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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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New Zealand

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.

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!

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.

Foraging – Part 2

Content warning: this post is continuing the foraging theme I began in my blog about blackberries so if you didn’t enjoy that, stop now!

For my readers brave enough, or foolish enough to not heed the content warning, read on.

During the ten weeks I was working from home this year, the man and I would break up the day – and yeah, work the lockdown eating off – by walking up and down the length of the road we live on.

Often we would see the herd manager working on the farm across the road and stop to have a yarn with him. Yes, we discussed the lofty subjects of the weather, the lockdown, and, you know, just general stuff about putting the world to right.

It was during one of these talks that he told us that mushrooms were growing wild in the fields. My ears pricked up: I love mushrooms. The man? Not at all!

Except I didn’t follow up and go picking wild mushrooms. Why? There are lots of types of fungi growing around here, and I wasn’t confident enough to determine what were safe-to-eat mushrooms and which were their deadly doppelgangers . Foraging is not for the feint-hearted.

Next year. Well, next year, I will go picking with someone who knows what’s what mushroom-wise. And to be doubly sure they know their stuff, I will let them eat them first too.

Covid permitting, of course

Food for thought

Driving home from work I saw two women busy picking watercress growing by the side of the road.

Although I have never picked watercress, I have picked blackberries that grew wild beside rural roads in New Zealand. This was back in the day – blackberries growing beside rural roads is as rare as rocking horse poo now as the plant is removed by local councils when spotted.

This could be the end of the story. The end of making blackberry jam. The end of baking blackberry and apple pies. The end of eating the odd juicy blackberry while picking.

Except it isn’t. Blackberries are both grown commercially and by the home gardener in NZ. And these blackberries taste almost as good.

Almost as good? Yes, there was something extra special about eating blackberries foraged from the side of a dusty, rural road. They tasted nicer.

And as I passed those two women busy picking watercress at the side of the road, I knew their watercress would taste nicer too.

Competing for the ladies

We have sheep on our land.

When we first arrived here the paddocks had not had stock on them for a while and the fields were covered in knee high carrot weed.

This was a bit of a surprise as the former owner had offered to mow it for us, but this had not transpired.

To city refugees, such as ourselves, how we were going to get the paddocks sorted and what to do with them was quite a headache. Yes, we had no idea. Luckily, new neighbours put us right, ” Just put a sign up that says grazing available, and whomever takes the land on will sort it,” they said.

And that is exactly what happened. A local herd manager took it on: hay was made and sheep were delivered. Three years on and this arrangement is going well.

And us? We are quite the pros. No longer do we run around like headless chooks when a lamb breaches the fence. We know it won’t stray far from its mum. And we can get it back into the paddock with (limited) drama.

It is June now. The ewes are pregnant. We know this as we have been party to Mr Ram’s amorous attempts to have his way with his ladies in February/March.

This year he had a keen as adolescent ram to contend with. That young ram didn’t get a look in.

But his jealousy wasn’t just reserved for the young ram.

The man dared to wander into the paddock. The ram charged, stopping short a few inches from the man. His message loud and clear ‘Nobody, but nobody, comes near my ladies!’.

He is forgiven. In a month or two, we will have his lambs playing in our fields. And they are gorgeous.

Winter fires

Outside the wind is raging and the rain is falling. Thunder and lightning are forecast later today. Regardless, we are pleased. The drought which has been our constant companion since late last year is over. The grass is greening up and our water tanks are filling up nicely.

I am sitting at the dining table writing this. A fire* is roaring in the hearth warming our home, and I can hear the kettle whistling in the kitchen. It is a good life.

This fire was in situ when we bought the house, and is our only source of heating*.* Throughout the year any (unusable) scrap of wood from the man’s workshop gets added to the woodshed to be used through the coming winter.

Over a couple of weekends each year the man will don his chainsaw chaps, ear muffs, and eye googles and spend each day chainsawing branches and felling surplus trees on our property. The trees are a mix of gum, cypress, and manuka. This serves a dual purpose of cleaning up the block and providing fire wood.

At day’s end the tractor will be used to bring the wood up to the shed. Here the man cuts it into sizes suitable for the fire. This wood needs to dry, so will be stored in a separate pile until it is ready to be used the following year.

The man is in his element and we are sorted wood-wise for the coming winter and beyond.

Come the cold weather, the man will light the fire every day we are home.

Hunkering down in front of a roaring fire? Nothing comes close!

  • *Fires have featured in most of our homes. These have included models which you can cook on and have wetbacks which make them very cost effective. These type are our ideal. . And we recently discovered these beauties of fireplace that do everything which are manufactured just down the road —– homewoodstoves. co.nz. With regards to energy cost, bearing in mind our firewood is free, our winter power bills are $125 per month. In summer when the rate is cheaper, they are $90 per month. This includes running the workshop.
  • **A heat transfer system combined with this fire would heat our home more efficiently. It is on the wish list.

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.

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