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What My Life is Like 5 Years After Retiring Early

July 13, 2022


It’s mindblowing that 5 whole years have passed since I quit my full-time job.

On one hand, it feels like time has gone by fast.  Yet, on the other, that so much has happened during the same period.

Most of this blog’s content is about building up your finances so you can attain a level of financial independence and, hopefully, retire early.  To complement that, I want to share more insights from the other side.

In this post, I share what I’ve been up to, where I spend my time, and some thoughts I’m having along the way in this fifth year or early retirement.

By the way, you can read my thoughts, reflections and lessons from my first four years of FI here:

—  Thoughts After Four Years of Freedom
—  Reflections on Three Years of Freedom
—  Looking Back on Two Years of Freedom
—  Thoughts After Our First  Year of Freedom

Maybe I’ll continue this lifestyle theme as a semi-regular update.  I often forget that it might be interesting to hear how someone is actually using their freedom.  Because in the end, that’s what all this is about!

So let’s do the rounds, in no particular order…

 

Volunteering.

We’ve enjoyed going along to tree planting days in various parts of the regional park this year, as has been the case for the last couple of years now.

During May, we were even invited to a volunteer appreciation dinner which was a lovely surprise, and gifted some uniforms too…

And of course, the winter months meant that long-neck turtle hatchlings were emerging from nests in the garden of our rental.  Regular readers will know this is a yearly occurrence and something that I’ve been excited to take an active part in.

Since moving here, we’ve safely released 298 turtles to the water’s edge of the nearby lake (yes, I’ve been counting, and yes, it’s an enormous lake).

Seeing those little turtles take their first steps and then later seeing them swim away or wander off into the wetland never gets old.  I feel lucky to even see them, let alone be able to help them in some way.

After checking the nests – which are protected with covers – I find some hatchlings which have emerged from the ground.  So I collect them in a tray and let them warm up in a sunny and safe area.

Later, I release them a short distance from the water and let them decide where they want to go.

Many times, they don’t move a muscle until they feel it’s safe.  So I sit there and wait, keeping as still as possible.  Then, eventually, off they go!

Some hide in the grass or reeds.  Others make a dash for the water.  And a couple even head left or right, wanting to go somewhere else entirely!

 

Writing.

As you’ll be aware, my writing and content production hit a bump in the road earlier this year due to ASIC’s new guidelines.  Luckily, this has turned into more of a speed-bump and lane-change as opposed to a brick wall.

While Pat and I did decide to end our much-enjoyed FIRE & Chill podcast (and sadly his website is down until further notice) there were many kind and unexpected offers of support.

One of the companies which has come out and is trying to create a safe place for finance and investing discussion (including sharing individual experiences) is Pearler.

Given how much my audience and Pearler’s customers likely overlap, accepting an offer to do some exclusive and collaborative content with Pearler was easy.  It’s a natural fit and everybody wins!

I’ve written a couple of articles so far, with many more in the works.  By the way, supporting this content is the best way to keep more of it coming, so do check it out and maybe even drop me a comment over there 😎

 

House stuff.

You might have heard that earlier this year we bought a house.  It has now been partly renovated to make it a little nicer (aka less shitty) than before 😉

The floor was grossly stained carpet and vinyl.  We also had a, um, lovely brown feature wall.  We decided to go with a light colour throughout and darker tiles, which we’re very happy with!

 

Still to come is a bathroom reno.  Pretty sure the current bathroom is original from 50 years ago, complete with purple bathtub! 😂

The main reason for buying this place is the location, which is a stone’s throw from our previous rental.  It backs out nicely onto the open parklands (pic below).  By the way, the turtles live in the lake just behind those trees!

We’ll probably get some outdoor stuff done too, like a new fence and a shade sail.  To start with though, we did splash out and buy three fancy bird baths!

There’s a ton of birdlife around, so we love spending time outside, listening to the birds and watching them do their thing.

I gotta say, even without doing the work myself, the whole house situation has taken far more time and mental energy than I thought.  And that’s been a bit frustrating.

Maybe it’s a personality quirk, but I start to resent things which take up disproportionate amounts of time.  That’s because there are so many other things I’d also like to do.

Obviously, spending too much time focused on one thing takes away from everything else.  That’s true even after you leave the full-time workforce and have more time than you ever had before, because the number of things you can do infinitely expands.

