Office? What office? The sun is shining and the only decision to be made today is whether to make a picnic or stop at a charming little café.

Afterwards, there will be an ice-cold beer and a lazy afternoon of reading.

Life as a retired gentleman is exactly as Jason Buckley imagined it would be when he bid farewell to his stressful corporate life last year.

On the day he "threw in the towel", as he puts it, there was no traditional carriage clock or gold watch.

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There were, however, some much sweeter gifts.

"I remember walking out and punching the air with joy," recalls the former IT executive. His wife Julie, a marketing manager, had also grown weary of corporate life and of "never wanting to get out of bed in the morning".

The astonishing thing about the Buckleys' leap into retirement is that it came so early. When they quit the rat race they were just 43 years old.

They are featured in a new British TV programme, How To Retire At 40, which challenges the current doom-laden theory that we will all be working into our 70s.

If shows like Location, Location, Location were called property porn, then this would be best described as pension porn.

It's by no means easy. The thrust of the programme is that you need to save at least 50 per cent of your earnings - ideally 75 per cent - to be able to live the early retirement dream.

Today Jason, 45, and Julie, 44, are speaking to me from their new home, a campervan which has taken them from the East Midlands to all corners of Europe. Today's location is the South of France.

ACQUISITION SYNDROME

It's a far cry from their previous life.

Back then, they earned around £90,000 ($160,300) a year and had a three-bedroom house, a double garage, two cars, a motorbike and even a hot tub.

Now, it is just them and the open road. Jason has swapped his briefcase for a beard and Julie can't remember the last time she wore tights. "We can go where we want, when we want," she says. "We are living the dream."

Aren't they a bit young for retirement, though? There was a time they would have thought so, too.

"I'd always thought you had to win the lottery to retire early, or come up with a business idea that would net you a fortune. I used to sit in the pub trying to come up with that idea, but never could."

So how have the Buckleys done it? According to Julie, their "lightbulb moment" came in 1996 when they watched a TV show about those who pay their mortgages off early.

"We were earning decent amounts but the money was going out as fast as it was coming in," says Jason.

Their problem? They suffered from "acquisition syndrome", meaning that every pay cheque was immediately spent.

"Jason loved gadgets," says Julie. "We had bikes, laptops, TVs everywhere, all that sort of stuff. We even had a computer in the kitchen. It never got used, of course."

The programme got them lusting after an alternative lifestyle - one that involved fewer possessions and more travelling. But the first step would be to downsize everything, particularly their spending.

"I remember just standing in the garage, asking myself: 'What were we thinking?' We had four bikes in there, and we never go biking. I had four angle grinders. I can't remember why. I think I couldn't find one for some project, so bought another. I was almost crying at the realisation of how much money we'd wasted."

They went through their outgoings. The gym memberships that were never used were cancelled. Ditto magazine subscriptions and TV packages.

HOLY GRAIL OF EARLY RETIREMENT

Pretty much overnight they became high earners living a frugal lifestyle. Out went the expensive meals and the $35 bottle of wine every night. Both of them stopped buying clothes. Birthday presents were banned.

"Before, Jason would always buy me something from Amazon. After our lightbulb moment, he'd show me the web page and say: 'I was going to buy you this, but I haven't.'

"At Christmas, we told friends and family that we weren't going to be buying big presents. The overwhelming reaction was: 'Thank God!'

"We ended up doing a deal where we all spent £1 on each other at the pound shop."

In just a matter of weeks, they went from spending pretty much all their earnings to saving over half.

"It wasn't as difficult as you might imagine," says Jason.

"Of course it would have been very difficult if, say, I'd been made redundant. But this was a choice. And the more we saved the less stressful our lives became.

"It became quite addictive, seeing how quickly we were paying down the mortgage and seeing the savings account swell."

By 2011, they had cut their spending down to just £13,000 ($23,000) a year... enough to be "brave enough" to quit their jobs to go travelling.

"It was only for a year to start with. Then we came back and I did some contract work - which actually paid more than my office job had done, so we could pour most of that into the savings pot," says Jason.

By this point they had rented out their home - now mortgage-free - so when they returned to the UK they rented a much smaller, two-bedroom property.

"It made financial sense. We'd spent a year living in a campervan, so there was no need to go back to a huge house. It was all working towards one goal - getting our living costs down as low as they would go."

This is, the programme insists, the Holy Grail for anyone who wants to retire early. If you want a scatter-cash lifestyle then you will pay for it - in years at work.

The show's financial experts estimate that you need a nest egg equivalent to 25 times your annual salary to retire in your 40s.

Jason and Julie's goal was always to set themselves up with the all-important "residual income" - one which continues to come in "even if you are on a beach in Goa".

For them, this comes in the form of rental income. Their East Midlands property is still rented out, netting them a healthy yearly yield. Julie also had a property before they were married, which is also rented out.

During their belt-tightening years they also invested in a third property, a former butcher's shop in need of extensive renovation.

The result? They earn £20,000 ($36,000) a year, without having to lift a finger. "And our outgoings, even while on the road all the time, are now £15,000 ($27,000) a year, so we are still managing to put some money away," says Jason. "I know it wouldn't be the lifestyle for everyone, but for us it is the dream."

