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6 months into my early retirement in 2020! Any regrets so far?
Today marks exactly 6 months since I took early retirement from my corporate job to pursue my dreams of life on my own terms.
And, wow, what a rollercoaster the last 6 months has been!
I went for a walk to reflect at 2pm today just as I did 6 months ago when I made that decision to quit my job.
To many, April 2020 was the worst possible time to not only quit a job but to move on from an established corporate career onto something else.
However, to me, it has been long coming but I never quite knew when it would happen exactly.
I started 2020 hoping that it would be this year, but honestly, the probability of me giving up my 6-figure salary, equity, bonus, pension, and all the other many perks was quite low.
Little did I know that 2020 had a different type of surprise in store for me, and that my life would be disrupted like never before.
Before I get ahead of myself, I want to give some background of my career journey in case you’re new to this blog.
I’m a Chartered Accountant by training and I began that journey in 2006.
Through that time, I’ve risen through the ranks (with many challenges) and worked in senior finance, working my way up to become a Finance Director and Chief Financial Officer in the investment business.
However, along that journey, in December 2017, I started The Humble Penny as a blog.
It was a passion project that I hoped one day would not only change the lives of many millions (yup gotta dream big!) but would also generate an income and run sustainably as a business.
For 2 and half years, I ran The Humble Penny side by side with my corporate job and as I grew in responsibility in my day job, so also did the blog in terms of reach and impact.
In the last 12 months alone, The Humble Penny as a platform (blog, YouTube, Academy, etc) has reached and helped at least 1 million people.
At some point, I knew something had to give. I had to choose a path as I had become too visible.
But I wanted to have my cake and eat it for as long as I could, so I carried on doing both.
Then ofcourse 2020 arrives and the pandemic hits!
My life gets thrown into complete chaos –
- Home schooling two highly energetic boys, whilst also being a dad and husband.
- Dealing with the demand of working from home and the challenges of my stressful job.
- Running a growing platform (The Humble Penny) – Now expanded beyond a blog with a growing presence on our YouTube channel and re-launched Academy.
- Then ofcourse, there was the minor detail of trying to stay healthy and alive with daily news filled with depressing stats.
Oh, I forgot to mention. There was everything else there is to life. Staying happily married, managing my mental health, trying to stay fit, etc.
Basically everything collided!!
I remember once walking into my son’s room and it was so messy and littered with toys that there was nowhere to stand.
My life was getting smaller and in many ways I started to feel choked by life’s many activities.
I'd had enough! 😤
On the 14th April 2020 after some consideration, I had the conversation that I knew was inevitable and came to an agreement with the then powers that be.
That was it. It was over! My world literally stopped for a moment. Complete silence at just after 2pm.
This was not just any other phone call to quit a job. I knew deep down that it was more than that.
It had to be the moment that I’d been waiting for all my working career. The moment when I say:
It is time to back myself, own my time and income and create the life of my dreams.
This was a symbolic moment in my life 😀.
I called Mary and told her and we shared a hug. She looked at me and said:
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. No going back now! Let’s now fully live the life that we’ve been preaching. We’ll make it happen.
What she said did not quite sink in because there was an immediate panic that kicked in within me.
Am I making a huge mistake here???
Do I really have what it takes to do my own thing fully?
I’d spent 14 years building my career and hustling with many challenges as a black man to get to where I am.
And now I am throwing it all away to pursue my passions?
I needed a walk. A very long walk to process everything. So I went walking for 2 hours!
It was sunny, I put my headphones on and dialled up Han Zimmer’s “Time”.
This is my escape tune. After that, I listened to Zack Hemsey's “The Way” back to back!
The Start of a New Life Adventure
As soon as I left my home and began that walk, I started to think back to my career journey so far.
Every single job I’d managed to get was a fight. Somehow, an invisible hand would open the door and I was that person who got the job.
I thought back to my days when I had just arrived box fresh in the UK. I had absolutely nothing and started with nothing.
The most I got from my parents was £2 per week because it’s all they could give me and my siblings.
Then I started hustling with my first ever job (without a payslip) as a cleaner and started making £80 per week.
That was the unofficial beginning of my career. £80 a week was a lot of money for me.
As I walked I literally cried thinking of my career journey so far. The whole thing has been so tiring and emotional in many ways.
