Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Education (Page 1 of 5)

How do we prepare for the unexpected?

Last week I received a text from the guy who used to share a flat with Tom31, asking if he could call me. Although Tom31 left the flat on bad terms with this guy, it’s been over a year since that all happened, Tom31 now has his own place and they have friends in common. They now have a civil relationship. Let’s call him Fergus.

I also knew that Fergus had unexpectedly lost his Mum a few days before. Fergus and his Mum were close and she also had a great relationship with my son. She did the conveyancing on his property and only charged him ‘mates rates’ and they always got along like a house on fire.

Of course, I took his call.

What followed was heart-aching.

Fergus was still reeling over his mother’s death. He called me because he really wanted to keep his Mum’s house and he wanted some unbiased advice. He has two siblings who want to sell it and split the proceeds equally.

“How much is your Mum’s place worth, roughly? Is there a mortgage on it?’ I asked.

“It’s worth around 1.2M and she paid it off,” he said.

“What assets do you own?” I asked.

“I have around $500 in the bank,” he said.

I sighed. “I’m sorry Fergus, but no bank will lend you that much money if you have nothing to offer as collateral. You’ll have to let the house go.”

He sighed as well and said that he thought so, but he wanted to hear it from someone who wasn’t out to make something from the sale.

He’d said earlier that the house was like a refuge for him – that when he’d had a rough day, he’d “get off at her station, go around there and we’d solve the world’s problems over a bucket of wine. “

I gently said, “You know how you talked about her house as being like a refuge? It wasn’t the house; it was the person. I suggest that you go around there on your own one day, walk around and quietly say your goodbyes. Then once the house is sold, you can move forward with whatever money you get from it as her legacy.”

“That’s the problem,” he said. “I don’t know what to do with it. I’ve already had people making suggestions about investments, but I feel so confused.” He added bitterly, “Her body isn’t even cold yet and people are already picking at what she left.”

Yikes. It was a few days before the funeral, so I totally got what he was saying.

What could I say? I’m not a numbers person. But then I thought: what advice would I want someone to give one of my boys if I suddenly popped my clogs? I’d want them to be given advice that was safe, conservative, and would be easy to implement when they were still grieving and not able to think clearly. Advice that would allow the dust to settle before any life-changing decisions were made.

It also had to fit in with the stage of life Fergus is in.

He’s not in a relationship. He’s not starting a family and looking to put down roots in a house that will suck up all of his money and shackle him into a mortgage for the next two decades. (This is the position one of his siblings is in – they’ll be using the money as a house deposit for their young family.)

Fergus is still studying. Once that’s done, he’ll be putting his efforts into establishing his new career. Who knows? He may decide that he wants to spend that money on buying into a law firm somewhere. He may choose to relocate to another city or country. His options are wide open. He probably needs that pool of money to be safely waiting for him.

Yes, he might make a few extra dollars if he put it into shares, but I still think that on balance, safety trumps a little profit. Besides, the way the share market has been bouncing around? A little profit isn’t exactly a certain bet in the short term.

I decided to go with the term deposit route. Luckily for him, interest rates are better on savings accounts than they have been for a long time.

My advice was to put 90% of whatever money he received from his Mum’s estate into a term deposit and to leave it there for 12 months.

“The other 10%? Spend it. Go on a big holiday, buy some clothes, furniture… whatever you want. She’d want you to enjoy it. But DON’T spend any more than that. Respect her legacy and only deploy it for something that’s going to establish your way in the world – whatever that turns out to be.”

I then added, “And for God’s sake don’t put any of it into crypto!”

He laughed ruefully. “I’ve already been burned by that,” he said.

“Hey, how lucky is it that you learned that lesson when you didn’t have a lot of money to lose?” I said. “Don’t beat yourself up over it; just be glad that you’re not going to make the same mistake with your Mum’s money.”

“I definitely won’t! he said.

“If you do what I’m saying, it gives you time to move through your grief and not risk making big decisions when you’re not thinking clearly. Then, when the dust has settled and you have a clearer idea of what you want to do, then you can make decisions that aren’t going to be based on raw emotion. Besides, speaking as a single mother myself, it’s hard to pay off a house on your own. You don’t want to waste her final legacy for you.”

‘You’re absolutely right,” he said. “That’s the last thing I want to do.”

At the end of the call he thanked me, saying that he felt at peace for the first time since all of this stuff started to come up.

“I think I’ll do what you suggest,” he said. “It sounds really sensible and it gives me time to breathe. Is it ok if I call you again when it comes closer to the time?”

Of course I said yes.

But this conversation really gave me food for thought.

We all expect to live till we’re old. My own parents are both in their 80’s, still living together at home and although they’ve slowed down, they’re still going strong. I don’t know about you, but any thoughts I’ve had of my children inheriting my estate have them all as grey-haired old men, with decades more life experience behind them than they have now.

But what if a similar thing happens to us? Fergus’s Mum was only in her late 60’s.

How would the boys make these huge financial decisions if I suddenly wasn’t here?

It’s a big responsibility to suddenly have a large sum of money given to you at any age. Not many people in their 20’s and 30’s have a rock-solid plan in their minds of what they’d do with a cash windfall of a few hundred thousand dollars. (And if any of my sons did, I’d be a bit worried that they’d decide that I was worth more to them dead than alive…)

I don’t know what the answer is. Do we write a letter “to be opened in the case of my unfortunate demise” to be read aloud, giving our advice? Do we hope that older, wiser people will take our loved ones under their wings and give them excellent advice? What if there’s no one around our kids who is good with money?

It’s a conundrum.

At the end of the day, I gave Fergus the same advice, given his situation, that I’d hope that someone else would give my kids if we were in the same situation. I can’t do any better than that. It was heartbreaking though, seeing a young man almost shell-shocked with grief and yet being forced to grapple with uncharted financial waters like this.

It made me hope that my boys will never be in a position like this. At least, not until they’re grey-haired old men! But if that doesn’t turn out to be the case, I hope that they have access to someone who will give them sound, unbiased advice to give them time to come to terms with their new reality and that they’ll be able to make unrushed, sensible decisions.

Anyway, this is the sort of stuff that I haven’t given much thought to until now. When they were small, I worried more about who would look after them if I suddenly died, rather than worry about inheritances. Once they grew up, I didn’t think about this stuff because, as I said at the start, I probably believed that I was immortal.

I’ll be doing a bit more thinking about this…

Dad joke of the day:

My wife told me to stop singing “I’m a Believer” or she’d kill me. I thought she was kidding..

