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semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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Newly retired

At 4.15 pm on 7 January 2022, I posted my swipe card through the hospital library’s after hour slot and walked out the door into early retirement. I admit I was tempted to skip out the door, but felt that was slightly tasteless!

It has taken me close to seven years of planning and saving to get here, but even at this early stage of being willfully unemployed, I can categorically say it was absolutely the best thing for me to do.

I wake up each morning feeling more relaxed, happy, and energised than I did when I was working. I also feel fitter and slimmer (no scales, but my clothes are already looser) – this is hardly surprising as my last two roles have been sedentary, desk-bound jobs – a pretty unnatural way to live, right?

Although a mere eleven days into retirement, my days are shaking down into a sort of schedule with a mix of housework (yes, I don’t overdo it, but the house is still looking way more ship-shape), a bit of gardening, some stripping of wallpaper off the kitchen walls (its painted over, so think ‘nightmare’ here), and lots of reading, walking and swimming.

I am also back writing for a few hours each day – a book I started seven years ago is finally getting some long overdue attention. It would be nice if the book when finished gets picked up by a publisher, but even if it doesn’t, its writing gives me immense pleasure and that in many ways is enough!

Early retirement – there is a lot to be said for it.

Finances:

My last pay is tomorrow.

From then on, our income will be the man’s state pension and a top up payment from his private superannuation fund Kiwisaver, which we added our early retirement savings to.

This will require us to follow the budget that we have written.

We think it is doable and that we have covered every contingency, but, regardless, of whether it does or doesn’t pan out as we have planned, we will let you know!

Almost retired

At the end of this week, I will lock up the library, post my swipe card through the after hours slot and walk out the door as a paid employee for the last time. It has taken me six to seven years of planning and saving to get me here, but I have made it!

So how do I feel about this (imminent) early retirement? It is, to be truthful, both a frightening and glorious feeling. Frightening, because I am saying goodbye to the structure employment has given me and also to the fortnightly pay check (never a six figure salary, but always welcomed). Glorious, because my time is now entirely my own to do with as I wish!

I have no doubt that I will feel like I am on holiday to begin with and that is fine with me. As I settle into the new norm, I suspect life will shake down into something more structured and I am happy with that thought as there is only so much holidaying one can do and I have things I want to achieve!

Roll on Friday.

Early retirement money matters :

Kiwisaver fund:

The man has changed his Kiwisaver (private superannuation) account to a balanced fund from a conservative fund. Historically, the balanced fund has paid better returns, so although slightly riskier, we are willing to take the chance in the hope it will keep us ahead of inflation for the thirty three months we need it.

My kiwisaver fund has always been in a balanced fund, so no changes are needed there. I will continue to contribute at least the minimum amount required to get the Government supplement each year until I am 65.

Early retirement funding

We are putting most of the savings earmarked to fund early retirement into the man’s kiwisaver: the returns being better than any bank term deposit.

We are setting up a fortnightly withdrawal from this fund to cover the period until I turn 65 when I will be eligible for government superannuation and can access the funds in my Kiwisaver account.

We are leaving an additional few thousands in a savings account as an emergency contingency fund. We hope not to use this.

Please note we do have other funds invested. These are a share in a property and in a few shares. We are not intending for these to be used to supplement my early retirement.

Budget Prepping

I am now thirty three sleeps away from retiring, or if you prefer, three pay days away.

As the Stone’s CFO, I finally took the budget I had drawn up and sorted out what bank accounts we will need to make sure our finances work seamlessly (hopefully). Micromanaging, possibly? Overkill, perhaps? Yeah, maybe, but I prefer to think of it as mitigating risk – simply, I don’t want any cash flow problems in the future which may result in me needing to return to paid employment! Ever.

I, therefore, approached the task with a level of precision that wouldn’t go amiss in a military operation. Firstly, I worked out what expenses needed to be grouped together e.g. fortnightly, monthly, annually, one-off costs. This information was used to establish what bank accounts we needed. Using the budget figures, I then calculated how much I needed to deposit in each of these accounts to meet our expenses. I decided to deposit money in each account fortnightly as this aligned with the man’s superannuation payment ( this superannnuation will be topped up with a set amount from savings to meet the budget shortfall). I saved this bank account structure information in my computer, but I also printed it off for the study wall as I prefer using the old hard copy to refer to!

Now I have the outgoings structured, I do need to review where we have our savings deposited which we will be using over the next three years. At the moment we have money in the bank but the interest rate is far from flash. We also need to do something about the man’s Kiwisaver which remains untouched and wallowing in a conservative fund with an abysmal return rate at the moment – indeed, it is way below the inflation rate which is not something to make a CFO smile.

Yes, more to sort, but it will be absolutely worth it, I have no doubt.

