Reality of Life in early retirement

Life After FIRE: Surprise

A lot of people are naturally curious as to what life after FIRE is really like. Is it really all beer, beach and relaxation? Constant blue skies, sunny days and fabulous lunches surrounded by all your loved ones?

Well – clearly in the spirit of no nonense on this blog please – I’m here to tell you that, no, it isn’t all like that. Is it absolutely the best thing we did, retiring early at 43 to live life our own way – for sure. And yes, there’s so many great things about life after FIRE that it deserves a whole post of its own. But is it all puppies and rainbows – no. 

So in the spirit of sharing the reality of life after FIRE – here’s my top five things that you might be surprised to learn about. 

1. You Still Have To Do The Dishes

Life After FIRE

Not quite our kitchen sink after a great night entertaining.

But not too far from it either.


Just what did we do with all those glasses anyway…?

Unless your post-FIRE budget included for a round-the -clock cleaner (spoiler alert, ours didn’t), your life post-FIRE is still going to have a bunch of chores in it. 

All the boring but necessary stuff, grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning – it doesn’t magically disappear when you reach FIRE. Seems obvious I know – but it’s easy when dreaming of life after FIRE to imagine there’s no need to ever do anything you don’t enjoy doing ever again. And that’s just not true.

The great news though is that you no longer begrudge the time spent on them. When you’re both working flat out, you get good, real good, at being incredibly efficient. You do things like plan out your work clothes for the week ahead. Because when you’re getting up at 4:30am to commute to work your brain is not ready to decide what skirt you are supposed to be wearing with what top.  

When you’re short on time – every minute counts. We had so many ways of being super efficient with our time before FIRE. By doing so, it meant we could have a few hours of weekend time that wasn’t spent on catching up on tasks but on us.

Post FIRE, it’s just simply all more relaxed.

There’s enough time for everything. Enough time to breathe freely. In fact, we’re now way more likely to be guided by the weather for what we do when. Hey we live in the UK – it’s a given. If you get a sunny day – we can grab the bikes and head out. Knowing we will have plenty of time to do the dishes later…and that that’s just fine.

2. Dreams Take Effort

Angkor Wat Sunrise

Ah, Angkor Wat at sunrise….a classic cliché..

The crowds are off to the left and the pond was muddy..

Still a surreal experience…. ..especially dodging elephants on our cycles later!

Many (many!) blogs are full of happy smiling pictures of people living their dreams. Which is great, obviously. What they often fail to mention is that these dreams don’t happen by accident. They still take effort.

It can be a bit of a surprise when you’ve successfully managed something as tough as FIRE to realise you’re not simply ‘done’. Well, not unless your idea of FIRE is to never do anything outside your normal routine or comfort zone again. But I’d suggest that pretty much everybody who actually makes it on the FIRE journey has a few more adventures left in them yet. The surprise part is that you still have to put in the legwork to make them happen.

Hopefully, like us, you have included in your FIRE budget for all/most/some (delete as applicable..) of the things you want to spend your newly found time doing. If you’ve read our bio, you’ll know we included a healthy travel budget, as that’s one of the big things we love. 

Having the money for your dreams is the first part. But your life after FIRE will be what you make of it. There’s a big difference between “we want to spend some time in SE Asia” and what that actually translates into. Even if you’re happy to make it up as you go, you still need to decide where to start and book that first plane ticket. Then there’s visas, insurance, currency etc etc. And if you’re anything like us and like to travel independently, a whole heap more.

The point is, whilst the dream and motivation was to travel – it didn’t just happen, we made it happen.

A lot of people actually find it daunting to finally be able to do what they’ve always said they want to do. It really sounds you out as to how much you actually meant it and how much you just liked the sound of it. 

When something takes effort, it truly tests how much you actually want it. For us, it took a lot of time to work out and plan our first six month slow travel after FIRE.  The same is true for anything you want in your life post-FIRE, it won’t happen unless you put effort into making it so.

FIRE simply removes the two biggest blockers to most dreams, time and money. The last one, your own motivation, well, that’s still all on you.

