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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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Financial planning

Week 8 – New Life – 2 months in

Last night I realised the man and I have almost achieved what we set out to do when I started my blog. Yes, we are now living the lifestyle we were aiming for: the one with a better work life balance.

To do this we have spent the last 18 months actively reducing and/or eliminating debt so we could afford to work less. Of course, the aim was to ensure an excellent standard of living now and in retirement* –  this was never an exercise in subsistence living!

So how did we achieve it?

We paid off the credit card and cut it up, never to be used again! Now I know people use the 55 days free credit to their advantage, however it sat better with us to just get rid of it altogether.

We sold the rental which had a mortgage on it.

We sold the family home which did not have a mortgage on it too, as we wanted to live in a quieter place. We did give thought to renting it out, but we have had two nightmare tenants  -different reasons, but equally as unpleasant to deal with –  and decided it was not worth the grief!**

After deciding what we wanted, we searched for 6 months for the ‘perfect property’.*** We moved here in January. Moving here meant our outgoings went down substantially with a 50% reduction in land rates (not on mains for sewerage), no water rates (we are on tank and spring-fed dam water), no rental for a shed and no transport costs for the man to get to work.

In winter there will be further savings as our heating will be provided by a log burner. This makes sense as our land will provide the firewood.  At the moment there is not a wetback facility functioning, but the hot water cylinder is all set up for it and our intention is to get it up and running again in the near future.

In addition to this, we took the opportunity to review insurance cover, electricity, and internet and mobile companies charges. We changed some of our insurance policies, although we stayed with the same company. The house replacement cost went up (bigger house), but everything else went down a couple of dollars reflecting the area we live in apparently.

With regards to electricity, we also stayed with the same company, figuring out the $12 a year saving that the ‘What’s my number’ website predicted was not worth the hassle of swapping. We did change our internet and mobile phone providers though and went with a bundled offer from Slingshot. This saved us $40 per month or 2.75 weeks groceries which the parsimonious part of me applauds!

There are other savings living outside the big smoke too: doctors, dentists, tradesmen are all considerably cheaper. Petrol is cheaper.

Having said this, wages are often less too, but for us that is not an issue. I still think we will be on the winning side financially. And as for living the lifestyle the man and I were after – we are absolute winners!

What didn’t work out? There was only one thing we intended to do which has not panned out: go down to one car.

Yes, we still have two cars. Why? Simply because I will be heading back into part-time work and we live rurally and do not have public transport option. Two cars, therefore, makes sense. We will review this once I retire.

There are also two things that still need to be sorted. The first is my income and the second is selling the boat.

For those who remember, after 39 years in the same profession,  I said adios to my job in September.  Phew! My intention is to work part time and in a different field if at all possible. I also have an idea for a small business. This will all happen after June.

Why? Because a long-planned six week trip to Canada and UK has made me unemployable! I mean who in their right mind is going to employ someone who is going on a long overseas jaunt a month after I start?

Now the boat. We have used it once this summer. Meanwhile it is growing all sorts of life forms on its hull. Sadly, we can’t see this pattern altering. Our lives have changed. We are busy doing other things.

It now makes absolute sense to sell it to someone else who will use it as it should be used. We have priced it accordingly. We hope it sells fast.

So has anything changed since moving here?

Yep. My attitude to eating the livestock in our fields. I am a meat eater. It is time for me to be honest about where it comes from. I bought a freezer last week. Karl, our farm manager will organise everything. I do think I may be out when the homekill truck rocks up for the first time though – forgive me for this bit of denial!

So where to from now in relationship to the blog?

I think for the remainder of the year, a monthly update is in order. After that I think the man and I should be completely settled in our new work/life balance. Mission accomplished and all that!

I also think I might have sorted out the use of commas by then correctly… miracle, right?

* Financially we are well set up for  retirement. We were in Auckland too, but our outgoings are cheaper here which is always a win.

**a small lifestyle block with a shed and a nice house with 3 bedrooms, and a fireplace preferably, which was located near the water in Whangarei

*** Most tenants we have had have been exemplary people.

Opening doors

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The Shepherd’s hut made for a client by the man. We will have one on our land  as an airbnb.

Aaah, you thought I had disappeared again, didn’t you? No such luck…I have been busy. Sort of.

And because I am busy still- sort of – this is going to be a very quick update.  You know ‘life for Heather and the man in a nutshell’, if you like.

So here goes:

The man and I became grandparents to Amelie Matilda. Now, we do have a delightful step grandchild who came into our lives when he was 5, but this is the first baby we have had in our family since our babies, so we are enjoying having lots of cuddles.

Our house is still waiting for that buyer to come through the door. Yep, it is languishing on the market in spite of it being in a desirable location and in good nick. I feel like I have an orphan and part of me is quite affronted. And yes, the market has changed and we have adjusted our price… no doubt it will sell, but I wish it would hurry up.

Meanwhile, we have bought at auction. No, don’t shake your heads .. we haven’t lost our marbles. Quite. .. ok, maybe a bit! Anyway, we have a long term settlement and will rent our present home if we can’t sell in time, but I do have faith that everything will fall into place and we will be sweet.

