Doug Hook – Guest Post

Having retired early at the grand old age of 56, Doug reflects on this life-changing step.

Steps towards a great retirement

Having recently retired early at the grand old age of 56, I’ve reflected quite a lot on this huge life-changing step. Here are a few thoughts….

Deciding to retire early is a huge life-changing decision, as I have recently found out. I’ll never forget, for all the best reasons, the time when I walked out of work for the last time. I had my leaving ‘do’ by sharing a buffet lunch with my colleagues and with the usual words being said. After everyone’s lunch break was over, I handed my phone, laptop and ID card back to my manager and walked out on what was one of the hottest days of the year. My mind was buzzing and I was grinning from ear to ear!

Planning for retirement

Deciding when to go is sometimes an easy decision. You have to weigh up your finances and if you have any, mortgages, liabilities or other debts. Quitting work on a “high” is always better than soldiering on after you’ve passed your peak, so this is worth considering as well. Getting advice at an early stage, preferably many years beforehand, should help with taking advantage of tax relief on additional contributions to pensions. We found an Independent Financial Advisor was invaluable in planning and pulling everything together; the advice isn’t without cost but it should be cost effective.

Actually being retired

I can honestly say, the first few months of my retirement have probably been the happiest time of my life, a kind of honeymoon period. Although many folk head off on a cruise, or even on a Harley Davidson, we used our first few months of retirement to enjoy relaxing at home. Sure we had a little holiday but nothing too extravagant. We spent quite a lot of time socialising with friends and making the most all that extra time.

Now the honeymoon period is over, I’m taking steps to ensure we use our time well and not just fritter it away. In no particular order, my time broadly falls into the following areas:

  • hobbies – for me this includes learning all about WordPress and taking up art. Next spring I hope to learn some gardening skills from my wife and transform our garden
  • health – taking time to stay fit and in good shape for the future is important for us all. Staying a good weight, eating well and getting a little exercise every day is crucial for me and I quite enjoy it! For me, this ranges from going for a gentle walk to running 10k as fast as I can. Gentle stretching and staying fairly supple is good at any age, especially so in older years
  • serving others, volunteering – this is vital for our well being. Having received so much over the years, this is my time to “put something back”. Currently, I’m an extra pair of hands in a not-for-profit coffee house, I help with a debt counselling charity and I’m exploring becoming a Trustee of a local charity
  • I know this might sound cheesy but I have enjoyed spending more time with my wife!
  • being a better friend – having more time for people and being prepared to invest in those relationships
  • DIY – this is my least favourite but a chance to be patient, learn new skills and make a difference to our home (and cheaper than paying a tradesman every time something needs updating)

Where could this lead?

I am naturally a curious person.  Many times I’ve had to hold back from thinking “where could this lead” because I’ve never had enough time.  Now I do.  It is lovely being able to explore a few opportunities to see where they may go.  For many, although their formal careers may have been replaced by retirement, there’s often still so much to offer.  Those years of experience, the ability to take a wider more reflective view, can be invaluable for many projects.  Being a mentor to a younger person earlier in their career or while getting their business established may be a possibility.

Looking ahead

I feel incredibly optimistic about early retirement and the years to come. It’s a gift. I am determined to invest time, effort and thought into my retirement to get it right. In doing so I’m hoping it will be incredibly rewarding and perhaps when I’m much, much older, I’ll have the satisfaction of having stretched myself while I had the opportunity to. Reflecting back on all the new things I did will be nice!

Doug has recently retired from a career mainly in the public sector: justice and local government. He blogs at and can be followed on Twitter @TheCycleHub_net