… but then I saw her face.

The challenge I set myself that I didn’t tell you about.

A wire-haired dachshund looking like an angel.

It’s coming up to the end of the year and I’m feeling confident that I’m going to finish a challenge that I didn’t tell you about.

Part of my financial strategy within retirement is to have a pool/bucket of money, around 3 years of expenses, that I’ve put in a term deposit to ride out a stock market crash. I rolled over that money at the end of December last year, just before – you guessed it – there was a downturn in the stock market.

I wasn’t concerned. With the piddling interest being paid on the term deposit, it didn’t worry me that I’d have to break into it to pull out some living expenses.

But then I had 3 people separately contact me towards the end of term 1, asking if I’d consider helping the school out with some CRT work because covid was making it extremely difficult to cover classes.

I owed the school big time. Securing an ongoing teaching job nearly 20 years ago absolutely saved our financial bacon. The school has been fantastic to my boys and me; I’d had 3 vaccinations by then; I could teach in a mask; and …

… maybe I could stretch the time before I had to tap into that term deposit???? WHAT a challenge!

I totally didn’t expect that I’d be working as many days as I have. So far, as of this week’s pay, I’ve brought home just over 25K in income from this CRT gig. What with dividends, my CRT wages and my tax return, I’ve more than covered this year’s expenses.

So, in effect, I’ve succeeded in stretching that term deposit into being able to last me 4 years instead of 3. I’m pretty happy with that.

When I come back from Antarctica, it’ll be time to think about how hard I want to tap that term deposit. I’m definitely not working as many days as I have this year – by the end of term 3, I was very unhappy. I was pining for my lost freedom.

However, I’m thinking that working a day a week next year might be ok. That’s around $300 take-home that I could put toward a holiday or another son’s wedding or something. It’s also true that once Ryan27 moves out, I’ll be living on my own. Working a day a week, where I’m forced to interact with people, might stop me from becoming weird.

Or at least, stop me from becoming weirder than I already am.

As I’m typing this, I’m sitting in front of a deathly quiet Maths class. After lunch, I’ll be walking a group of year 8s to the local lawn bowls club for their sport double. It’s not a hard way to earn some money. The kids here are lovely and it’s nice to catch up with my work friends.

I’ve decided that I’ll pull the pin on work this year when I have 2 weeks to go before I go to Tullamarine and try to remember how to get on a flight. I definitely don’t want to catch covid and have to postpone this holiday again!

So, being flexible and taking on some casual teaching has worked pretty well for me, all things considered. The challenge of being able to stave off tapping the term deposit for a whole year was a stretch goal for me, but I DO like to win at a challenge!

But the emotional drain of seeing my glorious freedom ebbing away is something that I don’t want to repeat again next year. I feel that I’ve helped the school out in its hour of need, and having the freedom to heavily pick and choose how many days I work is something that I’ll be exploring next year.

I have to train myself to say ‘no’ if the chance to earn money is offered. Those many years of poverty are hard to break away from.

Dad joke of the day:

How much is enough?

A small grey, white and orange kitten is outside in the grass alone. In this frame the cat is looking curious and giving lots of effort to get out a big meow. In this frame the kitten is sitting next to a dandelion.

What a time to be alive!

Only 5 more days to go before I walk out the door having finished my contract teaching job. I’ve done most of the marking – only dribs and drabs of late projects and 2 tests to give out and mark – and two more yard duties, (unless Rosie hits me with an extra one like she did on Friday), and by 2:30 PM Friday I’ll be a free woman again. Thank God for early finish times when terms end.

Let me state upfrontthe job I’m finishing up is by any sane person’s definition an absolute DREAM job. The money’s great; the students are respectful and funny; the people I work with are (mostly) lovely; I don’t have to attend meetings; I can leave as soon as the bell rings; the biggest physical labour is walking up and down stairs all day (and if I want I can take the lifts), and tomorrow I get a free lunch provided because it’s Diversity Week. (Lamb Rogan Josh, if anyone’s interested.) To add icing on the cake, the admin at the new campus are on the ball and are a pleasure to work with.

So if that’s the definition of a sane person’s idea of a dream job, why am I feeling insane right now?

It’s simple. After experiencing retirement, even in the midst of lockdown after lockdown, my whole mindset has changed. Now that I’ve achieved financial independence, I’m in the position to start valuing my time more than money. This is a whole new ball game.

And yes, I used a sporting metaphor. Ugh. That’s how new and strange this is.

Unless you’re born into money, everyone has to work to financially establish themselves. It takes many years of work, sacrifices and tenacity to get to a point where you no longer have to trade your time for money. Along the way, some of us get divorced, so we have to start over and do the whole thing again.

That’s fun.

But after years of work, saving, and investing while life swirls around you, you’re then at the point where going into work becomes a choice. You can choose to keep building a career that you love, or you can quietly step back from giving most of your waking hours to a job and begin to use those hours for your own pursuits.

Now, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but even I knew that this would happen once I hit my magic number and stepped back from work. But intellectually knowing it and then resisting the siren call of easy money once I dipped my toe back into working again are two very different things.

Taking this 7-week full-time contract has been invaluable.

It’s easy to say that you want to get out of work if the job you have isn’t great. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to leave a job where you’re overworked, underpaid and you’re unhappy being there? It makes perfect sense.

But this job is fantastic! Yet 3 weeks into the 7 weeks I was the most depressed I’ve been in years. Not clinically depressed of course, but by God, I was miserable. But this was an easy gig that I CHOSE to do myself. It had a definite finish date so I wasn’t locked into years of indentured servitude or anything. Yet I felt like I was dragging my feet through mud to get to perform this fantastic job each day.

Now that I’m nearing the end of the contract, I’ve realised that this was actually the perfect way to experience how financial independence has truly changed my life. It’s one thing to hate going to work if the job is blah/awful, but when the job is terrific and yet you feel you’ve boxed yourself in for no real reason, then it’s obvious that certain priorities have changed.

The final nail in the coffin of knowing that I won’t take a contract again was when I had a couple of parents contact me about their sons’ abysmal performance on their geography projects. The second I see that a parent has phoned or emailed me, my stress levels go through the roof. It’s never good news. People rarely contact teachers to tell them they’re doing a great job.

One parent was pretty standard, but the other one wanted me to “give him the third degree” about why he hadn’t handed in his project because they” have tried to speak to Joe Lunchbucket [not his real name] to find out what caused the work to be incomplete but he has not given me a straight answer, so I would like you to speak to him and find out.”   They signed off the email with their phone number so I could report back to them after the interrogation.

