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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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Work life balance

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

Ride-on Hassles

For the last few months, the man and our ride-on mower haven’t been getting on. We blame this entirely on the machine which mostly refused to start and when it did start, refused to run for long.

The man would then spend the next few hours coaxing it to go long enough to do our lawn. Our frustration levels, meanwhile, went through the roof and our tolerance plummeted. Wrangling with a recalcitrant ride-on was not how we envisaged life in the country, we both secretly thought.

Which is why we needed to do a rethink about this lawn mowing thing. So we did. And we came up with two options.

Option A was to purchase a brand new mower and continue to do the lawns. The price of a new machine was between $8,000 -$12000. In addition to this, there were the ongoing running costs of petrol, oil, and everyday maintenance to factor in. At some stage in the distant future, this new mower would no longer be new and we would be up for a replacement one too or be back to where we were now – fighting with the mower to get it going. We tucked this (awful) thought into the back of our minds.

Option B was to out-source the task to a lawn-mowing contractor with his own machine. The quote was $100 per cut. We did the math. We could get 80 – 120 cuts for the price of a new ride on. Factoring in the additional running costs of petrol, oil and the maintenance costs and hassles, it made even more sense. At a cut averaging once every 4 weeks, that would be a fair few years taken care of.

Needless to say the winner was Option B. It was way more cost effective, removed the hassle of maintaining a machine and gave us some time back which we can use more productively on the property. It is money well spent.

Meanwhile, we have gifted our old ride-on to a local mower mechanic. It is been used for parts in reconditioned ride-ons.

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.

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.

Living a good life

Covid has made many of us reflect on what is important in life.

I thought I would share some of the things I think are integral to a life well lived:

  1. Live a good and ethical life.
  2. Stand up for what you believe in. Never turn a blind eye to injustice.
  3. This planet is our home: respect it and look after it.
  4. Public good trumps your wants and needs.
  5. Do not screw anyone over.
  6. Own your mistakes.
  7. Ask forgiveness when you need to.
  8. Prioritise relationships with family and friends .
  9. Happiness is a great goal, but happiness doesn’t just happen, it takes work.
  10. Respect your body; it is the only one you will ever have.
  11. If something in your life isn’t working, try and fix it first. This holds true for everything from fridges to relationships. If you can’t fix it, buy another (fridge), or move on (relationships).
  12. Experiences are never a waste of money; updating an OK lounge suite is.
  13. Failing does not mean you are a failure. It means you are human. Accept it with grace, not excuses.
  14. Being the best is not important. Trying your best is.
  15. Don’t prioritise accumulating money or things ever. Neither will bring you true happiness.
  16. There is good debt e.g to buy your home and bad debt e.g credit card debt. The former should make you financially secure; the latter will make the lending institution so.
  17. Don’t get wants and needs muddled up. Wants might be nice to have, but never screw yourself (or anyone else) over financially or in any other way to get it.
  18. Buying second hand is a win for the planet and for you.
  19. Don’t idolise other people, be they beautiful, rich or whatever; others lives are not what they seem!
  20. Be comfortable and happy with who you are, but recognise you are a work in progress .

I am sure you will have other things that you think are important. Please feel free to add them to the comments.

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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