Early Retirement: A Success Story

Early Retirement: A Success Story

What’s it like to leave a high level professional career in your early 50’s and take the leap to engage your passion?  Meet Dave Harding, formerly a partner in an engineering consulting firm and now?  A very fit triathlete coach.  Here’s his story…

Start with Passion

Dave has a quiet demeanor, and is one, I get the impression, who thinks things through. He tells me that as a triathlete, you spend a lot of training time alone with your thoughts.  He uses this time to listen to his body for feedback, and I think, he also listens to his soul.

Dave’s passion is competitive athletics, something he has done nearly all his life. He first dipped his toe into marathon and triathlon coaching while still fully employed.  That’s when he realized coaching was what he really wanted to do.  He decided to pursue this passion more purposefully and began to act on his dream.  (How could one be more purposeful than completing several Ironman competitions?)

Prepare Perform Achieve

That’s Dave’s motto and that’s how he made his transition from fully employed to a fulfilling early retirement.   Over three years and while still employed, he took night courses to become certified and build his credibility in Fitness and Lifestyle Management, as a Personal Trainer, and as a Triathlon Coach.

He assessed his financial position in partnership with his wife to determine feasibility and timing for his early retirement. She’s still fully employed and the kids are launched which helped ease the transition.  He planned a phased changeover.  Dave moved from full-time employment to part-time contract work with the same company.  He carried out the contract work for a year before ‘stopping cold turkey’. That year gave him time to build his coaching business with less financial strain.

Dave enjoys the flexibility of his schedule now and the ability to have more time for his own training. (That’s 15 hours a week of training, yikes!)  The phased retirement approach gave him financial security to grow his coaching business and ease into his new lifestyle.  His coaching business keeps him engaged, allows him to apply his skills and talents to help others and propels him to chart growth both personally and for his business.

Lessons Learned

“Conceptually, have a plan of where you want to go.” It will be up to you to determine what’s next advises Dave.  It won’t be handed to you when you do fully retire.  It’s much better being pulled to something new, than being pushed out the door.  When you begin to feel less engaged in your work and secure in your finances, find what you really want to do and go after it.

“The social aspect is a bit of a shock.”   Moving from an office setting to working on your own can mean the loss of social connections. Ensure you maintain and create a social outlet that you enjoy.  It may mean developing new social circles and sticking to a schedule that gets you out meeting people.  Otherwise, you may end up wasting a lot of time alone at home.

My take-away from our conversation?  It’s up to you to live the life you want – especially in retirement. Plan for it and just do it!  Thanks Dave for sharing your story and inspiring us.  Must admit, I’m now a bit more curious about the triathlon scene especially since Dave mentioned he has clients over 60!

In Dave’s Words

“Find what you really want to do in life and pursue that the best you can do.”

Dave Harding, DEKK Coaching, Ironman Triathlete


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