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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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Rhythms

Life on our land follows a relaxed rhythm year in, year out.

In July, the lambs were born. Always cute and fun to watch, our relationship with them has been short and sweet this time round – indeed, six weeks after their birth, we wished them au revoir when they were moved with the flock to a neighbour’s piece of land with more grass.

A few weeks ago the man began to source wood from the block for next year’s supply. As I will be retired next winter, the fire place will be used more throughout the day so the woodpile will need to be a considerably bigger than in the past. Luckily, the man enjoys the process of collecting, cutting and stacking wood. It does help that he has great tools for the job with his trusty, newly-serviced chainsaw, and his bow saw, plus all the PPE.

Marmalade making has also begun. This year, I am freezing the fruit so I can make small batches throughout the year.* I have been making marmalade so long that I can make it by eye, rather than by following a recipe – I have come a long way since my first batch many years ago where I boiled it to the point that it had both the look and consistency of toffee. The young me proudly gave the man’s mum a jar or two which she politely thanked me for and never mentioned again!

The spring weather is inspiring us to make long-overdue changes to the orchard and garden. Two apple trees which are past their best are going to be removed, as is a persimmon which has inedible fruit (a mouthful of cotton wool, anyone?). Two other sad excuses for fruit trees will be taken out in the next few weeks. These non-performers are going to be replaced with new trees including the Wilson’s Early plum which we planted yesterday.

The gardens are also having work done on them. The vegetable garden which was all, but abandoned, is relocating to just beside the house. A sunny spot, this should be a more workable location. We will start off smaller than the original one, but will expand it if needed, The worm farm which has been a success from the get-go, will also move closer to the house – again it will be considerably more convenient in this new spot.

This only leaves the compost bin. To date, we have never sorted out how to compost properly. The intention is to move this closer to the house too, and use it as it should be used. Yes, getting a handle on composting is one of the many things on the retirement list.

Lastly: With eight pays to go until I retire, everything is falling into place. Savings are going to plan, and the things I wanted completed are being ticked off one at a time. This month we saved more than we had projected we would, and ticked the three-yearly septic tank clean off the list. I also started an audit on what we are paying for bills – but that is for another blog.

Early retirement: I can’t wait.

*Wash whole fruit, cut into quarters and freeze in batch lots

Putting the house in order

Having publicly committed to retiring in the New Year, I am getting my house in order.

This means making decisions about what we need to do to make our retirement work well for us. I have therefore got a list and a budget – a true Virgo, right?

My list started off with many grand things including recarpeting the house, recurtaining the bedrooms, a new fridge and a tent for copious camping trips. I have subsequently rethought this and the list is no longer an absolute, rather it can now be described as ‘a work in progress’ with items being added, taken away or parked.

The changes I have made are sensible ones, I think. I have decided against recarpeting – the carpet is fine and I am just bored with it. I also want to replace it with wool (it is wool now) and that is not cheap. I will therefore do it in a few years when most of our retirement savings can be accessed. The curtains – well, I have washed them initially in a bit of bleach, followed by a rinse and two out of the three sets are perfect again. The other one? A sad story really that would bring a tear to any house proud person’s eyes – suffice to say, I will buy new ones!

The new fridge? Well, I have purchased one after much research (how big, what make, energy rating etc etc) and it is looking mighty fine in the kitchen. The power bill has also reduced which is an added bonus.

The tent for our NZ trips has been relegated to the ‘decision pending’list. I will keep the $$ aside for it in the budget.

New additions to the list include a cat door with a microchip so our kind neighbour can feed our moggies, rather than every cat in the neighbourhood when we are away adventuring. I have also factored in some maintenance including the three yearly septic tank clean and new glasses for me.

Meanwhile, I am saving hard for this early retirement lark, albeit I am fast coming to the conclusion that we will dip into our savings pot early if required so we can do the things we want to when we want to. Yes, life is short, and we don’t want to live with regrets.

Carpe diem, folks!

PS I have been told I can join the temp pool at the hospital where I work any time which is kind of nice, though at this stage this is not what I see in my future.

Shuffling into retirement

The man is now a Gold Card holder and is mighty pleased to be one. For those who don’t know, this means he receives a pension, or as a friend wittily puts it, he is now paid by the Government to breathe.

