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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

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.

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.

Shackle-free

In October, we sold our boat.

Our feelings at the time were a mixture of sadness and relief. Sadness because she had been ours for ten years and we had had some fun times in her. Relief? Well, relief was due to a multiple of reasons, but the primary one was that for the last four years we had not used her as we should, and we felt guilty we hadn’t!

No, the poor old thing had sat on a mooring in Parua Bay growing weed (not the illegal stuff, by the way) and getting used by the (insert the rudest word you know here) swallows as their home and ablution block. None of this was pretty.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, in the last couple of years the Mediterranean fan worm had infiltrated the bay and every unsuspecting hull floating there had been under attack. This resulted in the Northern Regional council employing dive teams to check the hulls and work out a remediation programme for each contaminated vessel. Once the programme was completed, the boat was then certified and allowed to go into other marinas and areas (no waterway wants fanworm to take up residence!).

The first year we got notification we had fan worms, we had to pay some divers to remove them from the hull; this last year we dealt with them when the boat was hauled for maintenance.

So there we have it, our lovely boat was unused and deteriorating and costing us quite a few $$. The sensible solution was to sell her. This is, of course, easier said than done: boats are notoriously hard to sell. Indeed, we had had a couple of attempts previously with no joy.

We were, however, determined to sell her this time around. Firstly though, we needed to get her looking cared for and loved again. She was hauled in June last year and the man set to work to get her up to scratch. Over a four months period, he worked week days upon her. This included replacing some rot, painting her topsides and antifouling her hull. Our sail cover had fallen to pieces so we commissioned a new one of these. The engine required some work so a marine engineer was employed to do this. Parts were shipped in from overseas.

With hardstand fees and maintenance costs, getting her up to scratch was far from a cheap exercise. We also couldn’t add the cost of this to the sale price of the boat and had to absorb this expense- no surprises there, it is a boat, after all! Luckily, the man’s labour came gratis.

When she was nearing completion, we popped her on NZ Trademe (for overseas readers, this is the NZ counterpart of Craigslist or ebay, I think). We wrote the ad carefully – we pointed out her amazing cruising history, including being part of NZ Peace Flotilla that went to Mururoa in 1995 (see Steinlager ad on NZ TV at the moment), her circumnavigation, her gun running story, and the link to the book about these adventures.**We also pointed out her live aboard potential.

We priced her well – that point between so dear as to be unrealistic and so cheap one wonders what is wrong with it! Within a couple days of putting the ad up, we had had a few nibbles. We had two lots come through her, and both wished to buy her.

We sold her for less than we asked. This is par for the course, and is the cost we were willing to pay to move forward. We thought it was worth it!

We also sold her to the best possible people ever. A young Australian couple, they are intending to head to the northwest coast of Canada with another couple of boats and settle there in a couple of years.* Meanwhile, they are living aboard her with their husky and cat during the week and heading out most weekends and holidays exploring the Hauraki Gulf. We are following their adventures on social media.

Sorry, for quality of this photo: saying goodbye to Te Kaitoa as she leaves Whangarei Harbour with Tash and Patrick and friends

Every time we drive past the mooring where Te Kaitoa sat for the last four years, the man and I no longer need to look and check her out. She is, after all, in Little Shoal Bay, Auckland, where she is being looked after, used and loved as she should be. A perfect ending for us and a perfect beginning for them.

Safe and happy adventures on Te Kaitoa, Tash and Pat.

*We have been invited up to Canada for a sail when they get there. We do intend to take them up on their offer.

** BOAT BOOKS – How to find nautical yarns and stories. Page 1 of our huge WORLDWIDE range of nautical yarns and stories

Rebalancing

On Sunday I made a very important decision.

I chose to go out in the boat.

When I was first asked whether I wanted to go boating, I declined. I had jobs to do, you see.

In truth, I can always find jobs to do.

And that is the problem. I have fallen into the trap of prioritising jobs over leisure. Every time.

But not anymore. There is going to be more leisure time in my life. And the jobs.. well, the jobs can (mostly) wait.

