What is Early Retirement?
If you are new to the concept of early retirement then you’re probably thinking that both options are pure fantasy. How can anyone retire before they become a pensioner? And why would you even want to? If, however, you’ve already embraced the idea and are well on the way to early retirement, these are real choices that you’ll have to face at some point. Not that that’s a bad thing. Decisions like these are among the most pleasurable you’ll ever have to make!
There’s no right answer of course. Different people will prefer different lifestyles. But for me, the better choice is the second one. Why? Well, for one thing, I don’t want to stop working entirely. Like many of us in Japan, I’m the owner and full-time teacher of a small English school, and I enjoy teaching too much to drop it entirely. What I don’t enjoy is teaching full-time, five and a half days a week. And that’s just the teaching. If you include preparation time and all the other jobs that must be done to run your own business, you soon find yourself working almost non-stop, and only truly relaxing during the winter and summer holidays. It’s a bit too much.
Also, as well as teaching, I have a host of other interests and minor business ideas that are constantly on the back burner due to lack of time and energy. Teaching is the third major career change of my life so far, and I’m surprised it’s lasting so long. It’s obvious that I’m not the kind of person who can do the same job all his life, and I crave additional challenges and stimulation.
So for me the choice is simple – I’ll work hard until I can comfortably reduce my teaching hours, then semi-retire and blaze new trails. But how will I reduce my teaching hours? Well, that’s another pleasant problem to think about! One thing I will never do is suddenly announce to half of my students one February that they won’t have a lesson from April. That would be bad for everyone. So that leaves natural attrition, hiring a teacher, or selling/giving them to another school. My wife also mentioned the possibility of her taking over some classes, which would be better still. But at the moment, natural attrition sounds like the best option. The students who leave every year to go to higher education or another city wouldn’t be replaced. This means that my free time would come gradually rather than suddenly, which would boost our savings and strengthen the safety net even more.
So how am I managing to do this? How can a middle-aged man, with a family, on a modest income, living in an expensive country, possibly reach early retirement? To be honest, we didn’t start thinking about early retirement until fairly recently, so in the next article I’ll write about what we did to prepare ourselves for normal retirement.