So let me tell you about our new home. It is in Whangarei Heads between Parua Bay and Pataua South. It is 1.19 hectares (3 acres, thereabouts) and has the ubiquitous shed for the man’s business, a shed for the tractor and ride on, a nice house (not flash – we don’t do flash) with 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 2 toilets and a study for me.

The garden contains an orchard and there are big trees on the boundary for firewood which is a bonus as we do have a log burner in the house.

The property is situated a  5 mins drive from Parua Bay shopping centre which has the well-known Parua Bay pub with restaurant over the water in it, a large community centre and a doctors’ surgery ($18 a visit in Whangarei, by the way, for all adults – at these prices,  I may just go and see the doctor for a social chat!). A further 5 mins drive on is Onerahi which is a bigger shopping centre with the library in it (very important for us bookworm types) and a supermarket. Whangarei proper is a further 10 minutes or so on (20 minute drive from the house with the wind behind). But most importantly, our new home is 5 mins drive from a host of glorious, pristine beaches.

Our plans for the land include putting a shepherd’s hut on for holiday accommodation.

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In a past life, the property did have calla lilies growing commercially on part of it, so we are giving consideration to putting some flowers in for a bit of income. We will also run a few livestock and have hens. Very exciting… I can’t wait!

I have also started looking for part time work again up north. Working will serve two purposes: the most important being providing social contact and integrating me into our new community. The second thing is supplementing the coffers, although we are fine as we are for a while.

Yes, we are on track.

Life is good.

Living well

Pop the champagne corks, peeps!

I am officially semi-retired.

To prove it, I got my final pay today from full time employment.

So where to from here? I may be semi-retired but I am also completely and utterly jobless. This is not a state I want to be in for too long, and, hopefully, I won’t. I just have to find that perfect position – interesting, great hours, well paid … you know the caper!

My semi-retirement goal  has always been to work 24 hours or so per week in paid employment, with the balance of my week being spent doing other (more important) things with my time.

The driver here is I don’t want to enter (or, Heaven forbid, exit) my dotage with a long ‘I wished I had done’ list.

No, I want my list to be an ‘I have done’ and the extra time I have available to me should allow me to do the other things in life I want to.

Needless to say, the act of reducing my hours has resulted in a drop in income.  l have done the Sorted budget and  I think we can achieve what we want with careful spending.

Ok, there is an outside chance the venture might morph into “Scrooge lives again”, but I hope not. If this happens, the man and I will simply make the necessary changes to make it work. Stew again?

Interesting times! Exciting times! I’ll let you know how we go.

 

 

Toppling over

There is something cathartic about blogging.

I am aware, however, that wearing my heart on my sleeve could be viewed by some as me being totally self absorbed.

If this is the case, then I make absolutely no apology for it. Why? Because this was never my intention.

The purpose of blogging was to clarify things as the man and I explored how to work less and live more. This was both for us and also for those of you who are interested in our journey.

I have also found blogging cheap therapy. You see, life doesn’t always pan out the way one thinks it should or would.  And writing about what happens makes sense of it. Go figure?

This week has been one of those weeks when nothing has panned out.

Firstly I got a thanks, but no thanks to the hospice job I was interviewed for. It was nicely couched, of course, but it still hurt as I really, really wanted it. I admit to being a bit sad for a day or so after getting this news, but then my pragmatic side kicked in and I re-framed it.  This was not failure, this was an opportunity.*

So for the last few days I have been thinking about ways to make a living without working for someone else. Now here are a few of my ideas (sharing is good):

I could start my own library. This sounded sensible as I know the business inside out, right? Sadly no.  This was never going to fly as public libraries are free, so even if I had enough stock, who in their right mind would pay to join my library? Except, of course, naughty people who can’t use the public library because they owe too many fines. Strangely, these people don’t seem  the ideal customer base for my proposed start up. The idea was shelved, no pun intended.

The next idea was to run an  0900  line (psychic or sex, I wasn’t fussed). I must admit that this wasn’t my own idea, I stole it from a book I read years ago. Anyway, it had immense appeal for two reasons. There would be no bad debts because of the 0900 number and no need to even leave the house in the morning. This idea was quickly discounted when I realised I would have no idea what to say to my customers, and if I did think of something I knew that the minute it was out of my mouth, I would giggle like a silly school girl. The ambiance of the occasion would be lost for ever and I would have a disappointed customer. There would be, I was sure, no repeat business. I canned the idea.

So, I got to the last idea.

I could make a living out of telling people how the man and I survived on diddly squat in semi-retirement, but still managed to live an amazingly happy and fulfilled life.  I was not sure how I was going to make a living from it, but it’s been done successfully before, albeit in different guises – the Destitute Gourmet cook books and the ‘Living on the smell of an oily rag’ book being two successful iterations of this theme. To date, it is the best option. More thought is needed.

Or maybe, I just look for that three day a week job after I have moved to Whangarei?** Watch this space.

