Your thoughts on retirement are exactly how I feel also. Retirement is just a word after all. I think of it in terms of ‘retired’ from mandatory work. Then the fun begins, where you get to work on more enjoyable and satisfying projects.

      Appreciate you sharing your experience 🙂

  13. That sounds pretty sweet overall! I’m late to the party, as I’m 32 and only just started my investment portfolio this January, but my plan is to achieve FI so I can play music without worrying about paying gigs too much and practice Buddhism more diligently. I’d also keep playing cricket and maybe get back into a winter sport… like winter cricket. I agree with you 100%, you need to have something to do to keep your brain switched on. Congrats on making it work out for yourselves!

    1. Thanks Luke 🙂 Congratulations on getting started, many people don’t get that far!

      Sounds like you’ve got a well-rounded life in mind already, which is great. I’ve actually been meaning to read a book about Buddhism, do you have anything you can recommend?

      1. Yeah mate, I started off with Happiness by Matthieu Ricard and it changed my life around completely. It’s not exactly a book about Buddhism, but it talks about modern life from a Buddhist perspective. I can’t recommend it enough 😀

        Ricard has other, more Buddhism-focused books too, so if you like Happiness check out his others like Altruism or his books on meditation. Then there are some great books by the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hahn if you decide you want to keep reading about it.

  14. If you’re interested in nutrition mate go check out dietdoctor.com

    They have a ton of interesting documentaries, video, and write-ups etc. I found them when I reached my heaviest and most undesirable state and it is the best thing I found for sure.

    A bit like that light bulb moment when everything makes sense. probably the same as when you decided shares with a divided focus was the right path for you instead of property. Anyway, it helped me and opened my eyes to a lot of things that everyone should know about nutrition but again like brokers and finance specialists the food industry has a lot of professionals with self-interests as well.

    Hopefully, it can help a few people here lose weight and gain their health back too. The first month is free so if spending money doesn’t strike your fancy, just watch all the info and learn as much as you can from them in your first month and if you need 2 months get your wife or someone to get a free month too.

    Anyway, I hope you get as much out of them as I did. I paid and continue to do so. Worth every cent. These individuals are changing the world.

    Sorry, Dave. I know it’s not money related.

    1. Thanks for the tip Ben – hopefully other readers may get value out of it too. Glad to hear it helped you and you’re living better now 🙂

      We’re pretty happy with our nutrition/health situation at the moment. We eat almost entirely veg/vegan these days and feel much better for it, and of course, we enjoy daily walks/bike rides along with weights 3 times a week. Part of the reason for moving house was to have more outdoor space for this stuff and be in a bike friendly location.

  15. Nice read! I have retired early two years ago at 34. I completely agree with everything you said. So far I managed to keep myself busy except one day where I felt like: crap my to do list is done, nothing to get up for; so I didn’t. I felt a little bad like I wasted a day. My to-do list these days is very small though 🙂 it’s either traveling, investing, scuba diving, or learning. When I am home I help my grandparents and parents a lot. It’s amazing to be be able to spend a Wednesday afternoon with them over a two hour lunch and just listen to their stories without having to rush off. I also became a scuba instructor and spent six months on tropical islands this year teaching folks. Teaching is quite fun and very rewarding i found. Right now I’m sitting in the capitol of Bolivia and am learning Spanish. I’m doing things I dreamt off sitting at the conference table at work.

    1. Thanks. That sounds pretty awesome! It sure is amazing to be able to put energy and time into anything that feels worthwhile, we’re both extremely fortunate for that!

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