The Ermine is Retired

There’s only so long I can talk about early retirement before the time has to come to actually do it. That time was yesterday, to collect together the paraphernalia of an office worker’s trade ready to check them in for the last time.

Tools of a typical office-based worker’s trade, with unsightly electrical test labels

Moving on from something I’ve done for over two decades is always going to be strange, and my colleagues, many of whom I’ve known for most of those 20 years, gave me a great send-off at a local pub. The Firm bought us all a couple ofΒ  rounds of drinks, and I was armed with a pitchfork from the guys to hassle the uninvited to ‘gerroff my land’ and the wherewithal for a dinner with DW and a good skinful later on πŸ˜‰ They did a fantastic job and if anyone is reading this then thanks guys – it was really appreciated!

It was an interesting day, the first half tipping my hat to the old world, and in the second half of the day drinking beer and having a barbecue on the farm tipping my hat to the new world.

Moonlight barbecue. None of these good-looking young folk are me πŸ˜‰

I’ve been on leave for the last couple of weeks, and making the most of the time to set the transition right. It is in times of change that there is the opportunity to change old ways, but at the same time I shouldn’t change too much, for I have time enough in future to assimilate them.

The Island Dream opens this collection

Life without the daily grind is good. In some ways it feels like I have passed through a long, thirty-year tunnel of working, and come out blinking in the evening sunlight on the other side. Some things feel like the care-free days of childhood, but of course with far more power to affect things around me. And, of course, some of the marks of the long passage across sometimes stormy seas. There were hints of what I felt when I first read the early short story The Island Dream by Hermann Hesse. I read this as a young adult, the young Ermine was far more idealistic and mystical than I am now, and the somewhat purple prose resonated with me then. Hesse was 22 when he wrote that, ad it has a narcissistic introspection that one can only really get away with at certain stages of life. And yes, I do get the irony of writing that on a blog πŸ˜‰

Curiously enough I’ve spent less than when I was working, my car has hardly moved so I guess I ought to sell the damn thing before I start having grief with the battery. I’ve used my bike more – the journey to work and back at 6.5 miles each way was a little bit beyond my natural range but most things are now in a three mile radius which is easy by bike, even for someone who has spent 20 years in a sedentary occupation. However, cycling gets a little easier with time, and indeed I may switch back to the drop handlebars from the more sit-up-and-beg setting I used of late.

Getting my time back is one of the great revelations – so many things are easier, and indeed cheaper, if you don’t have to pack them into weekends and evenings. When you can work your day round the opportunities and the weather, a bike is far more useful than it is if you’re trying to make things happen in a short space of time. Fixing things is so much eaiser as well when I can take the time to change something, and then mull over what the symptoms are telling me. I was able to get the starter motor of the tractor serviced by having the extra time to work out how to remove it and taking it to Eastern Auto Spares who tested and cleaned out the works. Previously this job was looking like getting a mechanic out to service it, which would have cost a lot more than the Β£30.

Spring and Summer is a good time to stop working – the world looks like a friendlier place than it did in February when I first applied for voluntary retirement.

So what does retiring early feel like?

Exhilarating, a relief, and scary as hell. I can do all the calculations I like, and many things are more securely fixed for me than for other retirees. I am still changing one of the deep assumptions that I’ve grown up and lived with, and that is that you need to work to have enough money. I’ve aimed at that as a child and student, and lived it for the last 30 years. I am half way through my adult life. Imagine being on an airliner travelling from New York to London. You would wonder if the captain reaches the halfway point, and then announces that he is going to cut the engines. It’s a bit like that – the good thing is that the noise and hum of work has ceased, but it still feels really strange. I am not a particularly early retiree – I am nearly 52 and the normal retirement age for The Firm was 60 until three years ago, so I only had another eight years to go. Nevertheless, some of the decisions made with early retirement are all-or-nothing. If I found myself short of money then the option of just going to work is not that open to me, I’ve got no desire to stack shelves on minimum wage and The Firm has been busy trying to pay off its old gits for the last decade or so, so it isn’t hiring πŸ˜‰

Scary is irrational – after all if I simply divide my redundancy money by eight, add it to the proceeds of some share options and the existing revenue from my ISA I can sit tight and enjoy the Jeremy Kyle show fo eight years and then draw my pension at a shade under half salary. I haven’t lived off that much for several years now. Okay, so I won’t be parking a Lamborghini in the drive or going to New Zealand on holiday, but so what. Even if I make a pig’s ear of investing the tax-free part of the redundancy money and write it all off to zero, I still have a couple of years’ salary saved in AVCs. So there really not too much that is scary and it’s easy enough to get an intellectual handle on that.

After all it’s been common enough in the past for there to be gentlemen of leisure in the sense of this definition

A man who derives a living from their own financial assets or has other sources of irregular income leaving them financially secure without any typical employment, duties, or financial responsibilities. Such a man may be self-made, or they may be the result of inheritance, a trust fund baby, or an “idiot son”.

as opposed to the second definition in the Urban Dictionary πŸ˜‰ And self-made, I’m happy to say my parents are both still with us.

However, people of independent means do normally stick out as being hellaciously wealthier than their fellow-men. I don’t – I live in a semi, drive a 13-year old car. What I spend money on is very different to a lot of my peers, however. The proportion of my net worth held in property is a lot lower than the >40% typical of most people according to HMRC, and that’s even allowing for a slightly unusual property portfolio of not just my house. Clearly I should have been aspiring to a much more fancy house!