Now the second thing not to pan out this week is that the buyer for our house has yet to materialise. The idea that he/she would magically appear as a result of the first open home was always just a dream, and I knew this from the get-go. Selling a home is stressful and it would be lovely if we could pre-empt weeks of open homes and bring the auction forward. Having said this, it is only day 4 and the first open homes did attract some interested parties, and the agents are bringing buyers through on a regular basis.

Which brings me to the beautiful house we saw on the internet in Whangarei. The man and I went to see it. It  was absolutely gorgeous and we loved it. We also probably aren’t going to buy it. You see, it is too isolated. And it’s on a main road. No matter, something else more suitable will turn up.

Now the last thing to happen this week was I was challenged (nicely) by a friend. Were the man and I doing the right thing leaving Auckland? Did we know that if we sell up and leave, it would be highly unlikely we would ever be able to afford to come back, she wisely pointed out. I looked at my dear friend and nodded as she was absolutely right. The answer is neither the man nor I know if we are doing the right thing. What we do know is we want to live a quieter life in a quieter place and we think it will work out. In fact, we will give it our best shot. If it doesn’t work out, then we will live with consequences. And although we may not be able to afford Auckland again, we can afford every other place in this beautiful land.

Change is never easy. Some days things fall into place; other days they don’t. I think this is normal.

 

*Thank God for those twee management courses!!

** I have decided that I need to be settled and then look for a job.

Making progress

Finally the man and I are doing something concrete towards making those changes I have gone on about over the last year. Yes, we are unburdening ourselves. We need to do this to move forward, you see.

And here’s how: we’ve put the rental we own with the daughter and her man on the market. It’s easy to say goodbye to this; being a landlord is not our cup of tea.

We’ve also listed the boat for sale. The monthly berthing fee went up an eye-watering amount and suddenly it no longer made any sense whatsoever to keep the boat.  Adios boat. Adios outgoings.

We are tarting our house up ready to sell. It’s coming together well.

Time to move on.  We’ve other cool things to do.

And what are they? A shift from Auckland is on the cards. Now this is a biggie. I have lived here all my life; the man most of his life. It is familiar. We know it like the back of our hands. The majority of our family and friends live here. They are important.

But still it feels right to move. However, we’ve set a limit: two hours max. from Auckland. So Whangarei, it is. This means our nearest and dearest can visit easily and us them.

We’ve started looking at real estate in the area, working out what we want. The man and I have a list. In no particular order, here we go: shed – not negotiable; house – low maintenance, 3 bedrooms minimum with a fire and two bathrooms, one for us and one for our visitors, thanks;  land – we’re flexible here, anything from half an acre (think hens, garden and small orchard) to three or so acres (add in an alpaca or two), sea – an easy commute; and lastly, proximity to city – close, please.

Luckily we have an excellent friend  who is a real estate agent in the area and he is on the case. Now, there’s a surprise!

And employment.* We need employment. The man has his own business. He can move it easily. Me? Well, I’ve started applying for jobs. Watch this space.

Yes, things are changing fast. Please fasten your seatbelt and hold on tight!

 

*Update: I am busy rewriting the book and after a few false starts, I think I have got the voice right. Phew!

 

 

 

 

Count down

For the last year the man and I have spent an awful lot of time plotting and scheming for our semi-retirement. Sometimes deciding the details has been easy-peasy, but at other times it has been a case of going round and round in circles, and getting nowhere fast.  Change is hard at the best of times and we have found that it is even harder when there are two or more attractive choices to choose from. Heads or tails, anyone?

Having said this, we are making progress and things are falling nicely into place. We have brought the date forward to saying adios to the 40 hour working week: February 2017 is D (departure) day for leaving full time employment. At the latest.

The rental is on the market next week. As we have decided to move out of Auckland, the house we are in at the moment is getting tarted up with the intention of selling it. We did consider renting it, but it is not a house that lends itself to easy renting and the fact is that being a landlord does not suit the man or my dispositions. It is important for happiness to recognise this.

Selling these two properties and buying out of Auckland allows us to get a property that has the land, the shed and a nice house, all within cooee of a smaller, quieter city with all the amenities. And at a price which leaves us  some capital to play with.

So will this capital be spent on matching Maseratis for the man or me, a Harley Davidson or two, overseas trips every two months or what? Well, sadly this does not sit well with the ever-practical Virgo in me, and the dreamy Pisces I am married to agrees.

We worked hard for this. And as some of it is inheritances from our parents who worked hard for it too, we feel even more obligated to be sensible. Retail therapy has no place here. We will therefore invest it wisely, and hopefully grow it.

And this is the problem: what do we do with it to keep it safe, and keep pace with inflation? Whatever we choose needs to provide us with a small income when we are fully retired, not to mention two damn awesome funerals (just joking!) and, ideally, something for the kids.

At this stage we admit to being pretty naive, maybe even totally clueless, so we are reading books, talking to people who seem to be financially astute, and thinking hard. We know we have to diversify investments to hedge bets. But what…? No doubt the man and I will work it out.

Meanwhile, some guy from Nigeria has just contacted me about a long lost Uncle John (never heard of him), but apparently he has left me squillions and  I just need to transfer some money to get it…. must go!

 

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