3. Small Things Really Do Add Up

Life After FIRE

Having time to smell the roses as the saying goes is awesome

It’s also very predictable, so here’s a picture of a dog’s nose instead. They love to smell everything after all.

Hey, it’s my blog, you can stop reading when you like 😉

Often it’s the big dreams that keep us on the path to financial freedom. The ones that are impossible to do whilst holding down full-time work. It might be travel, starting your own business, volunteering, whatever it is you are passionate about spending more time on – it is awesome when you can finally do so.

But what’s often not expected about life after FIRE is how much all the small things really make a difference too. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that if anything, our desire for shiny, glittery, heavily marketed objects fell even further after FIRE. And it was pretty low beforehand.

When you are time-poor and cash-rich, the temptation is high to believe the adverts promising you a better life if only…

It’s easier to be tempted in to thinking you really need that gadget that will save you 10 mins when you only have 2 to spare. Post FIRE, though, you have plenty of time and one of the best surprises is how enjoyable ‘normal’ things are again.

Having time for a cup of tea in bed in the morning, a walk around the block before dinner just to stretch the legs, sitting out in the sun reading a book. There are so many things that cost nothing at all but it’s not until you have time that you can really enjoy them. 

It’s also one of the reasons we found our FIRE budget had even more contingency than we planned. We’d included for a lot more ‘stuff’ and in particular, entertainment out than we found ourselves wanting. For example, we’d imagined eating out three times a week, every week. But in reality, we’re still having a great time preparing food at home and sitting out in the sun to leisurely enjoy it. And this was pre-virus days I should add before it became the only option.

So don’t be surprised if you’ve planned for a lot of external spend that ends up not materialising. Simply because you’re having too much fun with all the little things you never had time for before. Having space in your life for them makes all the difference. Just because you now can eat out more, doesn’t mean you always want to. Which leads neatly onto surprise number four.

4. Old Habits Die Hard

Life After FIRE

It is true, life without alarm clocks after FIRE is amazing.

It’s also irritating when after 20 years of being up early to get to work, you wake up anyway.

Still, at least now you can just roll over…

There’s a fair amount of research gone into how long it takes to form a new habit. Whilst the popular answer may still be 21 days, this piece by James Clear is a great look into how long it really takes – concluding at anywhere between 2 – 8 months realistically.

Pretty much everyone’s FIRE journey is going to be over several years. So perhaps it’s really not that surprising after all that the habits you gain on your journey to financial independence don’t disappear in a puff of smoke the day after you quit.

As mentioned earlier,  we purposely added a lot more budget for all the extra travel we planned on doing once FIRE’d. Like, a lot more. Basically, we have the budget to be able to travel without needing to spend hours searching for the best deal, maxing the usage of credit card airmiles and all the many other travel hacks I’ve learned over the years.

But you know what – I still do it. Partly I suspect because I’m a total travel nerd and I actually really enjoy the whole research piece. But it’s also because the habit of looking for good value is now so engrained, it’s hard to see why I wouldn’t do it.

Why would I suddenly want to spend more just because I can? 

So when you get to your own post-FIRE life, don’t be surprised when you carry on doing a lot of the things you thought you would stop. It takes a long while to change a habit, if you even want to. After all, the good habits that got you to FIRE remain exactly that – good habits.

Which leads us nicely, if accidentally, into our last potential surprise of life after FIRE…  

5. You Are Still You

Life After FIRE

FIRE can sometimes feel like wearing a mask, especially if you don’t tell many people what you are doing.

But it’ll still be you underneath when you take that mask off.

Hopefully, anyway. Not a strange ball like this. Who knows why eh.

It can be tempting when on your journey to financial independence to spend a lot of your time saying things like;

It’ll all be ok once I just FIRE. Things will be different then.

The problem with that is – it’s not always true. Yes, a lot of things will be different. You will have a lot more free time and, hopefully, money is no longer a major concern. Life has a lot more options, in a good way.