From having jobs where I utterly
hated disliked some of my bosses to fighting my way to have promotions and have my place at the table as a black man.
Then I remembered 2 goals that have dominated our lives over the last decade:
- We’d hustled for 7 years and paid off our 25 year mortgage early in 2019.
- We are actually financially independent having built up a strong net worth over a decade.
But never had I ever put that security cushion to the test! I’ve always had a job and never had to rely on our savings.
In fact, my career path was so good that I could pretty much guarantee a 6-figure salary every year for the next 20 years at least if I carried on playing the soulless game of the City.
But did I truly (at the core) see myself carrying on with that path for the next 20 years?? Hell no!
The minute I admitted that to myself, an indescribable peace came over me.
I smiled to myself and said “this is it”. This is that moment.
Maybe this chaotic time in history is God’s way of telling me that it’s time to begin a new life adventure.
As a pastor friend would later tell me:
Your CFO role was a job but The Humble Penny is a calling.
Running The Humble Penny full time was a dream come true. Something I do with a burning desire that could never be matched by any job!
But before taking the driving seat in my new life adventure, there were some realities that needed to sink in.
I’d gotten so used to working those crazy 50 – 60 hour weeks that I didn't quite know what I would do with myself now.
I, ofcourse, had The Humble Penny… But I’d basically walked into a whole new world.
- No more boss to tell me what to do.
- There was no more team of people with whom I affectionately called “colleagues”.
- No more resources and perks of working with a multi-million pound company. Aka spending other people’s money.
- And did I mention – no more healthcare, pension and regular salary!!
Bye bye 6-figures and hello to the hustle that comes with no regular salary.
This point about a regular salary was really the source of a lot of my in-built worries.
All my working career, I was used to earning a regular income on a fixed date each month and my life revolved around it.
It paid for everything – holidays, home living expenses, the odd meal out, education, etc.
Then in one day, I’d put a line through all of that!
Each time I had that thought, panic would set in and then I’d remind myself that we’re OK financially.
Eventually, my 2-hour walk was over and I got home and sat at my table.
My new life and identity was about to kick off!
Did I mention that I’ve never had plans of retiring early to sit on the beach and do nothing?
I’ve always seen work as a core part of life but what I desired was the option to truly choose work that gave me fulfilment and purpose.
This was that moment where for the first time in my life, I didn’t choose my work based on how much money I was going to be paid.
I was doing it for fun, impact and adventure!
Transition From Corporate Life To Entrepreneurship
No one ever talks to you about the reality of moving from a corporate job where you have a fancy title and regular salary to doing your own thing.
It is not easy at all!
For the next few days and weeks, I lived with a lot of anxiety!
My wife, Mary, and my siblings and parents (all full time entrepreneurs) were incredibly supportive in helping me to look ahead and not behind.
Even though I knew we were OK financially, I still struggled with the thought that I no longer had a regular salary coming on a specific day.
My pay day came and went and that was the beginning of the realisation that this is now real.
I now have to find my income and stop thinking with my old mindset of expecting a salary but getting out there to create value.
To do the things that I had been doing for years as side hustles, but this time to do it for real in a business capacity.
It really mattered a lot that I already had a head start by creating The Humble Penny two and half years ago.
We already had a recognised brand with The Humble Penny and a lot of the foundational work had been done.
This was the best decision that I ever made and I’m so happy that I dared to do it even with a super demanding job!
It has given me (and Mary) an incredible opportunity to lead and truly financially educate and inspire as many people as possible at a time when we’ve seen the greatest economic declines in our life times, with many of our personal freedoms taken away.
For the rest of this post, I want to share changes and realities across different areas of my life:
This has been a pretty challenging time for my friendships especially because of the pandemic.
However, re Early Retirement and doing my own thing, the one observation is that I only have a handful of friends who are in the same position.
Most of my friends have day jobs and it has been a very tough time for most of them in terms of working hours.
So I’ve really only had a few meetups in person and most of it has been virtual. Overall, friends have been extremely supportive and what we’re doing has been a big inspiration for them.
I do have to plan a lot more around friends now though because although I have more flexible working arrangements, most of them don’t.
2. Marriage and Family Life
This has been the best season of my life from a marriage perspective.