I read the email, rolled my eyes and was like, “Oh, so you want me to do your parenting for you?”

I wasn’t happy, but I did the right thing and kept the kid after class, had a chat with him about the work, resisted the temptation to use the thumbscrews or the cat o’ 9 tails, and he promised to submit the project in the next 5 minutes. All good. I walked upstairs to my desk and opened my laptop to mark his project during lunch.

There was an email from the front desk, sent 5 minutes before the period had even ended, saying that this parent was asking me to call them back and giving me their number again. Seriously??? Give me a chance to have the chat in the first place and then walk upstairs and sit down.

Oof. Some parents.

The talk with the parent actually went better than I expected. They were worried about their son, “so different after having the girls!”, and I understand where they were coming from. However, I think it was fair to say that their anxiety was a little over the top. Joe Lunchbucket [not his real name] is a good kid who is a little lazy at the moment. Sounds like a typical year 9 boy to me.

What I didn’t appreciate was the effect it had on MY anxiety levels. Disgruntled parents can cause a lot of problems for a teacher if they decide to get nasty about something. I don’t need to be here. I don’t have to be feeling this.

I’m definitely over it.

Another little moment was when I was having dinner with a longtime friend a couple of weeks ago. He said to me, “But don’t you have enough money to live on for the rest of your life? Why are you doing this for? How much is enough?”

Hmmm. He got me there!

I’ll more than likely do the odd day of CRT teaching going forward. The job itself is great and it’ll be a nice day of catching up with friends, writing Dad jokes on the board and bantering with the kids.

But feeling miserable in the midst of the perfect job was a definite sign that my life and priorities have moved on. I’ve ticked the “money/security” item off my list of life goals.

Time to get back to living every day on MY timetable again.

Dad joke of the day:

Ok, so not really a Dad joke but it made me chuckle anyway.

Don’t believe a word of it!

When people whine and say that “kids should be taught personal finance in schools!!! Wahhh wahhh!” you can tell them to pull their heads in.

This was the lesson plan of the first class I taught today. It’s a year 9 class that every kid takes, where they learn about our political system, how to manage money and invest, careers advice, the media and lots of other things.

As you can see by the lesson plan, kids ARE being taught real-life lessons about money and how to handle it.

The hook for the lesson was a 3 minutes news report that I played on the interactive whiteboard. It was about Afterpay and similar companies, and how people are running amock with it in the short-term and then living to regret it in the long term, as the levels of debt they rack up make it impossible to get mortgage loans from banks.

Then they went on to what the lesson plan outlined. Learning about different investments and going on to “Consider the ideas behind investments and practice applying the investments in a reasonable way.

This is all real-life stuff. About money and how to evaluate the best way/s to use it.

Kids ARE being taught about finances. They always were.

The only reason people think that they weren’t taught how to manage money in school is because they weren’t interested in the subject when they were teenagers and so they didn’t retain the knowledge. (A bit like me and mathematics.)

We’re preparing the kids for the future! Anytime someone tries to whip up anger against teachers/schools for not doing this, they’re talking through their… um… hat.

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call a wolf who has everything all figured out?

Aware wolf.

What’s it like to be happily retired – then go back to work?

In the FI/RE space there’s an abundance of posts about how to get to financial independence. (Quite a large percentage are written by people who haven’t yet managed to get there themselves.) There are fewer posts written about what it’s like to actually reach FI and retire. I’ve written quite a few of these sorts of posts during 2021 – the year of lockdowns and my blissfully happy first year of retirement.

But there aren’t too many posts about what it’s like to retire – then pick up work afterwards.

Surely I’m not the only person to have done this? Maybe it’s seen as a sign of shame; that somehow the financial independence hasn’t ‘worked’?

Whatever the reason that people don’t write about this much, I’m stepping up to shine a light on what it’s like to say a blissful goodbye to a career – with a kick-arse speech goodby that I’m still proud of – to then, a little more than a year later, fronting up back at the school again. As I write this I’m sitting in front of a year 9 class, tapping away here while they’re putting the finishing touches onto a political campaign they’re running. Fiddy bucks in my pocket for 48 minutes’ work, before I move onto the next class for another fiddy.

Here I am, swapping my precious time for money. This is something I didn’t think I’d ever do. Except, in the back of my mind, I had a feeling in my waters that this massive bull market probably wouldn’t keep going for another 5 years. I had a vague game plan in my mind that if the market fell before 2026, I’d probably pick up a few days of CRT, (casual relief teaching), to ease the Sequence of Returns Risk.

So, as we all know the market has taken a tumble. At the same time, schools are desperate for CRTs due to covid and the flu, along with regular things like school camps etc. I went back into the classroom as a perfect storm was hitting Australian schools.

I was lucky, in that I still loved being in the classroom when I retired, so it wasn’t as if I was dragging myself back to a job I hated. And as luck would have it, all the boring admin, report writing and diagnostic testing are things that CRTs don’t get asked to perform. Talk about a win right there!

When I began, I had a couple of weeks of a day or two of teaching, then I was suddenly plunged into a month of full-time teaching. The last two weeks have been back to the retired life with no work days, with today, Wednesday and Thursday being back at school in this last week of term 2.

So it’s been interesting to see how I adjusted to going back to work, especially during the month when I was essentially full-time.

To be honest, it was a little scary how easily I went back to the old routine of getting up when the alarm rang and racing around the house to get out by a certain time. I’d had over a year of leisurely mornings waking up when I felt like it, (or really, when Jeffrey decided it was time to wake up and he’d shake the bed with his scratching. ) In retirement I tend to ease into my mornings, staying on the couch until 9 or 10, laptop on my lap and the dogs snoozing by my side.


Now, suddenly I was pitchforked into day after day of early starts, one after the other. I honestly thought it would take longer to adjust back to the old routine than it did. It took the middle of the first “full-time” week and I was back in the swing of it.

Clothes organised, lunch organised, water bottle filled and my bag packed with everything I’d need for the day ahead. No lollygagging around on the internet, oh no! Pour a coffee, solve the Wordle, post a couple of Dad jokes on Facebook, check my timetable to see what the day will hold and then it’s off the couch and into the shower. Keep moving! Time is ticking!

In the car, podcast on. Driving on the freeway, having a goal in mind of being at the last main intersection before school at 8:20. Winning if I shave a minute or two off that time. Walk into school, grab a laptop and keys, up to the staffroom to see what’s in store for me today. A couple of minutes before the bell, start walking to the first classroom to let the kids in and be ready to call the roll at 8:50 when the bell goes.