 

Book.

Another thing that I’ve been working on during the last 12-18 months is the Strong Money Book.  After I’d nailed down the sequence of the book, writing it wasn’t all that difficult since most of the concepts and principles I’ve written or spoken about in various ways before.

The editing process, however, has been the real challenge.  Deciding what stays and what gets chopped.  Where to expand on an idea and where to simplify.   It’s a balance between making the book as simple as possible, while giving someone all the critical information they need.

I now have an editor helping me through it and providing great feedback and ideas on where to improve.  Having spent so much time looking at the content, I definitely needed an outside voice who wasn’t so close to it.

Publish date is still expected to be towards the end of the year and I’m really excited (and also a little scared!) to get it finished and have it out there.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s going to be all of my favourite lessons, principles, and philosophies blended and morphed into a straight-forward guide on how to achieve financial independence in Australia.

I’m not expecting it to be a best-seller or anything.  I just want it to be available as another option for those who don’t want to read all the blogs, listen to all the podcasts, browse all the forums, and so on.  Anyway, I’ll keep you updated as things progress.

 

Finances.

Our finances are travelling along in a healthy manner.  In the last 12 months, our net worth has actually increased despite the falling stock market (thanks to Perth property – jeez, almost never thought I’d say that!).

Our investment income is now set to be higher than ever, after investing a lump sum following the sale of our old home (which became a rental).  I’ll probably write more about that soon.

Your wealth is cool to think about, but it does become the less exciting part of your life after you retire.   Because you end up focusing on all sorts of other  interesting things.

I’m not sure how much I’ll share around our finances going forward, since it’s starting to get a little boring for me to write about.  I also don’t think it delivers a whole lot of value.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably still share what we’re doing and why.  But it’ll probably just be as part of the conversation while writing an article.  So, the portfolio updates might be a thing of the past, especially because, you know, ASIC.

I’ll never withhold information that I feel will be genuinely helpful for you.  But at the same time, I don’t want to share semi-meaningless updates for the sake of content and satisfying curiosity.  In any case, I think the general talking points are far more helpful than the personal details.

With the newly beefed up share portfolio, our annual investment income will likely now match our living expenses.  Then, of course, we have some part-time income, and 3 more properties to offload, which will give us further cash to invest, improving the situation further.

So, maybe I’ll do these ‘early retirement updates’, where I serve up more of a lifestyle platter with a side dish of finance?

I actually like that idea, especially since you don’t get to read/hear many examples of how early retirees are living.  Anyway, that’s how I’m feeling about it – let me know what you think!

 

Reading.

I haven’t read all that many books in the last 12 months, which is something I’d like to change going forward.  For a few reasons…

  • I’d like to spend less time looking at screens.
  • Books are a more relaxing and peaceful way to spend time than scrolling (with no distractions).
  • I feel like I get more out of them.

Lately, I also seem to keep feeling distracted with random things going on.  Or maybe it’s simply technology destroying my attention span?  It’s been well documented this is what’s happening to us!

Anyway, I’ve long been a fan of rap music and decided to listen to a couple of audiobooks by rappers who are getting into the personal development space.  These books were The Perfect Day to Boss Up, by Rick Ross, and Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter by 50 Cent.

Both were enjoyable listens, sharing personal and business lessons they’ve accumulated over the years.  I love that some artists are now trying to help the younger generation by passing on some wisdom.

While rappers are often synonymous with flashy wealth and talking shit, a few are making a point of encouraging youngsters to save money, build businesses and make investments, instead of thinking short-term, chasing fast money and blowing it even faster.  That’s progress I like to see.

 

What’s not so good?

Well, one thing that’s playing on my mind is our dog is undergoing cancer treatment.

He developed a small growth on his back paw.  It didn’t go away and got a little bigger so we went to see about it.  Apparently, it’s called a Mast Cell Tumour.  This one had spread to the closest lymph node, so it was recommend both were cut out as soon as possible.

The surgery went very well and scans showed no cancer was detected further in the body.  We were relieved.  But as we learned, the odds are quite likely that it had spread (yet the small cells weren’t yet detectable).

We could’ve just left it at that and hoped nothing came of it.  The other choice?  Chemotherapy.  This would give the highest possible chance of halting/killing/reducing cancer growth going forward.