Bank Account structure:

KIwibank – (Account 1) monthly bills   
Power xxx  
House/garden maintenancexxx  
Insurancexxx  
Subscriptionxxx   
Netflixxxx  
Kidscanxxx  
Slingshot – mobile phones/internetxxx xx xmonthly totalxxxx fortnightly expense

ASB Joint account – Yearly expenses

Ratesxxx  
Car maintenancexxx   
RUCsxxx   
WOFxxx   
Car Regos xxx $total cost $xxx monthly$xxx fortnightly
     

Kiwibank –(Account 2) Monthly-  Food and Petrol

Foodxxx  
Petrolxxx  
Christmas savings (supermarket club) xxxxxx monthly$xxxfortnightly

Discretionary money:

Heather – (personal bank account)- $xxx per fortnight
Grant – (personal bank account) $xxx per fortnight

Discretionary spending e.g. clothes, hair cuts, meals out, outings, small NZ trips, doctor’s bills will be funded from our own personal bank accounts. Overseas trips (unlikely, while Covid is impacting on the world) and other big adventures, or unexpected expenses will be funded from our retirement funds which are separate from these accounts. Ditto: home improvements. Although we live pretty frugally naturally, our intention is to have an enjoyable retirement and do what we want -after all, you can’t take it with you!

A perfect fit

It is Sunday afternoon.

Our weekend has been a corker one. Firstly, the weather has been summery which is always a plus.

Secondly, the man and I have managed to fit in a nice balance of productivity and relaxation.

The productivity side included going through our wardrobe to identify clothes we no longer wear. For the man, the clothes he pulled out were only fit for rags or the bin.

Mine? Well, mine are all in pretty good condition but are no longer fit for purpose. These ‘no longer fit for purpose’ can be divided into three categories. The first are the clothes I no longer fit – yes, I have finally admitted that I will never again squeeze into those lovely GAP jeans I bought in London in 2007. And, Dear Reader, this isn’t weight- related surrender – the reality is my 62 year old body is a different shape entirely to the one I had in my late 40s. Blame estrogen depletion, rather than a high fat diet!

The second lot I am culling is way more exciting though. These are the clothes I wear to work. As I have about two months employment to go, the cull is a bit restricted, but I have made a start. To this end, I have a bag full of shoes – high heels, anyone? l also have a bag of work clothes that I won’t be wearing between now and retirement day.

The third pile is clothes I will never wear again because I simply don’t like them. The fact is I probably never liked them, but kept them just in case I might one day have an epiphany and change my mind! I haven’t. Time for them to go!

Unlike the man’s rags, my clothes will be sent to the local charity shop, where I hope they will find a new owner to love them.

The second thing we got rid of was our old fridge. I had kept it on the offchance I needed the extra freezer space for one of the lambs presently grazing in our paddocks – yes, country life can be harsh if you are a lamb! However, I have decided that the extra space is not needed so yesterday I cleaned it out ready for its new owner and ran it overnight to make sure it was in tip-top running order, which it was. Today I put it as a ‘Free to good home’ bargain on the community Facebook page and it was snapped up straight away and picked up shortly after. A win for both parties, I thought!

This afternoon the man and I factored in the relaxation time in the work/life balance equation and drove to The Deck Cafe in McLeods Bay for afternoon tea, before heading to Urquharts Bay for a walk along the beach. As we strolled along, we said hi to groups picnicking or just hanging with friends and family. In the water were a few swimmers. Further out from the swimmers were boats anchored with dive flags out. If you squinted your eyes up, you would occasionally see a diver surfacing with their bag full of scallops. Kai moana at its best!

The man and I love this part of the world with its beautiful scenery, friendly community, and laid back vibe. It is a lifestyle that is a perfect fit.

Retirement Planning:

I recently read a financial article which stated that due to loyalty (or, should that be, inertia?) most of us stick with companies that are no longer the best for us, be it what it covers and/or price. The writer of the article suggested we take a more business approach and review the companies we deal with on a more regular basis.

As I read it, I nodded in agreement. We are loyal old things and we have been with our insurance company our entire married life. It was way over time for a (mini) review. As I am keeper of the purse, this job fell to me!

Insurance:

The first thing I did was check the policies and what and how much they covered. I was pleased with the replacement value on everything.

I then looked at the payment side. We are paying our premiums (house, contents, 2 vehicles) on a monthly payment plan. I know if I pay these premiums annually, there is a discount. I think it used to be 9%.

I contacted my insurance company to find out how much the annual payment discount was now, but have been told that each time a policy comes up for renewal that the annual payment discount would be calculated then. This is weird, but I am willing to work with it at this stage.

The policies will come up for renewal in three lots – the vehicles are two separate policies, but the house and contents are due together. As they come up for renewal, I intend to get the two prices (annual and monthly amount) I will also compare the price with other insurance companies to see if it is competitively priced i.e. I will get quotes from other insurance companies*. I will then make the decision as to what is the best option for us regarding the company I go with and whether I pay annually or monthly.

*I will check reviews of insurance companies too before I make any changes.

Spring

For the last four days the rain and wind have been constant. And the mercury has plunged to winter-like temperatures. Earlier in the week it was so hot, I was wearing summer clothes. Spring is definitely here with its crazy, unpredictable weather.

