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!