If we did nothing and cancer developed, it would basically be too late to treat it effectively.  So, we decided to go ahead with the chemo and hope that does the trick (still no guarantees though).

Chemo consists of 10 fortnightly treatments in total,  and thankfully there are rarely side effects (the dosage is far more gentle than for humans).

He’s almost completed the entire treatment plan, and there has been no re-growth of the tumour or any other detectable issues.  And apart from the annoyance and anxiety for him heading to the vet, our boy is just as happy and hungry and playful as usual.

“And how much did that cost?” you’re probably wondering.  Look, it’s a shitload of money.  All up, maybe $8k.  Or $10k+ if you include the initial surgery.

But honestly, I couldn’t care less.  I would happily pay this bill (and more) every single year for the next 50 years if our dog could live that long.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that!

Anyway, he’s doing fantastically well and we’re enjoying every day with him. Here he is, in his element, destroying a cardboard box into a thousand pieces😁

 

Time allocation

Managing my time is, strangely, an ongoing battle with myself.  There’s an urge to be engaged in useful activities to make the most of whatever time I have available.

But then, equally, I also want to leave lots of space for doing whatever I happen to feel like doing on the day.  Say, if something comes up or we just want to do something in particular.  Otherwise I feel sort of like a robot.

Here’s what I mean…

If I’ve already planned my day, then go off and do some random thing which seems interesting, I’ll feel annoyed that I didn’t get stuff done.  On the other hand, if I leave too much spare time available, inevitably, I’ll end up doing a bunch of shit that’s not very important or fulfilling.

Things like reading articles I don’t need to read, looking at social media, checking notes in my phone to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything, and going over ideas or planning future days as an ironic way of procrastinating.

So, it’s a balance.  The key, for me at least, is planning important stuff, but also leaving in a generous buffer of unallocated time, and just accepting that it’s never going to be perfect.  I’m getting better at it, but it’s a challenge nonetheless, and still far better than not having that time.  Speaking of which…

 

Don’t let your opportunity slip by

I know some of you are wealthy enough to leave work right now.  Yet you stay in the comfort and security you’ve become accustomed to AKA The Golden Handcuffs.

It’s understandable, because change is often scary.  But do you really want to look back with regret later at all the freedom you could’ve enjoyed and the wonderful experiences and perspective it can lead to?

“Yeah, like what?”

Well, that’s the thing – you’ll never have the chance to find out if you stay in the snug-but-suffocating cocoon of full-time employment.  That’s the whole point!

For example, I had no idea any of these things would pan out like they did.  Like zero clue.  Writing a book, moving and buying a house, turtles, planting trees – none of these things were planned or even ideas when I left work.

You can’t map this shit out.  Nor should you want to.  Because when you have the time and space to think more about life, who you are and what’s meaningful to you, that’s what can lead you in all sorts of weird and wonderful directions.

You get to experience life as a self-directed, independent human being.  More than anything, you get to experience life as a beautiful adventure, not some fucking roadmap with Siri and a spreadsheet telling you where to go!

 

Uncertainty and life

I know you’ve been mapping your goals and your life for probably the last 5-20 years.  But you have to let go of the reigns a bit to get the most out of this next chapter.

Strangely enough, the uncertainty is actually the best part.  Imagine if the next 50 years of your life was 100% predictable.  How boring and depressing would that be?

If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that every single one of us is going to look back at our lives and wish we had more time, not more money.  And we’ll all wish we had the courage to do the things we said we wanted.

And saying “my job isn’t that bad” is probably the saddest answer I could hear.  If we unpack it, this statement is coming from fear of uncertainty.

Unfortunately, there are no magic tricks to get you over this hump, other than to remind you that you’re already rich and if you don’t like freedom you can always go back to work, doing as much or as little as you like!

I don’t say any of this to judge you, but to encourage you.  Please think about it.

I wrote about this topic in more detail, discussing how to handle many of the fears surrounding early retirement: How to Actually Pull the Plug and Leave Work

 

Final thoughts

Given its been half-a-decade now of early retirement, I’m feeling quite reflective at the moment.  Well, I’m always like that, but maybe more than normal!

I hope this post shows you the way life can unfold in strange and amazing ways when you have the time and space to just follow what seems interesting and worthwhile.

“The meaning of life is to do things for their own sake” – Naval Ravikant

So, if you can’t imagine what you might do when you leave work (or even if you can), just trust that while you can’t foresee how things will play out, that’s also the the beauty of it.

