My Mum Retired at 42

Actually, the above title isn’t quite true, since my Mum came out of retirement a year later (due to boredom as all her friends were still working) to work another 5 years before she and my Dad (who is 9 years older) finally called it a day. So, she retired for good at 47.

Retiring at such an early age was (and is still) a massive achievement by most people’s standards.

Forgetting Valuable Lessons

Despite my parents’ achievement, it never occurred to me that early retirement was something I could even remotely consider. That realisation only dawned on me when I came across the FIRE community in 2014. Before then, I didn’t think someone like me would be able to retire early unless I won the lottery.

I don’t know why but I forgot some valuable lessons.  How my parents were really good at saving money and how they made use of TESSAs (Tax-Exempt Special Savings Accounts) and PEPs (Personal Equity Plans), the 90s and 00s versions of today’s S&S ISAs.

My parents didn’t win the lottery or benefit from any inheritance –  they ran their own business and grafted to make it successful, made ends meet whilst bringing up the family. They did have some luck during the boom years in the late ’80s/early ’90s, investing in and making money from a couple of properties.

My Dad bought the car of his dreams – a late 1980s C-Class Mercedes, which he purchased second hand and owned for nearly 25 years. It was the last car he ever bought as he no longer drives. How did I forget that?

My folks actively encouraged us kids to save from an early age and I loved putting my pocket money in my piggy bank. It was when I started working and earning my own money that I stopped being a good saver, fell off the rails and became a bad spender!

I forgot that my parents did not get into debt (aside from their mortgage).  I have no idea now what possessed me to enjoy spending squander my cash in my 20s and 30s and be embroiled in credit card debt for years but I’m just glad I came to my senses in the end.

I look back on those days now as ‘dark days‘, yet at the time, I wasn’t actually unhappy as I thought struggling with debt and a massive overdraft was just ‘normal’! I assumed that everyone was the same, not that I actually knew, since credit card debts were not something you chat about with your friends or colleagues. My family? They didn’t have a clue.

Perhaps the spending on holidays and new cars was me trying to live up to family expectations but of course it’s not their fault, it was all down to me. I enjoyed the life I led, paid for by my credit cards but it was unsustainable.

As I had followed a different path in my job and career, I mistakenly believed that early retirement wasn’t available for someone like me, when actually it was, if only I’d thought about it and remembered what my parents did.

My Definition of Retirement

I’m not going to get into a discussion of what ‘retirement’ means since within the FIRE community, the word means very different things to different people. The above definition however is the closest to what I think it means to me.

I’ll consider myself retired when I do no work for pay whatsoever. That’s not to say I’ll just be sitting at home, watching day-time tv and letting my brain go to mush (although sitting at home and playing video games all day has a certain appeal to my ‘gamer’ nature). I have a long hobby to-do/to-learn list so I’ll be filling my time doing and learning stuff.

If I end up doing any kind of activity for which someone is paying me, then I’ll consider myself semi-retired. If this activity is a full-time activity, then I’d no longer be retired.

Anyway, my point is that my parents retired over 20 years ago and have done absolutely no work whatsoever since they laid down their tools of trade. All their living expenses have been and continue to be covered by passive income from investments and property.

In the early days, there were numerous trips/cruises around the world as they made up for holidays they never had while they were working. These days, they continue to enjoy a happy retired life, living very comfortably and enjoying a great social life within their local community, have hobbies and still go on short holidays and trips, with the occasional longer trip to the UK.

That’s the sort of retirement I would love to have when I stop working and one of the reasons why I continue to be motivated to save and invest hard. My finances are likely to be tighter than my parents’ (less trips around the world for me, haha!) but I can see me having a relatively comfortable retirement if I continue to focus on my saving and investing.

It is a shame that I didn’t recognise and take heed of their (what would now be considered) FIRE lessons earlier but I have no regrets.

I lived a good life in the past, am living a good life now and will continue to save hard to ensure I live a good life in the future!

Comparisons

Before embracing it, I very nearly dismissed the whole FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) concept.

The idea had piqued my interest immediately but at first glance, it seemed as if I did not fit into ‘the same mould’ as everyone pursuing FI (or having reached FI).

I looked on in dismay as I compared myself with the entrepreneurs, consultants, engineers, bankers, IT specialists and other high earners who were able to tuck away not just the equivalent of my entire salary year on year, but in some cases, multiples of my salary, for their financial freedom and early retirement. My initial thought was, ‘Crap, I can’t do this, I don’t earn enough and I’m in the wrong sort of job!’

Then I compared ages and everyone seemed so young – people in their 20s and 30s aiming (and on track) to be FI and to ‘retire early’ by 40 or by their early 40s. I was already in my mid-40s by the time I came across MMM – crap, was it all too late for an ‘old girl’ like me? (although it’s a good job I don’t look or act old 🙂 )

Another thing was that it appeared that you needed to make huge sacrifices to become FI. I mean I am and was able to cut back on my spending but I couldn’t see myself taking the extreme route and being a frugal recluse, living a cheap but not very cheerful (in my opinion) life or living like a student again.

More importantly, I didn’t want to be seen as tight-fisted by friends and family. Yeah, I know I shouldn’t care what anyone thinks.  While I don’t mind being a bit different, I do care about what the people I care about think, especially if it may affect my relationships.