It’s honestly like riding a bike.

The ease of slipping back into that old rushed routine was, as I said, a little scary. I’d absolutely adored my 2021 year of being absolutely free and it was astonishing how quickly it was overtaken by the requirements of the work routine. Even the little woofs quickly worked out which day was going to be a “Mum’s home” day or not. During 2021, every time I left the house they’d freak out and wait for me all day, if necessary. Since I started work, Ryan27 says that it took a week before they went back to their old routine of sleeping through the day and only starting to wait for me at the front window at about 4PM.

We’re all conditioned by The Man!

It’s not just the blissful retirement morning routine that was affected. After a calming 2021 free of the tyranny of having to fit things in on the weekends, I was suddenly doing the ironing on a Sunday afternoon, making sure I did the bread baking (for lunches) on the weekends, and generally cramming all of the activities that I used to spread luxuriously through the working week all into two days.

I realised that I was starting to think, “I don’t have TIME for this!” whenever something went even the slightest bit wrong. Apparently, I used to say that a lot before my retirement. Time suddenly switched from being my beloved friend to my enemy.

Once I’m at work, my days are a strange mix of watching time drag and being really entertained. There’s no denying that I talk to a hell of a lot more people when I’m at school. The kids are always funny and up for a bit of banter, while my free times are spent chatting to work colleagues and having a laugh.

The social side of going back to work is lovely. Don’t get me wrong; I adore my hermit life at home, but I’m also enjoying being with the people at work.

The downside of being with people is that I’m mixing with around 900 of the hormonally challenged. Yes, I’m talking about teenagers.

Now, teenagers are sometimes hilarious, sometimes deep and sometimes thoughtful. The kids at our school are, for the vast majority of the time, polite, considerate and lovely. However…

… occasionally you’ll strike a kid having a bad day. They don’t WANT to be told to do their work, they don’t WANT to be quiet and not disrupt the class and they’ll be DAMNED if they’ll listen to a ‘sub’.


As I’m in the middle of doing the dance that is maintaining control of the class without pushing this sort of kid into open rebellion, I’m thinking, “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t need this shit. I could be doing anything else right now…”

Or you’ll have a class at the end of the day or week who are just over it. Their regular teacher has left screamingly dull work for them to do and all they want to do is get through the next 48 minutes so they can go home. Low-level talking gradually rises in volume as more and more kids switch off and start talking to their friends. It seems like every 3 minutes I’m saying, “Ok year 8! Too loud!”

And I’m thinking, “I know. I’m bored. I feel it too. Only 15 minutes till the bell goes and we’re free! Oh no. I’m clock watching again.”

Man! Clock watching is definitely a THING. When you’re a regular teacher you have to be conscious of the time. Every lesson has an arc and you have to know where you are within that 48 minutes to drive the lesson to a successful conclusion. So clock-watching is a necessary part.

CRT is a different beast. I enter the room, call the roll and introduce the lesson. Then, unless kids have specific questions that I can help them with – which is never when I’m taking a Maths class- the rest of the time I’m pretty much making sure that the kids stay on task and aren’t misbehaving. I find that I’m watching the clock a lot. Not in a productive “lesson arc” way but more of an “oof, there’s still half an hour to go… I could be doing anything with my time… hmmmm, if I was home right now, what would I be doing?”

I REALLY don’t want to get covid and, as we all know, working in schools is a high-risk thing to do. I’m one of the few teachers to mask up. I wear a KN95 mask from the moment I get out of the car in the morning to when I get back into it at the end of the day and this, coupled with being triple vaxxed and vaxxed for the flu, has so far kept me covid safe.

(Touch wood, as my grandmother would say.)

But then, every fortnight I get paid. I like getting paid.

In this post I designed a chart to track where my earnings were going. So much more motivating than just plodding into work every day! I’ve modified it slightly since then, but I’ve basically worked my way down the chart “paying off” every item in turn.

Of course, the money I earn usually goes to my credit card, which I always keep in the black, to pay for our day-to-day expenses. But this protects my savings, which is incredibly important. Six months into a market downturn, I haven’t had to sell any shares or touch any savings or emergency fund money due to the combo of earnings and dividends. I’ve even been able to top up my savings.

This makes me feel very good.

Later on today, I have an appointment with a travel agent to find out about airfares etc to Easter Island and Ushuaia for my Antarctica trip in December. I know I should probably bring a defibrillator with me to start my heart after I hear the prices. I’ve already earned 2K towards airfares, but now that I’m definitely going to Easter Island, I’ll be adding an extra line to that chart for lots more funds needed.

Tom30 is looking to buy a place of his own and is living here to turbocharger his deposit savings. I’ve offered to give him 5K in lieu of wedding costs and lend him a further 10K if he needs it. I’m chipping away at that 5K on the chart – just under 3K to go!

I won’t deny – knowing that giving up some of my days to be able to provide extras for myself and my family without tapping shares during a bear market feels like a good trade-off long term. Knowing that I’ve actioned the flexibility in my FI plan is satisfying.

Would I have gone back to work if we were still in a bull market?

That’s an interesting question.

The catalyst for me starting CRT work was that I heard that the school was desperate for CRTs because so many staff were getting sick. I owe the school BIG TIME for the financial security I was able to build for my boys when they were kids. Part of why I went back was that I was giving back to the place that had saved our financial bacon, back in the day.

I think that I still would have gone back, but I would probably have worked fewer days. Still, I can’t deny that it was interesting to see that I still had it in me!

After working off and on for 3 months after experiencing nearly 18 months of retirement, I have to say that it’s been ok. In fact, it’s been better than I expected. To be fair, I have a huge amount of flexibility. I can say “no” to work whenever I want, and if the school doesn’t offer me enough work I can always work elsewhere as well. There are many, many secondary schools in Melbourne!

The feelings of regret over my loss of freedom in the days when I’m in the classroom are definitely offset by the security offered by an extra income stream during a market downturn. I absolutely know that I did the right thing when I decided to pivot. I’ve had too many years of being terrified by my financial situation to want to risk having sleepless nights again! A few days back in the classroom in the early days of my retirement is a very small price to pay for the huge benefit of feeling like I’m doing the right thing for Future Frogdancer’s financial security in her golden years.

The intangible positives of returning to work are a nice bonus. I enjoy 98% of my interactions with the kids and I work with truly lovely people. I’ve met some other CRTs who are great, but I was always too busy to sit down and get to know them when I was a ‘real’ teacher. I also like the pattern of the days as a CRT – you are given every single period on AND a yard duty, but at the end of the day you can walk out right on the bell, instead of having to attend meetings etc. I’m getting home at a reasonable time nowadays – with no marking!

