Friday, August 7, 2015

Retired at 55 - My Experiment in Early Retirement

Five weeks into retirement and I've finally slowed down enough to do the thing I promised myself I would do day one. Sort through my box of memories. I can not tell you how many times I was asked how long it will take to be bored in retirement. Multiple times by a few friends and family. My close friends never asked. They already knew the answer.

Maybe some perspective is in order. I first conceived of the notion of retiring at 55 when I was 25. My boss at the time told me exactly how to accomplish this goal and it made perfect sense. He died of cancer and never really got to live the dream he helped me visualize. My first hard look at the fragility of life.


I had some annual financial goals in mind to make this happen. Ok - I had an entire spreadsheet of annual goals for 30 years into the future. I did not make a lot of money but I was a great saver, investor, and stock market wizard. By the time I was 30 I had $300,000 in the bank. By the time I was 40 I had next to nothing. 

Three very poor relationship decisions wiped out my savings. The IRS helped quite a bit as well. Raiding your IRA to restart your life can be very "taxing" on your bank account. Although that story seems tragic, the real tragedy was realizing I had never done much with my life. Work, home, save. That was it.  I never went anywhere of note nor did anything worth talking about at a party. 

In 1998 I gave up a career that would probably have killed me from stress and started working a small job with a pension. I decided my life needed a complete reboot. I started taking small trips with my daughter, then larger ones, then Paris with someone I met online a few weeks earlier. My world became larger no matter how small the event. For every trip I took, every movie, museum, play, concert, festival, vacation, adventure, I put a memory in a box. Today I dumped that box out and began to sort through it. All 20 pounds of it. 

I found a very eclectic life in that box. From Art Basel in Miami to a Nike Missile site. Visitors guides to many states and cities. A vast collection of movie, and play ticket stubs. A memory book started and suddenly halted. I have others in a drawer. Even an uncashed check. It won't ever be cashed. Every little scrap of paper has a great memory attached to it. About half the people involved are no longer in my life, the other half still are. There is nothing older than 2001 when I started to save them. I will admit I lived a very boring life prior to that. For most people a really big wake up call would be in order to make such a change in course.

In 2004 I was starting to get into the swing of getting out of the house and enjoying life. That same year I nearly died of a burst appendix. It took me nearly six months to feel whole again. The year following my little visit to deaths door, I took a hot air balloon to celebrate being alive. I have no doubt that coming so close to death compelled me to punch the accelerator of my life. 

On a lighter note I found a lot of Disney memories. I think of all the places I've been, I've only revisited a few. Not Disney. Over 150 trips when I used to keep track. There is just something about that place that resonates with me. Mostly escape from my normal life I suppose but right now my normal life is a total escape.

So in answer to the question of will I be bored. It took 5 weeks to tip over a box. I still wake up at 6:00 am every day and go to bed late. I never sit still and I never run out of things to do. I have yet to even make my list of priorities, my bathroom renovation, or plan my trips in detail. Maybe when I find some time or it rains all day. For right now every morning is Saturday of a long weekend.  

I know a lot of people have life long goals and work very hard at them. Mine may seem a bit mundane and not exactly world shaking. I will admit retiring at 55 started off as a theoretical financial challenge and not much more. Over the years it has morphed into a personal social experiment. A quest to find what I want out of this life. A mission to sacrifice everything I can do without to afford the things I want most. As a side benefit I found a way to jettison everything that made me miserable and live each day happy. If I ever accomplish greatness in this life, it will be to show someone else what is possible.  


  1. Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing your new life with us.

  2. Of all the many people in my life George, you are one of the very few who could give me lessons on how to do it better.

  3. I can't believe how many people still ask 'what do you do all day?' Retirement certainly wasn't the end of MY life, more like the beginning! I always say to people who ask that mundane question 'if you don't know what you're going to do, then you're SO not ready to retire'! Look forward to seeing your adventures!

  4. 9 full weeks and not bored yet. Actually I keep adding more to the list. For every one of my friends who say they will travel when they retire I ask why are you not now. I've been for 35 years. I just have more time to do it more now.