In relatively recent days – up to November 2020 to be precise – I would have been able to piggyback on his pension eligibility and receive one too if I retired. He, however, turned 65 in March 2021, so this door to early retirement funded by the state firmly closed to me.

When this change in eligibility was flagged, I wasn’t overly worried. The fact was I had only recently become aware of its existence, so I had never factored it into retirement planning.

Which brings me to my plans for retirement. I have plans to retire early. I have a date in mind where I will shut the door on a 8-4.30, 5 day per week job, and it is not too far away. To this end, I have worked out a retirement budget – thank you, sorted.org.nz. This budget is sensible – well I think it is! It reflects the changes in spending that happens in retirement e.g my day to day fuel bill will decrease substantially with no daily work commute, our electricity bill will rise, there will be no need to fund office clothes, even TradeMe purchased ones, spending for local outings, the occasional trip within NZ* and activities will increase. Yes, the budget has been worked out to allow the man and me a good lifestyle, with a bit of latitude factored in for those unforeseen expenses. Of course, the reality is we are not big spenders at the best of times, so that works in our favour, as does being mortgage and debt free.

Ideally, we don’t want to rely on the man’s Kiwisaver (private superannuation) balance* to fund our day to day living costs, but it will be our backstop if required – after all, we intend to enjoy this stage of life! Meanwhile, the man and I are saving as much as we can from our income to help fund the early retirement. We are also working to grow the small hire business we have – if Covid stays away, this should provide a welcome addition to our retirement fund.

Our plans for me to retire early aren’t just about getting the income sorted, we are busy getting our house in order too. This means replacing and renewing a few things: a new fridge freezer (our old one is on its last legs), a touch of decorating, and new flooring in kitchen and hall, plus a new gate to keep the sheep safe are all on the list. We have also upgraded my 21 year old car to a new Kia Stonic – the perfect jalopy for retired us to do our road trips.

After 45 years of working, retirement is just around the corner – and I must say, it looks grand!

*Overseas trips are off the agenda while Covid rages. When we feel travel is safe, we will fund it from retirement savings, rather than our sorted budget!

*I have Kiwisaver too, but won’t have access to it until I am 65. I will continue contributing enough to it to get the Government subsidy each year until I turn 65.

New Life – New Year

New Year’s resolutions.

I admit I have occasionally given these a whirl. You know, stuff like I am going to adopt a junk-free life style.

The lifespan of my resolutions is about a week. Or until the first piece of chocolate is offered to me. Whichever is sooner.

So this New Year’s Eve, I didn’t even indulge in the charade.

Yeah, nah, I don’t need NY resolutions conjured up while slightly tipsy on cheap plonk to feel in control. Ditto: the man. Yes, 2018 is going to be a great year for us.

So what is it that will make 2018 a stellar year?

2017 may have been the year of change, but 2018 will definitely be the year of consolidation.

First and foremost is that we go into the new year incredibly happy and content with all aspects of our lives.

A great foundation to begin with, we think.

We won’t stand still though. We do have plans.

The man and I will continue to develop our property in our slow way.  There is no rush, we will focus on the journey.

The man intends to get a jobette. In part, this is for the social aspect. Working by yourself is isolating. And even more so when living in a new community. Of course, we would be lying if we said the money wasn’t welcome either, but it is very much a secondary consideration.

For me, 2017 saw me land a job in a new field and finally shut the door on a career that I had wanted to walk away from 10 years ago. Except I didn’t have the balls.

This career move has paid dividends. I now wake up every  morning looking forward to going to work, to being challenged, and learning something new.  And it gets even better, my bosses have plans for me. Career development. To this end, they have offered me the opportunity to upskill and study in 2018. This old girl said yes.

Travel plans this year are dedicated to catching up with friends and family. We intend to (finally) fit in a trip to Christchurch and Wanaka to see friends. Another trip to Melbourne to visit a sister is on the cards too, with, maybe, a bit of a side excursion thrown in. And the lovely Hawkes Bay also beckons. Like always, the main constraint to these plans will be time!

No doubt, like every year, things won’t necessarily pan out exactly as planned. There will be obstacles. We are, however, starting from a grand position.

2018. Bring it on!

New Life – Eternally Grateful

As it is coming up to a year since we moved from Auckland, I thought it was the right time to  say a thank you to all the people who have made the last year one of the best years ever for the man and me.

In no particular order, here we go!