Blogging, R Day and mice

Two years ago I mothballed my blog. The man and I had made the changes we needed to have the life we wanted. On achieving this lofty goal, it was time to put my musings to bed, and let my readers get on with their own lives.

I did miss you though. And I did miss writing.

Two years on our life is (slightly) different from where it was then. I will explain later in this blog. There is also a major reset on the horizon, so it is time to blog again.

So what has happened since we left you? The man and I are still living on our plot of land. Three and half years into this life, we are still in love with our lifestyle; indeed, in truth, even more so. It has turned out to be the perfect fit for who we are and how we want to live our life. Even if we had an uninvited guest living with us over the last week!

Flatmate

Income wise, things have changed for both of us.

I had a back to the future moment. In October last year I landed a job at the local district health board library. To do this, I swapped my dream working part time scenario to being a 40 hour per week employee. It was a big decision, but the job is a fixed term contract of 18 months and it felt right. And it is right.

In summer we opened our bottom paddock to self-contained camper vans. We can have two on our property at a time and at $20 per night per vehicle, we view it as a chance to meet people as opposed to a cash making venture.

The man has also pivoted his woodworking business. Three Fish Woodworks now has an event hire division. This summer season it took off. Well, until that crazy killer virus hit! Over the period of a week, New Zealand went in fast forward through the Alert Levels into Lockdown, and we went from a healthy number of advanced event bookings to zip! Zero. Nil. It is what it is.

So what is the reset I am talking about? As I previously mentioned, my job is a fixed term. It finishes in May 2021.* Two months before this, the man becomes eligible for superannuation.

At the end of this contract I will join him in retirement (R day!). It is our time to do as we want. The man will get superannuation. I won’t. We don’t want to go into our retirement savings.

We will have to be clever to achieve this goal. Our cunning plan is to do this two ways : streamline our spending from now on to save as much as possible before R day, and put things in place to be more self-sufficient when we retire.

Our intention is that this journey to R day and beyond will be fun. We will explore options and experiment. And we won’t compromise the quality of our lifestyle. Please join us as we play with ideas and put everything in place for a great retirement.

  • My planning hinges on the fixed term contract coming to an end. If an extension was offered and in a post-Covid world, I don’t think this is likely, I would only want to work 16 hours per week. Work/life balance is all.

New Life – Mission accomplished

Dear Readers,

This is my last post.

The man and I have achieved what we set out to do: change our lives.

Thank you for following us on our journey and encouraging us (mostly) and caring for us (always).

The man and I are very different beasts. He jumps in boots and all, with hardly a thought about the implications further down the track. I am the polar opposite: I plan and think and overthink before I take the first cautious step to alter things that no longer are making me happy.

The step to move away from Auckland to a smaller place was always a dream for us. To have a shed and some land was the ultimate goal. We spent years  discussing it and more than one road trip exploring areas that might meet our needs.

But  in spite of saying when I started ‘Skidding towards retirement’ that we were going to make the change within two years, we still may have been living the same old Auckland life now, while paying lip service to our dream.

Except for one thing: I found myself in a stressful situation at work. One that no matter how hard I tried, and  I did try mightily hard to sort it, I couldn’t solve.

At the time, it was distressing.   I had many close colleagues I  worked with who I respected and enjoyed and who supported me at the time – and I am sure that wasn’t easy, as I was pretty wound up. Thank you. I also had  a community I knew and loved.

I was also well paid.

It wasn’t enough.

Thoughts of escaping filled my day. Overthinking Heather threw caution to the wind. Our ‘maybe’ plan to leave Auckland was brought forward.

We put houses on the market and bought at auction with a long term settlement.

Meanwhile, I ditched the job. Heart breaking at the time, but strangely liberating.

We have now been in our new home for 18 months. Our home has the shed and the land. It is also surrounded by beautiful beaches. A bonus.

I have a job I like and the man is working in a boat yard. I am back studying too.

We are forming friendships up here, while still retaining close contact with  family  and  friends in Auckland.

Change is hard. No doubt.  But in this case, it was the best move ever.

Simply: life is amazeballs

Au revoir , Readers.

x Heather and Grant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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