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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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retirement

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!

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!

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.

New to me.

Well into middle age, I discovered the pluses of buying second hand.

I remember school friends scouring the charity shops looking for pieces of funky clothing and other stuff in our youth. But I didn’t. In fact, I viewed this practice with horror – I mean, who had worn those clothes, or used that item before? No, siree, buying from a second hand shop wasn’t something the youthful me would be seen dead doing.

So I am totally late to the party discovering the pluses and joys of buying second hand. And as a true convert, I have embraced it and wholeheartedly recommend it as a way to get well made, and unusual things in excellent condition at a fraction of the price you would buy new.

My new-to-me haunts are the online NZ site TradeMe (a bit like Craigslist and Ebay, I think) and the charity shops.

I use TradeMe most often for work clothing. I am very organised about this: I have favourite labels I know work well for me. This means I know the size in each label that fit me and the cuts that work for my body shape. I also know they are well made, and use good fabric that will go the distance. The last sentence is very important to me as I buy items that are a classic cut that I will wear until they fall to bits. I also will buy shoes second-hand. Everything I bid on has to be in very good or excellent condition.

I am not a clothes horse type of woman, so each season, I buy only what I need. This winter I have bought two pairs of shoes (ballet flats and a pair of rollies).

New-to-me Rollies

These are replacements for the very expensive boots I purchased new a few years back and which are busy shedding the thin leather covering on the elastic gusset in a most unattractive and unwearable way. I also bought a skirt (VSSP). All items are perfect: both in condition and fit. This season’s new to me work items cost me $80 including postage. I have two more items I wish to buy for winter: jeans, and a MacPac jacket like my daughter has. I am looking on TradeMe for the jacket, but will buy new when it goes on sale if I haven’t sourced an excellent condition second-hand one before this. The jeans I will buy new.

Which brings me to deciding on how much to pay for an item. Items on TradeMe are sold by auction. Some will also have a buy now price. Postage is on top of this.

If it is an auction, I determine what it is worth to me and set this as the highest price I will pay. FOMO has no place in sensible buying (don’t get me started on house auctions!) If there is a buy now price and I think it is fair, I will purchase that way.

I have mentioned charity shops. The first item I purchased from an opportunity shop was a breadmaker. I bought it second hand because I was not convinced that after the initial enthusiasm for making bread had worn off, it would be used – it was after all a bit of a must-have fad at the time. The $40 price tag, therefore, worked for me, as did the breadmaker which actually did not gather dust and instead gave me many years of use. Still going, I gifted it to someone else when we downsized to move onto the boat.

The man, though, is the main user of charity shops in our family. He scouts them for old tools (hard to find) and for work clothing too. A woodworker, his uniform is plaid shirts and jeans. The shirts often get covered in varnish, stains and glue, so he is more than happy to buy second hand, knowing that they will become rags within the season. Occasionally he will buy a decent item of clothing he happens upon – often they are unworn garments that are other people’s purchasing mistakes. And the other day, he happened on a lovely lamp which now adds a bit of retro style to our lounge.

Buying second hand is not something only Ma and Pa Stone do. My youngest son and his wife are into it too, so for Mother’s Day, I received a set of Temuka Coffee mugs, circa 1977. Found on TradeMe, they match other Temuka I have from back in the day. They are also in perfect condition and I am thrilled.

Second-hand …. one of the best ways to stretch your money (or in my case squirrel it away for those early retirement plans), and at the same time own something a wee bit different. And, of course, the perfect way to recycle and do your bit to save the planet!

I highly recommend it.

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