My mindset about this shifted when it occurred to me that my 3 year stash of living expenses that I’ve put away in case of a market downturn could be stretched indefinitely if I earned just half of my yearly expenses doing CRT.

How many days a week would that be over the first 3 terms of the school year? (Term 4 is pretty much a write-off for CRTs. Once the year 12s start having their exams, the year 12 teachers start taking all the spare classes.)

Two days a week. That’s all it would take.

Hmmm. Interesting…

… Or I could get sick of it and decide to simply stop doing it. Financial Independence is a wonderful thing.

Dad joke of the day:

The kids loved this one today!

Those who don’t read, live only one life…

… But those who DO read, live thousands.

This thought occurred to me when I was sitting in a year 8 classroom earlier today, watching as they were silently reading at the beginning of the class. Normally, I’d be reading right alongside them, but I’d intelligently left my book in the car and so I was waiting for the 10 minutes to be over.

As I drew my gaze back from the window with the beautiful sunny day outside, I saw that a couple of kids were looking at the same view. Two boys were yawning, so clearly they’d picked dud books and were bored. But the rest of the class were buried deep in their books.

As I looked at the bent heads, I started to wonder where they all were.

Some of them were reading from the class novel, ‘The Outsiders‘ by S E Hinton, preparing for the work that they were going to have to do in the rest of the class. I knew they were in 1960’s Chicago. But looking around at the others, they could have been anywhere.

Far into the future, perhaps? Way back in the past? Maybe they were experiencing life from the point of view of a different gender or nationality. All of us were physically together, but within their minds they were anywhere but here.

Once their 10 minutes of wide reading time was finished, I wrote the saying I began this post with up on the board and we had a quick chat about it.

The thing is – this saying doesn’t just relate to novels. It also relates to any kind of reading, but of course, seeing as this is a FI/RE blog, I was thinking about financial independence blogs and books.

I think it’s a real shame that the Australian government has chosen to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it came to the new rules they’ve put in place about fin-fluencers. Strong Money Australia and Late Starter Fire are two bloggers who have written about this, and they’ve both done a good job. I don’t need to repeat what they say.

It saddens me, though, that these new ‘guidelines’ about what we can and cannot say are going to take valuable stories about life experiences away from those people who can learn from them. When most people realise they need to get their sh*t together when it comes to money, they are scared and worried.

I know for sure that I was.

I think, like most people in this space, I started to learn about investing, the stock market, financial independence etc from American bloggers and Australian books. American content is all very well for gaining an understanding of the basics, but when it comes to knowledge that’s applicable to Australia, there’s no substitute for Australians sharing their knowledge and experience.

When I first started blogging on my personal blog back in 2008, I was part of the crafting/gardening niche and it was wonderful. So many people sharing their knowledge and inspiration online, helping each other and creating a really supportive community. It was wonderful – and still is.

I was so happy to find a similar space for the people interested in gaining financial independence. Clearly, our life stories are all very different, but that didn’t stop me gleaning what I could use in my own situation, while enjoying watching people’s stories unfold.

Over the years I, a single mother of 4 boys on the shady side of 50, have learned so much from the blogs of Australians who lead lives vastly different to mine. Let’s face it – not many people have travelled the same pathway to financial independence than I have! If I was holding out for information from someone who began their journey with 4 boys under 5, $60 cash, and was driving an ancient Tarago whose sunroof leaked when it rained, I’d still be sitting around, 8 years later, terrified about how I was going to prepare for the future.

Instead, I’ve learned from single people in their 20’s and 30’s, coupled up people without kids, and coupled up people WITH young kids/teenagers/grown families. Some of these couples are married, some are not. Some are straight, some gay and some don’t disclose. A few are older than I am, and I learned a lot about what retirement life is like and what to prepare myself for.

Some write under a nom de plume, others (like me – obviously) write under their own names. Some have degrees, while others have barely finished secondary school. Most seem to live in cities on the east coast, but there are also people living in regional towns or in the bush.

We’re all very different but we all have one thing in common – we want to learn about how to handle our finances responsibly and we want to help others by sharing what we’ve learned.

The huge variety is a strength. We all come to this problem of how to gain financial independence with different ways of thinking, because we’ve all led very different lives. This means that someone who has come at this whole “FI/RE” thing from a totally different angle to you can offer valuable insights into angles that may never have occurred to you.

Sure, it may be a little confusing at first, but it doesn’t take long to sort the wheat from the chaff. I know that the more I read – and listened – the more familiar the concepts became and I was gradually able to move forward with a growing confidence that i wasn’t going to muck things up.

One of the most interesting things about hanging around in the space over a few years is to read when people have decided to pivot in their financial independence strategies and they give their reasoning. One of the most fundamental tenets of the FI/RE movement is the importance of flexibility and being able to change what you’re doing if the situation demands it – or if you discover better information.

My fear is that now that the rules have changed, people will be too scared to share valuable insights and information that could add value to the whole space. People coming up, like my sons, won’t have the same freedom to information willingly and freely shared, that I was lucky enough to benefit from.

I’m not sure where we go from here. Some people are massively editing their blogs and removing specific bits and pieces that are suddenly forbidden for public consumption. Podcasts are suddenly in hiatus (or stopped altogether) while the podcasters work out where they now stand.

Fortunately, due to me being scared of numbers and also – as a single woman – being very conscious that there are a lot of crazies out there, I was never granular about the topics I talked about, so I think this tiny blog should be ok.

I’d like to thank all of those creators who enabled me to live many lives as I was navigating my way around this financial independence thing. Your work has been so very huge in enabling me to gain my freedom and to provide a secure base for my sons.

Thank you.

Dad joke of the day:

To whoever stole my dictionary –

I’m at a loss for words.

Having an Emergency Fund is a waste of money – until it isn’t.

I first learned the value of having what I then called a ‘Buffer Zone’ back in the days when I was newly separated, with 4 small boys under 6. When we split, we had a mortgage, 2 old cars and $120 in the bank. I withdrew the money and gave him half, so we each had $60. I took the people mover and he took the van he needed for work. We agreed that the boys and I would live in the house and in lieu of child support, he’d pay the mortgage.

(Anyone who’s ever been in this situation, or knows people who have, knows what’s coming next. It’s the classic move of the non-custodial who wants to punish their ex.)