But it’s not all bad. The water tanks are full to overflowing, and the new plants are growing well. Likewise, the paddocks are lush and green, which is fortunate as the sheep and lambs which were moved to another block a couple or so months ago have returned, albeit sort-of unannounced

In way of explanation, the man told me a while ago that our tame farm manager had popped in to say he would return the sheep. From the man’s interpretation of what was said, their arrival was imminent i.e. in a couple of hours/ before lunch at the latest type of thing. The days passed and no sheep arrived. In the past our city genes would have kicked in and we would have texted the farm manager to ask when EXACTLY he was dropping them off? But not now. We knew, without a doubt, that we were working on Country Mean time and the sheep would turn up EVENTUALLY.

And we were right! More than a week after the man expected them, I spotted a lone sheep grazing in our orchard. Well and good, I thought, the sheep are back. This original thought was followed up with: Shame they aren’t secured in a paddock!

By the time the man and I had walked down to the orchard, there were eight grazing there. We weren’t fazed. With not an ounce of fuss or panic, we herded the the sheep back through the open gate into the paddock and secured it.

We have come a long way in five years.

Brief Retirement Update:

Financial side:

There are now 6 pays to go until I retire early.

Savings are going to plan. I am keeping a track of our expenses and am comparing them to the budget forecast – my forecast is looking realistic and doable. I do need to review whether our set expenses e.g power, insurance are structured the best way for us and are with the best companies for our needs. I also have to decide how to structure the savings we will be using to top up the Government superannuation that the man receives i.e how our bank accounts are structured for day to day needs, and where do we invest the money we will be using in Year 2 & 3* to try and stave off inflation and get the best return and bang for our buck.

I will leave these details for another blog (or two).

Retirement Living:

It also is becoming clearer to the man and me how we want to live our lives in retirement and what we want to achieve. To this end, the man has decided he does not want to run his business any longer. He would rather go sailing (and other things on his bucket list).

This works well for us as it will allow us more time to do the other things we want to. We are also fortunate not to be in a position where we need this income to live a good life.

Me? Well, I am getting very excited and have a big list of things I want to do, but my priorities are becoming clearer and more focused. More time with the family and friends, more time on our block of land, more travel around NZ and eventually overseas to do, a book draft to rehash, and another one to finish, more time for walks and just to be, among other things.

Yes, neither of us want to waste these precious years and we have lots to do.

Retiring early does take planning!

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

Lockdown

New Zealand went into lockdown on Tuesday last week. The last time I was in lockdown was for five or so weeks last March/April 2020.

It is weird living in lockdown – almost other worldly. Where we live the traffic is always light; it is now even lighter. Working from home, mask wearing, social distancing, bubbles and sanitizing are the words of the day.

In spite of its challenges, this lockdown has completely removed any doubts I have been harbouring about retiring early. Indeed, it has categorically demonstrated that it is the right thing for us.

The fact is my enthusiasm and self-motivation levels have increased significantly this last week while at home, even though I am working remotely. I guess rolling out of bed at 7.30 instead of 5.45, and the no travel means I am not exhausted by the end of each working day.

Certainly this weekend, besides the never-ending cleaning and washing, I had the energy to finally start stripping the wallpaper in the kitchen, a job that I have put on the back burner for months. I also made bread, baked a slice, went for a walk, and spent quality time with the grandchildren in our bubble. I also managed to finish my book, and start on a new one. Bliss!

Bread – didn’t know if was going to be successful as yeast was old!
Wallpaper stripping – an OK job when you get into swing of it

The garden beckoned too – truthfully, I have ignored it since I started back full time 21 months ago , but this weekend, I rediscovered the itch to get my hands dirty working in it. Pity I ran out of time, but I now know that when I am no longer time poor, I will be out there getting it back into shape. Hallelujah!

Early retirement will mean we have to watch our dollars a bit more, but the man and I have no doubt whatsoever that the pluses of a more satisfying and balanced lifestyle makes this sacrifice absolutely worth it.

Roll on retirement.

Time to hang around the fire pit and toast marshmallows. The teenage grandson camped in the tent.

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.

Retirement date

Yesterday I gave my boss the news I was retiring. I also gave her my leaving date: 7 January 2022. Yes, I will do the honorable thing and cover the Christmas break as I’d agreed to a couple of months back.

I am feeling happy and content with this decision; it is completely the right one for us.

Meanwhile, the man and I are mulling over the next phase of our lives. At this stage, we have a fair idea of what we want to spend our time on – family and friends’, travel (within NZ while Covid rages, overseas when it has been tamed), hobbies (some old, some new), pottering around our lifestyle block, and giving back to the community. We don’t, of course, know every detail or how it will pan out, but that’s OK, we will be flexible and allow things to evolve.

What we do know is that our retirement is going to be busy and satisfying, and the man and I intend to enjoy every single moment of it.

Roll on 4.30 pm, 7 January 2022.

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