Thanks to our friends and family for understanding why we wanted to make the move  and encouraging us (mostly) to follow our dreams.

Thank you to these same friends for being solid and keeping in touch with us, even though we were at least two hours away from the nearest ones of you!

Thank you also to those friends who have made the trip up to see us. We have enjoyed seeing you and sharing our new life with you. Please continue to visit. And to the others who haven’t made it yet, there is always a bed!

The same goes for family..  thank you for letting us leave, and for keeping us close, even though we were a bit further away.

Thank you to our new neighbours for putting out the hand of friendship and making the move here way easier than it might have been. We will always be grateful to Marie and John for the early morning visit the day after we moved to welcome us to the neighbourhood, Angela for popping in with a cake and an invite to her weekly patchwork group, Kevin from next door for calling in to introduce himself, and Brian for inviting us to dinner to meet his family.

Forming connections within this close knit community was made so much easier by these kind people.

Thank you to our tame farm manager, Kayel for helping whip the land into shape by making hay and then putting sheep on it. We will always be grateful for  your (ongoing) patience and tender handling of us townies.  Yes, we know you don’t normally pick up a stillborn lamb and place her/him in a special box, but you did so for us. We also know that home kill means on the property,  but this would be far too much for us, so you made sure the deed was done somewhere else. You will be pleased to know that I no longer feel squeamish about eating the animals on our land – I figure they had a good life with us and it would be a crime for omnivorous me not to eat their meat. After all, they made the ultimate sacrifice.

There is one proviso though, Kayel –  Wendy the lamb whom you hand raised and is now causing mayhem on our property by being the biggest escape artist out  will live a long and good life here.  Why? Because she views herself as more human than sheep and answers to her name so, no, there will be no freezer in her future.

Thank you to Clements Contractors for giving me the opportunity to try something new in the employment field. I love every day here, and yes, although my pay is considerably less,  my job satisfaction is off the scale.

So what do I like about my new place? Besides loving the challenge of learning a new job, I love the diverseness of the people I work with, their unfailing humour,  realness (yes, you know when they have had a bad day.. they take no prisoners),  kindness, and approach to life.  Lastly, I also must mention the owners, Sandra and Murray.  The  caring culture they have created here is amazing, and I feel so very lucky to be part of this. Total respect, guys!

I would like to thank the person who built the house we live in and the people who planted the garden.  The house is so easy to live in and does everything it should sun wise. And we love having a fire again for winter.

As for the garden, whoever planted it did the most awesome job. Colour galore – as one lot of flowers fade, another lot come into bloom. All through the year. Spectacular.

The same for the fruit trees, as the last of our mandarins are on the tree, the earliest summer fruits are ready to pick. Plums, apples, peaches, nectarines and apricots – yum! When we say goodbye to these, it will be feijoas and guavas. Not to forget the olives and macadamias! And then the cycle will begin again.

Lastly a big thank you to our Auckland friends, Raewyn and Garry who moved up here first and convinced us on a visit to theirs that it was a pretty good place for us to move to. You were 100 % right. We feel totally at home here and can’t imagine ever leaving.

Change is never easy and it certainly pushed us out of our comfort zone. It was, however, the best thing we have done. It has opened our eyes to a new way of living, and energized us.

Not to put too fine a point on it, we think it has been the making of us!

We are happy and content and the only regret we have is that we didn’t do it sooner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Life – Change master

It’s been three weeks since I rejoined the work force. For two weeks of this, I was running tandem jobs i.e.  electoral returning officer for the Advance voting part of the election and my new role as Health and Safety Administrator. This means I have had three pay days to date since becoming a working girl again.  I have another full pay due this Wednesday coming too.  How does it feel? Well, simply fantastic – there will be no more dipping into capital to survive!

Moving without a job was the downside of the change process for me. I did have thoughts of working for myself and explored many business ideas, but the fact is  working for myself is not what I want. There, I’ve said it!

Yes, this girl likes working for someone else. I like the structure of it. I like the regular pay packet. I also like the social aspect. I didn’t want to return to working full time however – it would compromise the lifestyle I was aiming for too much. I, therefore, am happy to be working three to four days per week 9-5, with the occasional early start and later finish (note the change from my last post where my day was going to be 7.30-5… there’s been a rethink on the part of the boss… phew!)

So what is the man up to. He is working for himself and is happiest that way. A creative soul, he is just about to launch some lovely outdoor furniture with a retro twist to it.