Establishing a new life with $60 and 4 kids isn’t as much fun as you might think. We were able to get the Sole Parent’s Pension, as it was called then, so basic bills were covered. But I had a huge urge to get some security for us and so I decided to scrape together one thousand dollars as a ‘Buffer Zone’ for us.

It took 4 or 5 months but I did it. I scrimped and scraped, I barely ate any meat during this period – though I remember cutting off the end of a sausage that the boys were having as part of their spaghetti and ‘meatballs’ meal and devouring it. Any way that I could save money, or at the very least wring every cent’s worth of value from each dollar, I did.

And yes – one day I checked the bank account and there was $1,000 sitting there.

I breathed a sigh of relief. We had our Buffer Zone. Job done!

But something was niggling me. A few days later, I decided to call the bank and check on the balance of our mortgage.

I felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under me. The person on the other end of the line told me that the mortgage hadn’t been paid for a couple of months and that the account was $963 in arrears.

“After another month, we would’ve called to discuss it.” But of course, I wouldn’t have been the one they would’ve called. This was 25 years ago – the male name on the mortgage would’ve received the call. I was lucky that I decided to check.

But of course, I didn’t feel lucky at the time. As I threw the younger kids into the massive double stroller I had and began to walk up the street towards the bank with the older two boys skipping along beside me, I was furious. Actually, I felt incandescent with rage.

But I also felt thankful that I had the money behind me to fix it. A simple transfer from my Buffer Zone account to the mortgage and the situation was safe.

And that’s what a Buffer Zone/Emergency Account is for.

To save your bacon in the event of an unexpected expense.

Cute as a button dachshund pup.
Scout’s a big fam of the Emergency Fund – with good reason.

Naturally, I immediately began work on building that Buffer Zone back up. It was even harder this time because I was now paying the mortgage on top of everything else. But like everything else on this FI/RE trip, if you keep at it step by step, you eventually get there.

Would I ever be without an Emergency Fund again? Hell, no! That thing not only kept a roof over our heads when we were at our most vulnerable, but every now and then over the years it’s smoothed the ride when surprising things happened.

What about the day I loaded the boys into the Tarago and swung the roller door closed, only to have it keep on going and the bottom half swung off the car? Ok, I admit that it was stressful trying to secure the door well enough so we could drive home safely, but the next day, thanks to the emergency fund, I was able to get it fixed.

(When it happened, the boys stared at me in shock as the door was swinging wildly from one hinge. I remember thinking, “I can either laugh or cry.” With those little boys looking at me, all I could do was start laughing. The situation was so awful as to be hilarious. )

The time that Scout swallowed a seed pod and almost died was another one. Her surgery cost $3,200. I was telling that to a friend at work and she gasped and said, “I’d never be able to afford that. The vet and I would have been having a very different discussion.” Fortunately, I have a separate emergency fund for the dogs, so money wasn’t an issue. Three years later, we still have our little girl who makes us laugh every single day.

A couple of years ago I leapt blithely into my morning shower – only to leap straight back out, screaming. The hot water system had died. Three days later we had a continuous gas hot water system installed – luxury! I tell you – I loved my emergency fund when I took my first hot shower.

These are just a smattering of the times that problems that can be fixed with money were taken care of with minimal stress and no debt.

New fridge.

Over time, as I became more financially secure and started work again, the size of my emergency fund grew. It started out at $1,000, then grew to $5,000 and then up to $15,000, before settling down at my current level of $10,000.

My gauge of how much cash for an emergency I need to have behind me is pretty much the ‘can I sleep at night?’ test. With 10K, I feel that it pretty much covers most things that could go wrong with my house and car. As I mentioned before, I have a separate account for the dogs that I set up when I got Scout and then found out about the 25% risk dachshunds have of getting IVDD. I’m devoutly hoping I never have to touch that money but it’s there if she needs it.

The Emergency Fund is a funny beast. In my experience, I can go for YEARS without tapping into it, to the point where it almost feels like a waste having all that money just sitting there earning next to no interest.

Then WHAM! Something happens. Or two things happen. They seem to come in waves.

Consider the last 2 weeks. My fridge dies. After weighing the options, I decide to buy a new one. $1,900 later, the shiny new fridge is installed in my kitchen. No credit card debt, no drama. Excellent!

A week later we experience the first cold snap of the year, so we try to switch on our gas ducted heating. Nothing. Turns out that it was a 20-year-old model that has valiantly served its time but was now up for renewal. No problem. $3,000 later, a new model was installed on the same day.

Annoying? Yes. But stressful? No.

In the space of 2 weeks, I had 5K of unexpected expenses. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s a little more than simple walking around money. Over the next little while, I’ll steadily pump money back into the emergency fund until it’s at the ‘can I sleep at night?’ level again – ready for next time.

Because we know that there’ll always be a next time.

The brilliant thing is that there are no set rules.

YOU decide how much money you want to have in there – the ‘can I sleep at night?’ rule is totally individual. Some people, particularly those with insecure or erratic jobs, like to keep 3 – 6 months of expenses in there. Some like to have a year. Personally, because the job I had was incredibly secure, I was happy with the 10K – 15K level.

YOU decide where to leave it – my personal choice is to put it in an online bank account away from my everyday bank, so it’s not always in my face. The Emergency Fund is intended to lurk in the background like a benevolent stalker until it’s needed, not to be a constant temptation to spend the money on fun stuff.

The only requirement is self-discipline. First to build up the thing in the first place; then to not tap into it unless it’s a genuine surprise expense that’s popped up. But as we all know, fiscal discipline and delayed gratification make you stronger.

The Emergency Fund is like having a friend who is always ready to have your back. And who doesn’t like that feeling?

Frugal Friday: Make hay while the sun shines.

So far this fortnight, I’ve worked 7 days. It’s been an incredibly busy time for the school, what with a huge year 7 camp, (taking nearly 500 kids away requires a lot of teachers as well), covid absences and a nasty throat bug doing the rounds.

I’m spending the whole day wearing a mask. In fact, probably the most dangerous part of the day is when I eat my lunch. For the rest of the time I keep my mask firmly attached to my face. With the mask, me being triple vaxxed and the students being double-vaxxed, I figure I’m as safe as I’m likely to be.

I’m booked to work a day next week and after that, who knows? That’s the joy and terror of doing casual work. When I was picking up my chromebook and keys from the Daily Organiser, she said that I’d put up my hand to come back at just the right time, because the last two weeks have been awful for staff absences.

She warned me that things will probably calm down and there won’t be as much work on offer, but I said, “That’s fine. I figure I’ll make hay while the sun shines. I’m using this work to help pay for Jordan’s wedding, so any work you can give me is great.”

