While a lot of Australians hold plans to work for longer than usual, a highly paid executive from a prestigious university has opted to take a different path, turning down a lucrative multi-million dollar deal to instead, retire early and travel the world with his wife.

Central Queensland University Vice Chancellor, Scott Bowman, receives an annual salary package in excess of $500,000. And just last year, he retained his position for five more years.

However, after much pondering, the 55-year old Bowman and his 56-year old wife, Anita, decided to cut their careers short and instead, make their dream of travelling all over the world come true.

“I’ve never really worked just for the money. The money has been a really great benefit of working but it’s always been the job. That never came into it — that I’m going to lose five years’ salary. It probably adds up to the best part of $3 million, but I never thought of it in those terms,” Bowman was quoted as saying in a recent report.

A blue-collar man

Bowman is revered in the academe, as he is considered to be the youngest Vice Chancellor ever appointed in the country, and the youngest ever to retire. He is also one of a select few in his position who does not own a Bachelor’s degree.

“I come from a very working-class family, both of my parents were factory workers,” he narrated in the said report.

Bowman grew up in Northamptonshire and did not attain the necessary grades to attend a university. He instead joined the workforce through a hospital-based radiography training program.

Later on, he moved into teaching radiography, which paved the way for him to enter into a university setting where he remarked that he talked his way into a master’s degree in politics and government.

“I got a masters degree just at the right time, so I was one of five people in the UK that was a radiographer and had a masters degree and that gave me a very fast progression,” said Bowman.

Living for the moment

Bowman’s wife, Anita, who is an Associate Professor, also works at the university as the Head of Department for Medical Imaging and Science.

“I see so many people come in to be scanned and they’re so excited about their plans for what they’re going to do in their retirement and then they get unwell and their plans go by the board. Not that either of us are unwell, but you don’t know how long that will persist,” she said.

The couple explained that their spark for travelling was lit up once again during a recent three-month holiday that was spent across the outback of Australia and in Africa. The experienced rekindled their love for travelling, but work stood in the way.

“I’ve just come from a meeting where we’re discussing about 20 really exciting projects and the thought of walking away from that is difficult. I love the job, but there will always be a reason to stay on.

“The question is, are we willing to wake up one day and say, ‘well that was good, but we’re now 75 and those plans that we had, we’re not going to be able to do now, because of our age’,” Bowman explained.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2016-17 Multipurpose Household Survey uncovered that on average, Australians 45 years and over were seeking to continue working until the age of 65, up from 63 years a decade ago.

Of the 3.9 million people in the labour force who are over the age of 45 who indicated they intended to retire, the survey found that only 60% had a specific time frame in mind.

Seven% of those intended to retire between 54 and 59; 23% wanted to retire between 60 and 64; and half planned to retire between 65 and 69, with 20% intending to still be working beyond the age of 70.

Doing it on a budget

For those who are not making six figure wages and do not have a million dollars or more in superannuation to lean on, early retirement might seem like a pipe dream.

But the Bowmans think it can be done. They plan to spend the next 10 years travelling the world on about $70 a day, making their total expenses $25,500 a year.

“We are in an incredibly fortunate position, and I understand that a lot of people in Australia aren’t in that position. But then again, we’ve been following a lot of websites and there are people in their twenties doing exactly what we’re going to do,” said Bowman.

They have already purchased bought a four-wheel drive truck set up as a self-contained camper, with solar electricity and air conditioning.

“We’re going to ship that over to Canada and then come back to Australia the long way. There are people doing that for $32 a day for a couple,” he added.

Planning for the future

Financial planner David French relayed that 80% of his company’s work involved retirement planning.

He remarked that a superannuation capital amount of $400,000 should provide dividends of about $25,000 a year if the fund is returning 7 per cent on investment.

But if you were born later than July 1, 1964, you cannot gain access your superannuation until the age of 60, leaving you wondering what to do if you already want to retire at age 55.

French said there were different ways to fund that period but the most crucial decision to make is how you want to spend that time.

“People don’t really give a lot of thought to what retirement actually means. There are different ways to perceive retirement — one is to sit on the couch and watch footy and Days of our Lives. But maybe it really means just being able to control your time.

“That might mean you take on a little bit of work here and there, and supplement it with a little bit of money from savings. So you are able to call the shots about what you do with your day, but you’re still earning some money on the way through,” French said.