5 Week Countdown to Retirement Number 3

Our lives are more than a bit weird you know. In 5 weeks (give or take a day or two), I’ll ‘retire’ again. Sort of.  Ju’s kept this blog updated since we got back, but I’ve not much felt like it to be honest. Here’s my take on what we’ve been up to, and what comes next.

Before we came back from the last 18 month wander, an old boss of mine asked a time or two if I’d come and do some work for him. The big old multi-national energy company we both worked for had split in two, and he was working for the ‘other half’. From past experience I know splitting the IT systems out would be a MAHOOSIVE job, and that they’d not have the people to do it – cue pound signs spinning in the eyeballs of us contractors.

Or should I say ‘us ex-contractors’, as I was officially done with it, retiring two years back aged 43 (how?). To start off with, I politely declined. I didn’t need the money, we’re still saving maybe 20%-odd of our passive income, even in ‘retirement’, so we are doing fine. But. There was a small problem.

Our trusty chariot outside the power station I'm working at
Our trusty chariot outside the power station I’m working alongside

We’d started to head back towards the UK at this point, and I was frankly having a small panic. It turns out you need an imagination to retire in your 40’s, and mine was proving lacking. What would I do back home? An enormous void stretched out – the opportunity to have a go at pretty much anything, but rather than feel elated, this put the monkeys right up me.

Yep, there’d be a round of meeting friends and family, but once things had settled down again, just what did I want to do??? This unbridled freedom is sometimes like holding up a well-lit mirror to my naked body – it really shows me who I am, and sometimes this ain’t particularly comfortable. Not having work as an excuse not to do stuff can be a bit of a swine at times (hey, I expect no sympathy!) – you have to admit to yourself you’ve not got the courage, are too lazy, or simply have no imagination. None of it self-affirming.

So I caved in. Heading back to work was the easy thing to do.

The other part of it is the money. I know, I said we didn’t need it, and we don’t, but it’s great money, very tempting indeed. The work’s not massively difficult, and there is always the idea in the back of my mind of having an even bigger safety net than the one we already have. Although our finances have been spreadsheeted to death, there is no guarantee of ‘success’ in the early retirement world. It’s unlikely we’d be forced back to work, but we can’t anticipate every single eventuality.

We’d also agreed between each other that when we started all of this, that we’d want to work again, perhaps to pay for one-off fun stuff and crazy mad luxuries either of us fancied. We’ve not lined anything up yet, but watch this space.

So after 2 or 3 weeks back home, I donned work shirts gifted by my father-in-law (from a friend of his who buys them and never wears them, go figure), and driving a car loaned by my mother-in-law; fantastic folks the both of ’em. The job’s about 30 to 60 minutes down the M1, through the roadworks to offices next to a power station the company owns. They’re my old offices again, a place where I just about snapped from stress in the past, but that was in the dim and distant, and this time I was wearing jeans and determined not to let it get to me.

The job’s required me to head to Germany three times to head quarters in Dusseldorf (which should be fun, but isn’t – think working breakfast, 17 hour days and being crammed on a bouncy little late night plane), but otherwise I’ve been in the office or working from the Cooler. It’s a fairly easy going and slightly creative job, my boss leaves me to it, but is supportive as needed, and I get free tea and coffee.

It’s still causing me no small amount of stress though, an interesting thing in itself. Why? Why do I end up with a tight chest and a strong desire to attack my Belgian beer stash every evening? Everyone’s very pleasant to work with, supportive and friendly, so why the stress?

A bit of self-analysis:

  • Although the company’s smaller than it was, it’s still a big multi-national. This doesn’t suit my nature. Getting decisions made is just too slow. Information’s permanently lost in translation. People feel faceless. Processes are constantly garbled. The legal complexity of various IT outsource contracts mean there’s little flexibility for making changes quickly, or at all. It’s like working in treacle.
  • I’m a self stress-maker, it seems. Even where no stress exists, I manage to make it. This is something I have to work on for the future. Running in the evening, and avoiding the Belgian beers helps.
  • I’ve never liked sitting in traffic. I even got into motorbiking to avoid it. the sense of my hearbeats being wasted sat there, coughing out fumes and crawling along. These days I hate it with a passion. The M1’s being fitted out as a smart motorway, which means it’s packed solid even at 7am. And British drivers suddenly seem far worse than our Italian cousins – zero patience, bonkers risk taking.
  • And last but not least, I am, frankly, a weirdo. I see the world in such a different way to the folks around me, I struggle to fit in. I’ve found myself shrinking into my shell, just getting the job done but not having much fun in the process.

So despite an offer to extend my contract (in fact it’s been auto-extended longer than I’ll work there), I’ll leave at the end of November. I’ll have fulfilled my obligation to get my package of work done, and I’ll feel that I did what I set out to do. We’ll have cash in the bank/bonds/ETFs in ISAs to pad out whatever we do next.