Yes! Remember that chart I drew up about things I can ‘pay’ for with my CRT earnings? Going on those VERY loose figures, by the end of today… or maybe by the end of the day’s teaching next week, I’ll have “paid for” the first few items on the list and I’ll be up to the first big amount – the wedding.

This sort of stuff is very motivating, at least for me. I won’t lie – this morning when the alarm went off in the wee hours for the fourth straight day, it wasn’t a joyous moment. A couple of possums had galloped over the tin roof at about 2 AM and Scout vehemently objected. It took us both ages to go back to sleep. Dachshunds grumble a lot when they’re unhappy.

But when I thought about being able to cross off the boring stuff on the list and then be able to get started on the wedding, I had a spring in my step that definitely wasn’t there before.

A thing I’ve noticed that I didn’t expect at all was that in the 7 days I’ve been back at work, I’ve been bored far more than during the whole 15 months I was at home, living the retired life.

I think it’s because when you have total freedom over how you spend your time, the instant you even get a slight inkling that you might be getting bored, you can immediately drop whatever it was you were doing and move onto something else. It happens so quickly that, most of the time, the niggling feeling of boredom never gets a chance to eventuate.

Here? A successful day for a CRT means that there are long tracts of nothing much happening. You’ve brought each class in, settled them, set up the lesson and then let them go on their way. Sometimes you’re actually teaching, but more often than not you’re walking around the room making sure they’re staying on track and not watching the basketball or playing games on their chromebooks.

Given this, there have been long minutes of looking out the windows, watching the clock and generally counting down the minutes before the bell. Once every couple of days or so, I might have a therapeutic bellow at a naughty kid, but honestly, even the naughty kids at this school aren’t awful. They respond really well to discipline given with humour, so there’s rarely a need for a raised voice.

Now, it’s not as if I’m bored all the time. Of course I’m not. (I wouldn’t turn up to do CRT again if I was!) The kids are funny and I’m introducing a variety of different lessons that sometimes makes me quietly do some research into something-or-other that sounds interesting that I’d never think to learn about by myself. I just had a lovely chat with a year 10 Lit class about ‘Pygmalion’ vs ‘My Fair Lady’, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

(Pygmalion is the play that the Audrey Hepburn/Rex Harrison movie ‘My Fair Lady’ was based on. It’s fabulous – though when I read it, years after having seen the movie, I was shocked by the ending. Now that I’m older, I think that George Bernard Shaw’s original ending to the story is far better.)

Even though I’m having fun in classes like this, the contrast between my work days and my retirement days is pretty noticeable. Usually, at home I’m surprised by how quickly the day has sped by. At work, I know to the instant when that last bell rings at 3:10 and I can walk outside to my car and start living my ‘real’ life.

To be fair, I was talking just a few minutes ago to a friend who’s also come back to do some CRT. She’s the opposite – she was getting bored at home and she loves the CRT life. It’s her new hobby. We had a laugh about how different we are.

So far, I’m really enjoying being back at school and seeing the kids and staff. I’ve only been doing it for a couple of weeks so I’m definitely in the honeymoon phase. I’m still in the stage of kids getting excited when they see me and being pleased when I turn up to teach their class.

Sadly, this will fade. Soon I’ll be just another ‘sub’ who is part of the furniture. Hopefully, I’ll get enough work to take care of the wedding and beyond that, who knows? I wrote a post a few years ago about the importance of protecting your savings, so maybe I’ll continue to do a day or two a week, paying for outgoings as I go and keeping my savings for the Big Fun expenses, like travel.

(Actually, before I posted that link, I re-read the post. It’s got some pretty good points in it, if I do say so myself.)

I’ve always felt very lucky that I fell into a career that I was good at and I genuinely enjoy. It seems that CRT has most of the good stuff and very little of the bad stuff. I’m interested to see how this all pans out.

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call a pig with laryngitis?


(The students are loving this one today!)

Something I learned about taxes for the casual worker.

It’s no secret that I’m no fan of the numerals. Give me a 10,000 page novel and I’ll be happy. Give me a single, closely-printed page of numbers and I literally have a brain-freeze. I’ve learned how to do basic budgeting/investing calculations, but it’s safe to say that I don’t run towards mathematics with open arms. So I was grateful to my son, Tom30, for explaining something to me in an easy to understand way.

Tom30 is an accountant. It certainly isn’t my fault – I blame his father. (That’s a little joke…) Tom30’s great passions in life are sport and numbers – both are things I avoid wherever possible. The apple fell far from the tree in this regard!

I was curious as to how much money I’d be making each day by my CRT work, once tax was taken out. I asked the other CRTs over lunch the other day and got answers rangeing from $220/day, which seems rather low, to amounts that were much higher.

I decided to ask an expert. Tom30 knows a lot about tax returns.

When I asked how much I could expect to take home after a day of CRT work, he looked puzzled.

“I can’t answer that. It’s impossible,” he said.

But why?” I asked. “Surely the tax is at a set rate each day?”

“No,” he said. “Teachers are paid each fortnight, yeah?’

I nodded.

“Well, what the tax department does is look at each fortnight, see the number of days you’ve worked and then they tax you as if this was the amount of days you worked as a full-time worker. So if you worked one day, you’d be taxed far differently than if you worked nine days, for example.”

Light began to dawn on my mighty intellect.

“Ahhh. So if I worked one or two days I’d probably be taxed at the lowest rate, but if I worked ten days in a fortnight I’d be taxed as a full-time teacher?”

“Yeah. So that’s why it’s impossible for me to give you a flat rate,” he said.

I totally get it. And now I’m waiting with bated breath for Wednesday. That’s when I’ll get paid for the days I’ve already worked. Assuming I don’t break a leg or get covid overnight or something, when tomorrow finishes I’ll have worked 7 days in a fortnightly pay cycle. I’m really curious to see how much I get to keep.

For those who don’t remember, CRTs get $384/day. Superannuation as well as tax is deducted from that total.

The following pay cycle includes a week of holidays. I’m already booked to work a day next week and I’ll accept more days if they arise. It’ll be interesting to compare how the daily rates change.

Of course, when the end of the financial year comes along, it’ll be REALLY interesting to see how much tax I end up paying. I’ve had 8 months of not working at all, but of course I’ve drawn money down from dividends and the like to live off.

Fortunately, I won’t be the one doing those calculations. Imagine the hot mess my finances would be in if I did? That’s where accountants become my favourite people in all the world.

