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One year ago I was 3 weeks from early retirement (age 54 1/2). I found this board and posted my combination of excitement and concern at the prospect. More than a dozen people responded with encouragement and shared their own stories.

As my 1st year of retirement nears its end I want to report that it has been great. I intentionally avoided taking on too many new community activities until I got accustomed to retirement. I had planned to take a number of short trips the first year, but delay long trips until I found out how my budget was going to work. This part of the plan was altered when my mother died and I had to travel between Illinois and Pennsylvania all summer to clear out her house and handle the estate.

The stock market has thrown another wrench in my plans. I intended to take a long and expensive trip south this winter. Looked good until after Labor Day as my portfolio was up 15%. Today I'm down 7.5% and my SEPP withdrawal is going to be $4000 to $5000 less than I'd expected -- about what I'd planned to spend on the winter trip. So rather than dip into emergency cash I think the prudent thing is to delay the trip until next winter. I have a number of other trips planned later in the year and will still be able to take them. Meanwhile, I don't mind winter nearly as much when I don't have get out to work on stormy days.

The great thing about retirement has been the flexibility to set my own schedule and do things on a whim. Rather it's playing golf, going somewhere for the day, or just reading on the front porch, I can do what I want, when I want, for the first time in my life. And there's so much to do I wonder, like most retirees, when I ever found time to work.

I highly recommend early retirement to anyone with the financial means to do it. I made the move five years sooner than I'd planned and had to scale back my plans a little to make the finances work. But those extra five years are going to be priceless, and I should still be able to do some of the more expensive things I'd planned in my early 60's.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me a year ago. You were right!

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