The couple have a travel blog, which details their travels, and how they achieved financial freedom.

Jason and Julie travel around Europe in their campervan. Photo / ourtour.co.uk
Jason and Julie travel around Europe in their campervan. Photo / ourtour.co.uk

Interestingly, it's not just high earners for whom early retirement is possible. The programme focuses on the efforts of another couple who want to quit their jobs before they turn 50.

"Ideally it would have been earlier, but I'm pregnant again," says Nicola Richardson, 30, who lives in Darlington, County Durham, with her partner Dave and their 1-year-old son, Alfie. Nicola is a part-time teacher; Dave is a postman. Their combined income is around £28,000 ($50,000).

Yet for several years they have been managing to save £14,000 ($25,000) a year. How? By becoming what the programme calls "super-savers".

There is an army of super-savers in the UK, many gaining inspiration from US and British websites that advise on how to become mortgage-free early.

"Before, I did think you had to be a millionaire, or at least incredibly lucky to retire early. But now I see that people like us can do it, too. You just have to be careful and to plan."
Their battle plan to eliminate their £120,000 ($214,000) mortgage is particularly brutal.

Taking their inspiration from the 5:2 diet, which involves eating sparingly for five days of the week and allowing yourself to be indulgent for the remaining two, they have done the same with their finances.

Yes, for a full five days of the week, they do not spend a penny.

"All our purchases have to be done in two days. For us, it suits for this to be the weekend."

And my, they are strict. Not a single takeaway coffee or lunchtime sandwich is bought during the week. Travel is pre-planned so they have bought tickets in advance.

Presents, clothes, daily essentials are only bought at the weekend, too, meaning they don't need a cash card during the week. How on earth is this possible, you may wonder, with a child to consider, too?

"It isn't easy but it forces you to be organised," says Nicola. "Before, I'd have popped to the shops for a few things, then ended up spending £25 ($45). Now, because we have rules, it's much less possible to be spontaneous and we've found that it really helps cut our spending."

Crucially, the no-spend rule also applies to online shopping.

"One of my biggest downfalls was internet shopping. I'd be at home with Alfie, browsing online and find myself saying: 'Oh, that's only £6, I'll order that.' But these £6s here and £4s there add up."

Like the Buckleys, Nicola and Dave have approached their frugal living as a game, and seeing their savings coffers rise is motivation enough to compensate for any feelings that they are depriving themselves.

"I'm forever looking for little ways to boost the savings," admits Nicola. "One of the tiny things I do is check my balance online every day and 'round-down' by transferring small amounts to my savings account. Say I have £207.14 in my current account. I will transfer the £7.14 to my savings account. It's a joy to see that figure rise."

Pippa Murray, 28, spotted a niche for nut butters early on and set up her own company. Photo / Pip & Nut
Pippa Murray, 28, spotted a niche for nut butters early on and set up her own company. Photo / Pip & Nut

The programme points out that there are two other "routes" to early retirement, apart from being a super-saver. One is by "trend-spotting", ie. spotting an investment opportunity. Two friends in this category combine their savings to buy a property together - a growing trend.

Then there is the "taking a risk" approach. Most entrepreneurs fall into this one. One of those featured is Pippa Murray, 28, who stepped off the corporate ladder so early that her career had barely begun.

She was working as a producer when she started her own business making nut butters in her kitchen.

Convinced that this could be her way out of corporate life, she secured funding and stunned her parents when she said she wanted to quit her job.

"At first they didn't understand it. My dad, who was a doctor, said: 'Why would you give up a good job?', but luckily they supported me."

It might have seemed like madness at first - setting up her own business required her to work 14-hour days and she even slept in a shed as she was getting established. But her first big reward came when she won a contract to supply Selfridges.

Now, just two years after her company was set up, her nut butters are stocked by major supermarkets and she employs 10 people. Last year, her company Pip & Nut sold an astonishing £3 million worth of butters.

Quite whether Pippa will "retire" completely by the age of 40 is debatable, but she is included in the programme as a example of what is possible, for those who are brave enough to make the leap.

Inspirational viewing? Absolutely - if you are young enough to follow the tips that this programme offers.

And if you've already waved goodbye to your 40s, and even 50s, it may be one to watch through gritted teeth...

SIX TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED

• Try to save between 50 and 75 per cent of your earnings.

• Stop buying needless gadgets - if there's anything you really need (such as a drill for odd jobs around the house) you can often hire it from a special tool 'library' for a small fee. Ask your local council or visit libraryof things.co.uk.

• Give up on needless fripperies. Do you really need to spend more than £6 on a bottle of wine? Would a run round the park be as good as a gym membership? Will your partner really appreciate gifts worth hundreds of pounds - or is something small and thoughtful enough?

• Try to 5:2 your finances - spend only at the weekend and as little as possible during the week.

• Stop online shopping. Delete any apps and block tempting emails sending you offers.

• Save here and there: pop change into a jar and don't fritter it. Take your jar to the bank once a month and put it straight into savings.