Anyway, apologies to the numbers people, (assuming any of them have still read this far.) This stuff is probably blindingly obvious to you, but I thought that if I didn’t know this, possibly other people didn’t know either.

Dad joke of the day:

I’ve conquered my addiction to chocolate, marshmallow and nuts. I won’t deny – it was a rocky road.

I read 128 books last year. Want some MORE good ones?

Time for another recap of the best books I read last year. I listed some of them HERE, but there were some thumping good reads that I really want to tell you about. There’ll be one more instalment after this post. I was lucky that my 2021 books had so many good ones nestled in there.

  1. The Rúin – Dervla McTiernan

There are 3 books in this series so far, and they’re fantastic. I ‘read’ two of them on audiobooks as I was driving around on my holiday up the Great Ocean Road and Adelaide last year, so Cormac Reilly’s character has a deep woman’s voice in my head. Oh well.

Cormac Reilly is a detective in Ireland – so in the audiobook version you get to hear that delectable accent. I won’t summarise the plot – the link will do that. But I thoroughly enjoyed this series of novels. Cormac Rielly is a wonderful character, flawed in some ways but he’s certainly not stupid and he, along with the other characters, is immensely relatable and believable. Followed by The Scholar and The Good Turn, my only recommendation would be to read them in order. When I was away I only had books 1 and 3. When I read book 2, it was spoiled slightly because I already knew the future of some of the characters.

2. There Should Be More Dancing – Rosalie Ham.

My local library had Rosalie Ham come and give a talk, so in preparation I read all her books. This one was by far my favourite, though there are some others that are also fantastic.

Marjorie Blandon looks back over her long life and her dysfunctional family. I won’t lie -she’s an awful woman, and completely oblivious to it. The family dynamics are so terrible as to be very funny. This is a black comedy, with grief at the heart of it. I couldn’t put the bloody thing down.

Better known for her debut novel The Dressmaker, Rosalie lit up like a Christmas tree when I said this was my favourite! “Mine too!” she said. “It was never really promoted by the publisher so it didn’t get the audience I think it deserved.”

3. The Dictionary of Lost Words – Pip Williams.

This was another audiobook that I ‘read’ while on my holiday. Even though I’m clearly a highly intelligent and literate person, it wasn’t until near the end that it dawned on my mighty intellect that this is actually about the formation of the Oxford English dictionary. The Scriptorium was a real place. D’Oh!

I really enjoyed the appreciation of the importance of words, the unconscious sexism of the world just before the First World War and how Esma finds her place in it. This is a novel that you can lose yourself in.

4. Klara and the Sun – Kazuro Ishiguro.

This novel is something very special. I read it in a day and a half… helped in part because I locked myself out of the house and I had to wait for Ryan26 to get home from uni. Thank goodness I had it in my bag!

This novel is set in the very near future, in a world that is very recognisable. Klara is an Artificial Friend, waiting to be bought as a companion to a child. She’s a curious mix of innocence and curiosity about the world of humans and what it means to love. The writing in this novel is exquisite. Not a word is wasted. It’s in the category of novels where you want to race to the end to see what happens, but at the same time, you desperately don’t want it to end.

It’s a thought-provoking tale that stays with you.

5. The Good Sister – Sally Hepworth.

I picked this up, thinking that it’d be a light read, you know, something that you skim through and then move onto the next with hardly a backwards look. But this novel was so much better than I expected.

Rose and Fern are fraternal twins. The story is told from Fern’s point of view. She’s neuro-diverse and to cope with the world, she leads a life that is carefully structured around her job as a librarian and her ties to her family. When her sister is unable to have a baby, Fern comes up with a way to help…

I loved everything about this novel. It’s un-put-downable.

6. Circe and Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I first became aware of modern re-telling of myths when I read The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley when I was in my 20’s. This tells the story of Cassandra of Troy and was a very easy way for me to discover the story of Troy without wading through a tedious Homeric dirge.

I wasn’t very familiar with the character of Circe, but Miller has brought her to life. Achilles, of course, is far better known. I really enjoy learning about these old tales by reading novels like this. They’re fresh, modern, stick to the basic outlines of the myths and so we get to see these ancient characters with new eyes.

Imagine living in a world where gods and goddesses roam the earth! Unfortunately, the Greek gods have all of the frailties of humanity, so this can make life ‘interesting’ for everyone else.

7. Sword of Fire – Katharine Kerr

This one took me totally by surprise. Back in the 1980’s I picked up a paperback called ‘Daggerspell’ and fell in love with it. It’s a fantasy novel set in the fictional land of Deverry, where characters are intertwined over lifetimes – prior decisions by incarnations of the characters heavily influence their current lives. It’s fabulous.

Little did I know that this was the first in a looong series of novels… and none of the subsequent ones had been written yet. I spent the next twenty years grabbing the next novel as soon as it was released, gulping it down to find out what happens with Nevyn, Jill, Rhodry and the others… then having to wait another couple of years for the next novel to be written.

NEVER AGAIN! Ever since, I’ve waited for series to either be finished, or nearly finished before I’ll embark. After 16 novels, the Deverry cycle was complete. I cried at the end, then moved on with my life.

A few months ago I saw that she’d released a new novel in 2020, so I thought I’d see what it was like. Imagine my incredulous delight when I realised that this was set in Deverry, 300 years in the future from when the last books had left off!!! OMG – I was so happy I can’t tell you. I had the tippy tappy feet and the grin from ear to ear.

Deverry back in the Daggerspell days was like a medieval society and now it’s moving into a more renaissance-style. Coming across my old friends in their new incarnations was so very sweet, though the new cycle has a whole new set of main characters.

If Kerr sticks to her old pattern of a new book every two years, I’ll only have to wait less than a year for the next instalment. Excellent!

8. The Lost Man – Jane Harper.

Gee, but Jane Harper’s an excellent writer! I read her first 2 books pretty much back-to-back a couple of years ago and then let the next ones slide, but I caught up again this year.

She writes about the Australian Outback like no one else – it’s so vividly drawn that even though I’ve never been that far, after reading her novels I feel like I have. I don’t know why anyone would choose to live in a blistering climate like that. Wonderful to read about, but I know I’d hate to live there.

This novel explores what happens when a man is found dead in a paddock on a very remote property in the Outback. Did he die of natural causes or was it murder? Considering how few people live out that way, if it’s murder then there are not many people for a murderer to hide amongst.

Harper’s characters are particularly well-written and we peel away layers of this cattle station family and community to see the dynamics. It’s a terrific read.

Dad joke of the day:

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