Scary is inherent in charting a course according to different lights to most people, but it’s not necessarily wrong. I’ve done the best I could and have tried not to lie to myself about the reality of what I’ve tried to do. If I could have shortened the three year period between starting to save to leave early and actually doing it I would have done, but I couldn’t see my way to achieving the goal in a compressed timescale. The corollary to that is once I’ve achieved the goal, then it was time to take the logical course of action. Each and every day I lose one day of remaining lifetime, just like you do too, dear reader. Therefore, if I wish to live life intentionally, I need to do aim a little higher that working for The Man in order to win beer tokens each day. And that’s what I have done. Who knows what the future will bring, after all the current long-running financial crisis could be the harbinger of Peak Oil overwhelming the assumptions underpinning industrial civilisation. Working for The Firm another eight years wasn’t going to protect me against that. Hopefully the future will look more like this.



39 thoughts on “The Ermine is Retired”

  1. I do believe that its now time to change the headline from ‘breaking free of the rat race and living intentionally’ to ‘now broken free of the rate race and trying to live intentionally’. Enjoy the post-Firm life though.


  2. @Monevator Thanks! The slip was probably more due to it being after a day’s worth fo low-level drinking – it’s been a very long time since university so I’m out of training.

    DW is also of the view that global warming might impinge before I cash in my chips but I’m not yet convinced, As for the answer to peak oil, well if there is one then we need to get our skates on for that time ‘twixt now and 2020 when the ‘recovery’ will be observed, else it’ll be stand up and fall over for the global economy!

    @Rob, hey, I don’t intend to stop living intentionally having broken free of the rat race πŸ˜‰ But yes, I may change the strapline once it’s settled in!


  3. Congratulations. I did this 5 years ago and whilst I spend a lot of time on ‘the farm’, I can’t believe how much time I still spend at my desk stressing about markets.

    I don’t know whether it is worry about money, gambling addiction, a habit of desk work or the social interaction, but waste my time in this way, I do.


  4. Welcome to the sunlit* uplands πŸ™‚

    * The intensity of sunlight may go up or down, indeed it may well ‘p’ it down incessantly from time to time – this is England after all πŸ˜‰

    All the best for the new life, and do keep blogging for us.


  5. Felicitations from across the pond my merry mustelid friend! Your example shall spur me on to retirement with renewed vigor.


  6. Sorry to have turned up a bit late to your retirement party, but let me echo the congratulations of the others.

    I’ve been free of The Firm for a year and the time has flown by. Not sure if that is a good thing or bad thing, though.

    Really, it was no great change for me to leave work in the sense that I just get to spend more time doing the things I like and less doing the things I don’t.


  7. Hi Ermine, congratulations on leaving the Rat Race.

    I did it in 95 and got my Pension & L/sum + Redundancy all at once.
    So far I have had 17 years out of the Company and 3 years off the State.

    At first it was great, then a bit of panic cut in will i have enough to live on till i fall of my perch. But now i have come thru it, got better organised and the last 15 years have been great.

    One thing to add to your ideas of things to do is take a month off in the sun in the cold grey days of winter, not forgetting the last minute cheapo hols.

    My next move is to sell the old home its a bit big to maintain for the two of us, we are thinking of selling up and renting a retirement flat in a grey-haired commune. We could buy, but if we do and don’t like it we are stuck. If we do like it we have the option to buy.

    Remember life is an adventure and once you no longer have to work to live. You can put all the effort used in working to enjoy life.

    Again lots of luck for the future.


  8. Congratulations, welcome to the club.
    I quit the rat-race 18 months ago, and haven’t looked back.
    It took 3 months or so to get adjusted to the new life, but I wouldn’t go back now for all the tea in China, as they used to say.


  9. Congratulations on your escape! I’ve got another 9 months to go, and can’t wait. I shall be really interested to read how you find the adjustment from one life to another, and I wish you well.



  10. Congratulations ermine! I am also taking VS. I’m not in a position to retire yet (age 35 with about 8 years expenses saved) but looking forward to a sabbatical and maybe changing career direction.


  11. Hey – just seen you’ve done it! Welcome to the real world πŸ™‚ The biggest mind-virus out there is that if you don’t have a job you’ll live in squalor. Like you, I did all the sums and my brain couldn’t believe the numbers – it is so ingrained in us, we are brainwashed from a very early age. However, to be honest, if you told me that I could live on less than a quarter of my annual working income and not notice any difference – I actually wouldn’t have believed you. The biggest saving per month that I didn’t take into account was not taking the diesel guzzler into work every day – this immediately puts something like Β£250 per month into the kitty. Although I thought about selling the car these past two years, what I’d get for it is not what it’s worth to me, so I guess I’ll be keeping a low mileage machine as a backup to the missus’ car. All my working life I paid for a bunch of work shy people to sit at home and watch TV/play computer games all day. Now it’s someone else’s turn to allow me to have a day-job-free life. I’m loving it still πŸ™‚


    1. Now 12 years in and 10 years since the last post above – doesn’t time fly πŸ™‚ Everything was going great until 3 years ago when we got hit with the Chinese plague and now life has become very boring. Really didn’t see this endgame coming but it certainly needs a complete rethink about what I now do. The major benefit of being retired of course is that I don’t have to go into the day job and risk infection from a disease that can be with you for the rest of your life. Now time to put together a completely new plan – I wasn’t expecting to do that at age 68 – but at least it keeps me busy πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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