Believe in your own ability to make the most of it.  Not in an ambitious to-do list kind of way, but as a casual explorer who’s grateful for the opportunity.

Because at the end of the day, that’s what financial independence is: an opportunity.  An opportunity to live a better life.  Maybe even, your best life.


24 Comments

24 Replies to “What My Life is Like 5 Years After Retiring Early”

  1. Hi Dave, good to hear that things are progressing well for you. I’ve left my employment and is on my leave clearing phase till mid September and am spending most of my time working on my house. Hope to have water and electricity connected within a month.
    Now that I’ve a little more time, I would like to catch up with you over coffee if you can get away a little from all those interesting activities.

    Cheers!

    1. Hey Ronald, nice work! Sure, I think we can organise that – send me an email and we’ll figure something out.

  2. Sounds like you’re managing to keep pretty busy despite retiring early mate, guess it goes to show that despite all the people who tell me they’d be bored in early retirement, my Mum was probably right when she said that only boring people get bored! 😉

    Sorry to hear about all the health issues for your dog, hopefully the chemo does the job and you don’t have to worry about it again. And obviously it’s great to have the money to be able to afford the treatment!

    Best of luck with the book writing, I’ll be looking forward to reading that!

  3. Hi Dave,
    Thanks for another SMA newsletter. I read all your newsletters. I have really enjoyed the previous two, both posted to Pearler, especially the more recent Aussie Vs US [global] shares synopsis. If I am interpreting your writing correctly, I wouldn’t take the absence of comments on Pearler to imply your posts are not being read and enjoyed. To leave a post requires one to sign in to Pearler, something that I don’t wish to do.
    If you are looking for an excellent read, try the book by Craig Challen and Richard Harris “Against All Odds” [the inside account of the Thai cave rescue and the courageous Australians at the heart of it]. It was a fantastic gift to me. When read, I gave it to a friend who also enjoyed reading it. What more can you ask for; positive feedback about a book from 2 perfect strangers!!
    Must be off, wasting too much of my precious time with this reply 🙂

    1. Hey Glenn, I’m happy to hear you’re enjoying the articles and updates!

      Yeah that’s a good point. I’m not sure on the readership stats over on Pearler, but I’d say it’d be decent since they probably have a much bigger email list than I do. Either way, it’s good that the content is available for whoever wants to read it, regardless or comments afterwards or not.

      And thanks for the book rec, I’ll put it on the list 😉

  4. Thanks for a great post Dave! I really value advice and wisdom from people ‘on the other side’. I recently moved back to Ireland. I was homesick after 20 years in Australia and just needed to return home. It’s a good opportunity to think about a new chapter in life. I have no idea what I’ll do but I do know that ‘early retirement’ remains as appealing as ever! I like your thoughts on the importance of uncertainty and how things happen to you in ‘retirement’ that you could never have planned for or predicted. So true. Keep these posts coming Mr Gow!!

    1. Wow, that’s an amazing move Jeff! How are you finding it so far? I hope you get settled in and figure out what this next chapter looks like for you. All the best!

  5. Sorry to hear about your dog Dave but glad hear he is doing well now.

    We had to make the difficult decision to help one of our boys move on earlier this year. While we are not quite FI yet, we had no problem paying $11k tracking down and treating one issue after another, and I will do it again without hesitation or regret if necessary for our second boy. But in the end, he had a cascading bunch of health issues, the final one being a hyper aggressive form of cancer and being 12 years old, we did what was best. Being able to give him the care and attention he needed without worrying about the cost was a blessing that words can’t really express. I would probably never have forgiven myself if we had to make the choice only because we could not afford treatment.

    1. Thanks Adam.

      You’re spot on, it’s really great to be able to make a decision like that based on what’s best as you did, rather than what the financial outcome is. I can only imagine how painful/stressful it would be if one couldn’t afford to try treatment. And the great part is we’re able to spend so much time with him, which was actually one of my motivators to leave work.

  6. Hi Dave,

    I’ve been following your blog and podcast for a while now and wanted to say a huge thank you for helping me on my FIRE journey! I was so disappointed about the effect of the ASIC guidelines on my favourite financial content creators and am very happy you’re continuing to publish here and starting to write for Pearler. A great match! Also looking forward to your book!