Successful change means recognizing what you want, but it also means recognizing who you are and then shaping the change to fit those parameters. For me, it is not working for myself; for the man, it is.

Which brings me to another story. My Dad changed his life entirely. Born in 1929 in Coventry, he was the third son of Lilian, nee Timbs, and John Downing.

Unlike his two older brothers, he was too young to serve in World War Two. He did, however, join up in 1947 and head to Germany where he served in the occupational forces. After leaving the army, he became a merchant seaman.

At some point, he decided that he would make New Zealand his home. He subsequently failed to get back on his ship when it was due to leave Auckland.

He lived the rest of his days in New Zealand, visiting England only twice.

When my last remaining English uncle died, my cousin told me they had photos that Dad had sent his family of life in New Zealand and they would return them to me.

The photos duly arrived and I looked through them.

Dad had missed his vocation – he should have worked for the NZ Tourism Board. The photos portrayed his adopted country in the best possible light. They also portrayed the family in the best possible light. The classic one being of my mother in shorts and running shoes. On the back, Dad had written: Dorothy going for a run. My sister and I can tell you categorically that my mother NEVER EVER went for a run!

I never really understood why my father left his loving family to move to the other side of the world until I spent time in England.

My dad was a Depression baby of working class parents. As an 11 year old child he was in Coventry when the Germans bombed the hell of it. It destroyed his city. It also killed his grandfather and, possibly, grandmother too*. Hardly surprising, Smith Street where they lived had an ordnance factory in it.

Yes, I am picking that his childhood would have been hard. It also would have shaped him. Going on the ships around the world would have opened his eyes to the possibilities of a better life for him, so he jumped ship.

So was leaving his family at the other side of world the right thing for him? As he got older, he missed his English family more and more. He also loved England: its countryside and its history. So yes, he definitely had some regrets. I do think, however, that the life he lived here was unobtainable for him there and he knew that.

Change. It’s never perfect – there is always a price to pay.

 

 

New Life – new reality

Yesterday morning at 6.45 am, I jumped in my car to head to work. The journey to town is normally light traffic; at this time of the morning, it is even more so.  Most people are either asleep or have a later start to their morning, I guess.

But not everyone. As I turned from Addison Road into Pataua South Road, I could see a milking shed all lit up. If I thought a 7.30 am start was early, the cow cockies working there would have been grafting away for a good three hours longer than me!

Regardless, 7.30 am is not a start time I am used to, but it is now my new reality. Or it will be until 1st October. This is when the summer season comes into play and my hours will stretch out even more. Yes, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 7.00 am – 5.00 pm will be my normal working day. On Monday, it is even longer as there is a tool box meeting* after work. It was Monday yesterday. I got in my car to go home at 5.40 pm.

clements quarry.jpg

Am I worried about these hours? No, not at all. I have Tuesday off. And, unlike the rest of the office staff, there is no expectation that I work a regular Saturday morning shift in the weighbridge either.

So how am I finding it? The answer is great.

It might be early days, but I like the culture. I like the eclectic mix of quarry workers, truck drivers, mechanics, project managers, and office personnel. I also like the caring element of this firm – it feels like a family.

Its core values, which impressed me when I was interviewed for the job i.e. Safe -everybody home safe everyday; Trust – do what is right; Respect – treat it as your own; Accountable – stand up and own it; Friendly – great to deal with, and, the priceless, Clever – don’t do dumb shit, are not just written on paper, they are embraced.

I lay the responsibility for this firmly on the lovely owners. They walk the talk.

So in spite of the long days, safety clothing that falls short of elegant fashion, and the port-a-loo facilities masquerading as office toilets, this woman knows she has landed a great job with a great firm.

I have, therefore, cancelled the job alerts on TradeMe and Seek. I am here for the long-haul!

*Toolbox meetings are just another name for a staff meeting.

 

 

 

New Life – Healthy concerns

Until Wednesday last week, this old girl thought she was in fine form. OK, I may no longer be a spring chicken, but I did honestly think I was doing pretty good.

Oh, how wrong can one be? My body, Dear Reader, is failing fast. Or that was what I felt by the time I left the pre-med for this new job.*

It started off well with me flying through my drug test. At this stage of the proceedings, I had no hint that my world was about to crumble.

