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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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slow living

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!

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.

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.

Tractor Woes

Our trusty Fergie has stopped working.

And we are are missing it. A tractor is, after all, a must- have item for townies new to country life, along with the ride on mower and a chainsaw.

The man and I did our research when we bought it – those new-fangled tractors looked just the ticket, but realistically they were for proper farming folks, not pretend ones like us. And besides, new heavy duty farm machinery was a tad overkill for our three acre block, not to mention the eye-watering price tag for those magnificent machines being way beyond our purse!

After much looking around, the man decided on a Massey Ferguson 35. Circa 1960, this model had a reputation for being a reliable machine and was perfectly priced for our budget – read cheap here.

We duly purchased one. It was the required red – the colour of most tractors in children’s picture books! It also had the ubiquitous PTO. It didn’t have the front end loader blade which the man had wanted, but he was willing to compromise and this one had a hydraulic tray which was a win too in his eyes.

Four years on, we can honestly say that the tractor has been an asset around the property. Sure, we don’t use it daily, but it is handy for all measures of lifestyle block requirements such as pulling out old tree stumps, shifting firewood, and towing old logs around, plus playing on (carefully) when our city friends visit.

Recently we made the decision to start looking around to buy a mower attachment for it. The reason being that we need to keep our paddocks in check, as there are no livestock grazing on the land at present.

So when the tractor failed to start, the man decided it must be fixed. Yes, he and Mr Google are on the case. They are taking a systematic approach to tractor repair- this involves systematically replacing pieces until it starts. So far and in no particular order, we have purchased new spark plugs, distributor cap, and high tension leads. Today we bought a new solenoid, and, still it doesn’t start!

Our tractor

The next thing on the list is an ignition switch. And maybe a Massey Ferguson 35 workshop manual, which could prove mighty handy at times like this.

I know this is a bit of a hit and miss approach to mechanics, but one day in the not too distant future, this approach will work and the tractor will splutter into life again and with all its new parts, it should be sweet for another few years!

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.

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