    On this article, I can relate so much to your struggle to balance making the most of your time and leaving enough time for spontaneity. I have had some time between jobs and I want to make something of this precious time but also don’t want every day to be a big, stressful to-do list. But without one it’s easy to waste time, or feel like you are. I would be eager to hear any other tips or insights you have on this!

    All the best for your dog’s recovery. Your words on this were very heart-warming.

    1. Thank you for the lovely comment Lily!

      It’s definitely a balancing act and maybe something that will be a continuing internal conflict. Part of it I think is deciding on a couple of key priorities for that day, and if you get those 1 or 2 things done, you can feel the day was well spent. Having said that, sometimes things happen out of our control and we need to cut ourselves some slack. Funnily enough, if you’re already conscious of your own productivity, you’re likely the person who doesn’t need to worry about it!

      1. I think that sounds like a good approach, with the 1 or 2 top priorities for each day. Just need to prioritise to stop that from becoming 5 or 6!

        Well I have my productive days and my less productive days, but don’t we all? 🙂 I guess it’s good to get comfortable with that too, as you said.

        1. Haha yeah that’s the challenge, and not being too hard on yourself when it doesn’t work out like you hoped.

  7. Hi Dave,

    Missing your Fire & Chill podcast, was one of my favourites. Looking forward to your book.

    My brother lost his dog to cancer, he went down the chemo route. Then a few years later we lost our beloved Labrador, 6 years old, to lymphoma cancer. It was devastating.

    Some sad statistics:

    50% of dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer. Dogs have the highest rate of cancer of any animal on the planet.

    80%, the increase witnessed in canine diabetes since 2006.

    56%, the number of dogs now classed as being overweight or obese.

    21% of dogs will develop a skin disorder.

    Dave, have a look at this (watch the trailer):
    https://www.dogcancerseries.com/

    Also, I highly recommend your read these two books:

    Feeding Dogs: The Science Behind The Dry Versus Raw Debate
    By Dr Conor Brady
    Amazon link: https://is.gd/6t8WYg

    Forever Dog
    By Dr Karen Becker
    Amazon link: https://is.gd/itu3s5

    Hope this helps. All the best with your dog’s recovery.

    1. Thanks for that Derek.

      Those statistics are quite disturbing, though perhaps not all that surprising considering many dogs are overfed and fed garbage, like what happens with humans.

      I’ll check out those books, cheers 🙂

  8. I’m glad to hear your dog is doing well; that’s great news.

    I can’t believe how tiny those turtle hatchings are!

    I hope you’ll post pictures of the bathroom reno when you do it. I think we need to see that purple bath. 😆

    1. Thanks! Oh yeah they’re super tiny, their shells are like a 20 cent coin.

      And yes, will definitely do the before/after of the bathroom when it gets done 😂

  9. So glad to see you’re back Dave! Long time reader, first time commenter 😊 your philosophical way of looking at FIRE has really made me reconsider the socially constructed ideas of success and enough; thank you for all that you do!
    Re: time management, I recently read a book by Oliver Burkerman called ‘Four Thousand Weeks’; it’s basically about how time management strategies are based on false or contradictory ideas, and how the notion of time looks in modern society. I think it’s right up your alley and sounds like what you need to read right now!
    Best of luck finishing your book, I can’t wait to read it!

    1. That’s wonderful to hear Nikki, thank YOU for reading my ramblings 😁

      Oooo that sounds like an interesting book too, have just ordered it from my local library – cheers!

  10. Great article as always Dave and very timely topic to help me out. While working towards an early retirement I recently had it thrust upon me a few years sooner than anticipated. After the initial shock subsided I’ve now moved into the acceptance phase and am enjoying the freedom of filling my days how I please. Being able to go to my favourite places, walking trails, pubs etc on weekdays when they’re nowhere near as busy is also a great perk. I’m finding the interactions are more enjoyable, staff more pleasant, good specials and I’ve even been able to enjoy cheeky extras like scoring the seniors discount meals when i’m still 20yrs shy (and don’t look old enough to be a senior) ;-b Thanks again for the great content and I hope all goes well with the fur baby.

    1. Wow, great to hear you’re enjoying your newfound freedom Jodi, and congratulations! Like you say, being able to do all sorts of things is so much better when you can go during non-peak times – a great perk indeed!

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