During all of this time Ju’s been running her own part-time business, pooch sitting and working on getting Zagan ready for action:

  • The end section of the exhaust is corroded. I’ve patched it up for a year but it’s had it now. The rest is OK, but this part faces out into the road and gets battered. Ju’s found a local fabrication shop a short walk away (who knew that place existed?) who’ll make up a new stainless one for us.
  • Two new tyres are on the way tomorrow. I’m tempted to say which ones we got, but after last time I think I’ll keep quiet!
  • She’s sorting out a full gas appliance check.
  • We’ll then get him serviced and MOT’d ready for heading off again.
  • After I’m done writing this we’ll have a look at getting a bigger/shinier inverter – 1kW pure sine methinks (current one is 300W modified sine).
  • We’ve new wheel trims, after losing one bouncing around the roads of Turin.
  • A new filter’s been procured and fitted to our SOG unit – the last one was starting to whiff.
  • We’ve a MiFi and wall mount unit from Adam at motorhomewifi.com to fit to our existing roof-mounted antenna and try out.
  • We’ve renewed our ADAC cover too. They’ve stopped taking new UK punters now, but were happy to take our money.
  • And I’m sure a load of other stuff I’ve forgotten about – she’s permanently (if gently) busy.

So that’s about it, I reckon? Our thinking is we’ll spend Dec and New Year here at home with friends and family and generally taking it easy. After that we’ve an idea we’ll nip to the Alps in Zagan for a while, then maybe south to Croatia, down to Greece maybe, back home for a bit, who knows?

I’ve also written a long old list of things to have a go at (Ju’s always had a list – she has an imagination!), and am starting to get the enthusiasm back to travel and attempt new stuff too, bring it on guys.

Cheers, Jay


    • Hmmmm, ongoing debate about those springs Richard… They seem crazy expensive, but then damaging the van will be crazy expensive too. Outside Morocco we only had a problem with them bottoming out once, crossing a rough train track at speed in France. Is it worth the expense? Dunno. Jay

  1. Welcome back Jay (well sort of in 5 weeks) you’ve been missed. Your dedication to this blog brings joy to many people. Your honesty is refreshing. The info you give in this blog and the matrix blog helps others with their financial freedom and future travels. All the best.

    • Haha, I saw that term on your site guys (www.travelwithkevinandruth.com)! I’m forever trying to come up with a term which describes what we are without me having to explain it. The best so far has been ‘unemployed’ but that implies dependent on the state. Perhaps pretired is it? Enjoy your ‘time off’! Cheers, Jay

  2. I have to admit its a major fear of mine not having enough to occupy me if I was static in one place for any length of time. On the flip side of that of course is the fact that as well as exciting travelling can also be exhausting. I suppose most would say its a nice conundrum to have eh!.Keep smiling and making us all smile both of you. We are also heading back to the UK for Xmas after our plans to meet family in Portugal were thwarted by the Monarch fiasco. Looking forward to a temporary visit back to the UK to catch up with everyone.

    • Hi Andrea

      Unlucky with Monarch…

      When I just take a while to think about what opportunities I **could** go for, if I had the courage and energy (which maybe I have, we’ll see), it’s a daft long list:

      • Ride a moped to Mongolia
      • Run a marathon
      • Write a book about a subject I’m passionate about
      • Volunteer for local charities
      • Motorhome down to Turkey and Greece
      • Backpack around India
      • Get an IT job in a smaller business in the UK
      • Start a business
      • Go back to college and learn how to build a house
      • The list goes on…

      The real issue is energy, finding my purpose if you like. I’d not really considered that as much as I should have as part of the ‘get financially free’ bit. I’d just assumed we’d go travelling, but not really pondered what else there might be for me. Now I need to get focussed….!

      Cheers, take it easy, Jay

  3. Hi Jay, thanks for another informative post. Looking forward to hearing about your next adventures. We are new to this lark, sold everything and retired early, only bought our motorhome in April and aspire to follow in your footsteps in the distant future (current family circumstances have our travels on hold for the moment) but we have managed one trip abroad and just for the record and for any one else interested we did manage to get ADAC breakdown cover. It was a bit of an effort and took a bit of perseverance but they did accept us as new members in Sept. Cheers.

  4. Great to catch up on your blogs, somehow they stopped coming into my in box? 2nd retirement hey, enjoy your time with family and friends before more trips in the future

    • Oooooh, close Marco, close. 3 working days left to go, although we picked up some other bits of bobs of work (more fun, filming stuff in high-tech development labs rather than being sat in an office), so we’ll be busy in December too. Cheers, Jay

  5. I was wondering how you were getting your national insurance credits. It worries me that you will not be entitled to benefits, pension and NHS. I paid voluntary contributions for a while but that’s not available anymore.

    • Hi Paul. You can still buy NI credits if you want to (I’m not convinced the state pension will not be means tested by the time I’m eligible): https://www.gov.uk/national-insurance-credits.

      Our financial plan assumes we won’t get a state pension, just in case we don’t, but we invested in personal pensions for over 20 years, so we have a safety net. Cheers, Jay

  6. Hi Guys,

    Very open and honest piece that resonates with me!

    If you do head to the Alps to get back into skiing/snowboarding we can strongly recomend Les Gets ‘aires’ (N 46.14994, E 6.65822). It’s ski in/ski out at a chairlift that gives access to 640klms (12 villages) for €36/day! The aires is €60/week but, err, cough, no one seems to pay (?) Cute village too. Our Hugo B584, made a pig of himself spending Christmas & New Year here, but after 2 weeks it’s time to move on..

    Brendon & Lorna

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.