The first inkling was the jumping on the scales bit. The nurse then did some quick calculations and said ‘you are showing as obese’. She then looked at me and said ‘but you don’t look overweight, so I might have got that wrong, so I’ll recalculate it later.’   Right.

We then moved onto eyesight. Now, as way of explanation, I wear reading glasses and I had left them at home, so I knew at least some parts of this test weren’t going to go as well as they could. And I was right: I struggled with this section of the test. At one stage, the nurse said “see the red line” and I replied “what red line?” Not good. Not good at all!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, further tests showed I had compromised peripheral vision and was apparently colour blind.  I could see a white stick in my future.

Needless to say, a trip to the optometrist was recommended. A.S.A.P.

This obese and blind girl was next subjected to a hearing test. First I had my ears looked in, except nothing could be seen because of the build up of wax.  We then progressed to the hearing test, and, you guessed it, my left ear was not performing as it should.  I now had deaf to add to my list of health challenges.

It was probably a stroke of luck that my blood pressure and pulse had been taken prior to the drug test!

I am relieved to say that the other tests which included lung function and skeletal tests all went swimmingly well!

Now on Friday I went to the optometrist for a check up, and although I needed a new prescription for my reading glasses, everything else was tickety-boo. I cancelled the guide dog.

With regards to my hearing, I am sure getting my ears cleaned out will restore my hearing to normal.

Lastly, the weight thing – I now have a goal to drop 4 kilos! Until I do that, my string bikini will remain firmly packed away.

*My new job is Health and Safety Administrator  at a Quarry and Civil Construction company. I report to a contract Health and Safety Manager. Four years on the Health and safety committees at Auckland Museum and Auckland City Libraries has paid dividends and allowed me to change my career at what is quite a late stage in my life. Ironically, I got offered the same job at a Kumeu timber mill in 2003, but turned it down as the hours offered didn’t work with my uni studies!

 

New Life – well-situated

Today, after months of trying, I have finally cracked it!

Or I will have, providing I pass the obligatory medical and drug test.

Yes, I have been offered a permanent role. And it is part time, which will allow me enough time to help the man launch his lovely new product, and to enjoy our property. It is also a job which expands my skill set, and is not in an industry I have worked in before. Perfect.

The ironic thing is that after months of rejection – I tried not to take this personally – I was in line for two jobs! The other one, however, was a relieving job and I decided to sacrifice the flexibility of  this for a position that actually appealed more to me, not to mention the idea of regular money was pretty attractive!

So how come my fortunes changed? I think the fact that I got to the interview stage in jobs I have never done before was because I ensured the CV I submitted matched the skill set the advertiser was looking for.

Now I know that many CVs contain porkies, and some even stray into the area of outright lies, but rest assured, Dear Reader, mine doesn’t. It is absolutely squeaky clean. Indeed, as someone who is pretty self-deprecating, there is not even a whiff of exaggeration contained within.

No, my doctoring was simply a case of keeping the relevant information and deleting the rest. And this focused approach seems to have worked a treat.

The two interviews also went well – I finally have got my head around two winning interview techniques: engage brain before opening mouth, and, be honest, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot with this honesty!

The job I have accepted ended up being a two interviews affair. The first was the one with the normal questions, the second was ostensibly to introduce me to their software system.  And I did get shown their software system, but I also got to sit a numeracy and literacy test. Surprise!

The literacy part didn’t faze me. The numeracy did, especially when the first half contained the directive that this was a calculator-free test. What is that about? Anyway, I am delighted to say I nailed the numeracy test! Yep, one wrong answer in the entire paper.  Clever me, right?

As for the literacy test, it was straightforward. Strangely enough, the part I probably got the most wrong was checking the formatting in a business letter – it’s changed a lot since a 13 year old Heather sat in a 3rd form typing class (1973, for those interested).  And the fact is this girl no longer writes formal letters, she emails pithy notes to all manner of professionals and signs off with ‘Cheers’.

So what is the job? Well until I sign my contract, I won’t reveal all. I will tell you it is a Health and Safety Administrator’s role with an element of HR in it too. The firm itself  is in the quarry and civil engineering area, so it is completely outside my area of expertise. It also means a bit of fluoro, some hard hat wearing, and some serious shoes!

I am so excited. I know I am going to love it.

And meanwhile, until I start, I will be gainfully employed working for the elections!

 

 

 

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