However, you don’t change overnight just because you’re financially independent. If you struggled with something before FIRE, it’ll continue to be a struggle afterwards. If you had issues in your relationships, with your family, your health – they’re still issues after you quit your day job. It can be tempting to think that without the stresses of money, it will all be magically ok, all the time. Whereas in reality, as ever, all the good things in life still take effort.

And that’s what life after FIRE does give you – it’s time, enough time to finally do something about whatever particular issues you want to resolve.

For example, in our lives pre-FIRE it was very very difficult to keep a healthy weight. When your daily commute starts at 5am and you get home by 8pm if it’s a good day – you really don’t feel like going for a run..! So you compromise. You try and use your lunch-break for a decent walk and you work out at the weekend. Which eats into your precious free time. And let’s not get started on all the “quick half after work” events that ruin your no drinking plans..

Whereas in life after FIRE, I can now easily include a morning treadmill session during the week and take the weekend off if I want. We’re both in far better shape now in our forties than we were in our thirties – which is frankly reassuring for all the physical hikes & bike rides we still have planned. It’s also way easier to stick to our non-drinking days and have a much better balanced diet all round. 

Don’t expect FIRE to magically resolve everything – if anything, it simply removes the excuses to not be the person you want to be and live the life you want to have. Having time does make all the difference – but it’s still up to you to use it well and make the changes you want.

What Do You Expect In Your Life After FIRE?

So we covered a fair bit of ground there and I think perhaps the best way to sum it all up is to borrow this quote from another favourite, Dr Seuss;

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

Life after FIRE has, now almost two years in, been truly amazing. But it doesn’t just happen by itself. I’ve read many stories of people who have successfully managed the finance side only to fall apart when faced with their reality of taking ownership of their lives. No more excuses to hide behind.

This is why whilst most people focus on the financial side of the journey – I think it’s as important to spend time preparing for the transition. And I’ve got some great tips for that in a post to come soon.  But for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed my short introduction to some of the potential surprises you might find in your life after FIRE.

I’d love to hear about what you think your biggest surprise will be – or was if already there. Let me know in the comments below!

Otherwise, until next time!

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7 thoughts on “Life After FIRE: Surprise”

  1. Pingback: Best Blog Posts - 2020 - Bella Wanana

  2. Nice, thanks for sharing. What’s your day to day like now, if you haven’t shared that already? Also, do you pencil in alone time for yourself, or do you guys pretty much do stuff together all the time?

    Covid quarantine was kind of a trial where everyone stayed home, but I think that was an extreme 24/7 situation where it got a bit tense at times, especially with the kids driving us up the wall at times.

    1. Hey Rich, glad you enjoyed.

      No, I haven’t shared about that as yet. I suppose the best way to answer it is we’re together a lot but not necessarily always together, if that makes sense. In that I might curl up outside in the sun with a book whilst S gets on tinkering with his beer. We both enjoy our own space for sure but we do tend towards being one of those irritating couples who just enjoy being together too. Guess that’s why we celebrated 20 years this year 😉

      So for us the whole Covid thing really wasn’t very different at all in terms of our time together. But we don’t have kids and I can totally get how that makes a big difference – I would go a little nuts without some time to myself for sure!

  3. Not quite there yet but I’m really enjoying your posts! They help to set the correct expectations and even show a few blindspots along the way.

    1. Cheers Kevin! Great feedback & love that you are enjoying it.

      If I’ve managed to help too, that’s even better. I’ve never been a fan of pretending, it’s just not that helpful to anyone but I’m really glad it’s appreciated here.

      Keep going & it’ll happen…let us know how you’re getting on!



  4. This is a really interesting read + it’s great to see a honest take on what it’s like retiring young! It’s a shame the washing up won’t do itself…

    But you’ve worked hard for this and I’m glad that you’re on track to enjoy it! Thanks for a great post

    1. Thanks Emma! I always find blogs more helpful if they share the bad with the good, so I’m very happy to hear you also appreciate the honesty.

      Yes, it’s been a lot of hard work but it’s so absolutely worth it. Look forwards to continue to hear how you are doing on your own journey too.



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