I work with Mary everyday and although we see each other everyday, we don’t annoy each other.
We make each other laugh a lot and this period has really brought us a lot closer together as we’re able to talk more and share our thoughts together through the day.
In short, my marriage is 100% better for it.
I have also taken a much deeper interest in my kids’ education. Everything from school runs to homework to casual play, etc.
I’ve literally re-discovered my fatherhood as a result of quitting my job! I know my children so much better and we have multiple points of conversation in a day compared to life in my corporate life.
I expect both my marriage and parenting experience to get even better the more we’re able to leave our homes in the near future and begin to travel in some capacity.
In addition to the above, I’ve been seeing my parents a lot more and had a number of catch-up brunches with them.
This is something I never got to do when I work crazy hours in my corporate job!
3. Working Hours
My working hours are now capped at 30 hours per week compared to the 50 – 60 hours per week in my corporate life.
Every minute is literally tracked as I’ve focused heavily on being efficient and trying to prove that I can make more income than I did before for half the work (more on this below).
I quite like this level of work as it allows me to work between 9am and 3pm such that I can do school drop offs and pickups.
My future desired working hours is 20 hours per week, being 5 hours per day for 4 days a week. This is my current goal 😀
4. Working From Home
This is a lot harder than I thought because it requires intention to make sure that I’m keeping work life away from family life.
This remains a work in progress and I miss office noise and banter.
Although saying that, I still prefer working from home because I get more done and I don’t miss my commutes from Kent to London, which used to take up 3 – 4 hours of my day.
5. Mental Health
This remains a work in progress. I struggled a lot with anxiety as I mentioned earlier and panic, but I’m much better now as I’ve settled into my new environment and reality.
The things that I had worried about ended up not being a worry as I cover below.
6. Income and Mindset
This has been the biggest shift in my mindset practically.
It is also the one area that holds most people back mentally when they consider this journey of quitting their jobs to pursue a passion.
The biggest change in my mindset here has been the change from expecting an income once a month to generating an income each day of the month.
Yup! Each day of the month! This mindset shift has come about as a result of:
i) Practicing what we preach from a passive income perspective.
We activated #1 by creating products this year that generate semi-passive income.
This (in addition to other income streams) has helped us stay on track to replace my lost salary income (whilst working half the time!) in the next 2 months.
My core focus has been on proving that I can run my own business successfully whilst learning from the process.
We’ve also created new brand and corporate opportunities, which have helped to diversify our income a lot more.
ii) Hanging around with people of a similar mindset.
This has been a huge thing for me. More than ever before, I’ve spent time with entrepreneurial peers in mastermind groups for learning and encouraging each other.
This has been incredibly rewarding for me to learn new ideas and actually implement them because I now have more free time.
7. Core Pursuits and Fun
I literally threw myself into work (on The Humble Penny and Financial Joy Academy) since I quit my job!
This has been my main core pursuit outside of plans that we had during the Summer to hire a car and tour the country.
We also had plans for a 1-month sabbatical but that didn’t quite work because of the pandemic. Instead, we settled for mini-breaks of 1-week here and there.
Time away with the family at a UK resort was wonderful in addition to doing a safari with the kids.
Other core pursuits in this time has been my focus on teaching my children the “Igbo” language, which I speak fluently.
I have also been reading a lot more, eating well and exercising (although this remains a work-in-progress).
Has early retirement been worth it to pursue my dreams during these chaotic times?
Yes, 100%! It is the best thing that I have ever done and this is just the beginning.
I am happier than ever before and no longer have periodic headaches like I used to.
Life is more peaceful, purposeful and fun.
However, note that this position has taken a lot of work over the last decade to arrive at. In a way, it is no coincidence because we have been grafting to get here.
But make no mistake, there is no day that I don’t wake up being thankful for the opportunity to do what I do everyday. It is a blessing and I don’t take it for granted.
A special thanks to you and others who read and support our work here at The Humble Penny and Financial Joy Academy. Without our truly supportive community, we have nothing.
To get an idea of what our future plans are with early retirement, read our vision for the future we see
To see early retirement life in action, watch below a “Day In The Life” video that we made days before I wrote this post:
Do please share this post if you found it useful, and remember, in all things be thankful and Seek Joy.