So, it would have been no surprise if I had gone about my merry way, thinking FIRE was a nice idea but not for me.

Except that I continued to read about it with an open mind. Why? Because despite my initial misgivings, the whole concept really fascinated me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it!

I ran some basic numbers (on the proverbial back of a fag packet) and it dawned on me that I didn’t need to earn megabucks (no, I don’t need £1 million!) or do exactly what someone else was doing or did – I could just take certain (good) ideas and apply them to my own situation.  Yep, personal finance being what it says on the tin!

FIRE  comparisons are like comparing these two

More Comparisons

However, despite embarking on my FIRE journey, I couldn’t help but continue to compare myself to others.

People whose net worths were waaay bigger than mine after a shorter space of time, people achieving astronomically high savings rates, effortless side hustles and blogs earning income to die for. Some had already reached FI, or they were only X years away and they were only in their 30s etc.

Such comparisons were at times a little disheartening until I eventually realised that it was just  pointless comparing myself to others.  The only comparison worth taking note of is that of comparing my own progress over time.

These days, I can now look at other people’s very high net worths and mega savings rates and admire them and applaud them, without feeling bad about my own attempts and performance.

To say that I never feel any envy would be to lie, but hey, I’m only human – I just don’t dwell on the envy or allow it to become negative, I just focus on what I’m doing myself. Everyone’s situation and circumstances are different, whether it’s their background, age, stage in their lives, different countries, different jobs etc.

Numbers

Not everyone likes to share their actual numbers but I made the decision to do so when I started this blog – I just know that some readers like to see real figures (to compare with their own, I suppose, haha!).

Until around nine years ago, my net worth was a negative number due to my numerous credit card debts. I eventually paid these debts off and by the time I started my FI journey in 2014, my net worth was £74,596.

As at the end of August, it stood at £205,509.

STOP! Try not to compare my net worth with your own – we are different! 🙂

I didn’t even notice that I’d passed the £200k milestone because by itself, it doesn’t actually mean anything, it’s just a number since I’m not using it in any of my calculations. However, it’s good to compare how far I’ve come since those negative days!

[EDIT – I see from some of the comments that I need to make a clarification – my £200k race with John K is with my Future Fund, not my Net Worth. My Future Fund currently stands at £125,946]

Do you compare yourself or your savings/investments progress and how does it make you feel?

Retire at 40?

I’m way past 40 so it won’t be me! But who watched Channel 4’s 30-minute programme, shown on Monday night, ambitiously titled ‘How to Retire at 40‘?

I won’t go into the programme details myself except to mention that I didn’t think much of it, but there are some interesting discussions here and here, from bloggers who were actually featured (briefly) on the programme and one who missed the cut (unlucky, Huw!).

Watching the programme and seeing the young folk featured on it, I was reminded of how when I blundered into embarked on my own career in my early 20s, the very very last thing on my mind was retirement (although following my older sister’s advice, I joined the company pension scheme as soon as I was able to).

Traditional

I’m from the traditional/common way of thinking – go to school, go to university, graft for 40 years, retire in my mid-60s.

Nothing wrong with that way of thinking – it’s what many people do. I have been fortunate in that my 20+ years career (so far) has been largely fulfilling and enjoyable, and I have made close and life-long friends through work.

Despite spending most waking hours at work, I’ve been able to enjoy my life, including go on holidays every year, have enough time for family and friends, have hobbies etc. I have always been able to maintain a good work/life balance.

I will admit however that much of my life was fuelled by debt but that was me being stupid with credit cards until I came to my senses and paid them all off.

Throughout my career, I have never minded working for The Man/The Woman, although I guess I’ve been fortunate with my bosses in that they’ve all been pretty reasonable people (most of the time) and people who I respected. I may not be so fortunate in the future.

Be my own boss? No real desire to do that, sounds like too much hard work!

Anyway, what got me thinking about early retirement a few years back was stumbling across MMM and then wondering what I would do if I suddenly started to hate work and be fed up with the 9-5? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to just walk away?

Options

Well, without sorting out my personal finances, my only option would be to keep plugging away another 20 or so years until normal retirement age (67 for me). Ok if you like/love your job; not ok if you have health issues or dread going into the office every day, although of course, you can always switch jobs if this is the case.

I’m hoping that saving and investing hard now will build up a big enough pot which will allow me to choose to stop working full-time at age 55-56 (my stretch target) if I’m fed up with work by then. Some may not think this is early retirement but I consider anything <60 as early!

In the event that I’m not mentally ready to give up work then (like Jim from SHMD) or if I’m just content doing what I’m doing, I might choose to just carry on working and continue to save and invest. That’s the thing – I’ll get to choose.

I don’t think there’s such a thing as ‘too much’ in retirement funds (I won’t be anywhere near the lifetime limit!) but ‘too little’ would be a miserable scenario!

I’m barely two months into my new job and things are looking good so far but I must keep one eye on the future. I’ll be eligible to join the company pension next month so a few more £££s in the pot there.

Another win!

Anyway, ending on a good note: another month and another Premium Bond win for me (any wins for you, FiL?).

I won £50 so I’ll be lumping this in with other cash to be used to buy investments.

In it to win it, like the lottery only you get your money back (subject to inflation!)

Have a great weekend, all!