Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Enjoying life right now. (Page 1 of 12)

So how are my challenges going?

People who’ve been reading this blog for a while will know that I like to keep track of things that I want to achieve. Usually, I draw up a basic chart and colour in the days that I succeed in my goals, though I’ve branched out to use a widget for one of the challenges I’ve set myself.

So how am I going so far this year?

The first challenge is the one I cleverly did to harness an activity I simply can’t live without to a bill that I absolutely hate paying.

If you cast your eyes to the sidebar of this blog, you’ll see that I’ve been progressing pretty well with my “Earn my rates back by reading” challenge. I set this goal in 2021 when I was outraged at having to pay $1,800 a year to the local council just for being able to live in my own house. Oh sure, the council provides garbage pickups every week and maintenance on public areas, but it still seemed like a lot of money.

BUT things changed when it occurred to my mighty intellect that if I utilise the local library instead of buying books, I can satiate my reading addiction and, in effect, ‘earn’ back my rates by using the books that my rates have helped to buy. It took 8 months to ‘earn’ back that $1,800, so I set my sights higher for 2022.

This time, I’ve included the council fees for the dogs in addition to the rates for my house. In September last year, I began chipping away at the grand total of $2,200 for council fees.

Going back to work as a casual teacher has really impacted the time I have for reading, but I’m pleased to report that I only have $333 to go. That’s roughly 10 more books to go before I reach my goal.

I’m glad I set myself this challenge, not only for the satisfaction I get from succeeding at reaching a goal. It’s also opened me up to reading books I might not have come across, so it’s added to my quality of life to a huge degree. I follow some prominent authors on Twitter and every now and then they’ll either spruik a book that they’re releasing, or they’ll recommend a great book that they’ve just finished reading.

It’s a simple matter to flick across to the library website to see if they have it. In a surprisingly high number of times – they do. And it’s awesome.

Am I really earning back my rates by doing this? Of course not! But it’s a bit of fun. Retirement and reaching financial independence are all about having fun, baby!

My CRT teaching chart is the newest addition. I designed this in my post about deciding to pivot and go back to teaching – not as a ‘real’ job but as a CRT (casual relief teacher.) I knew that if I was dragging myself back to work, getting up before it was daylight, and selling my sweet, sweet freedom that I’ve cherished so much; I needed to chip away at ‘paying for’ things that I’ve bought.

I knew that would keep me motivated.

Every payday since then, I’ve entered the amounts onto the chart and I’ve seen my progress. It’s very satisfying to be able to cross things off the list and move on to the next line.

To be honest, I never expected that I’d have as much work as I’ve been getting. Schools are reeling with the huge numbers of staff getting sick from either covid or the flu. So far this term I’ve had 3 straight weeks of full-time work and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. And I’m only teaching at one school!

The other CRTs tend to work at a few different schools, so it’s been interesting hearing what other schools are like. I think I’m on a pretty sweet deal working here – the kids are beautiful and working here is usually an absolute pleasure.

Even if a kid is naughty, it’s always a silly teenage naughtiness, not a nasty thing. I can certainly live with that.

I’ve decided that unless something really changes, I’ll accept as much work as I can get from the school. They definitely need CRTs, I’m putting the money to good use and after all, the school absolutely saved our financial bacon by giving me a job when the boys were small. The admin was incredible when one of my boys needed a lot of extra support due to depression in his teens. It seems like the right thing to do to help cover the classes while people are sick.

I’m just keeping my mask on during the whole day. I’d prefer not to get the flu or covid if I can help it.

The No-Spend Days chart.

I’ve been keeping this chart for years. It was one of the first things I wrote about when I started this blog. It came about because it dawned on me that no matter how frugal a person wants to be, no one can avoid spending money. Sooner or later food has to be bought, the car needs petrol or your kid needs new shoes.

Trying not to spend money is an exercise that inevitably ends in failure.

But what if I tried to restrict the days in the week that I spend money on?

Instead of letting money dribble from my wallet whenever I felt like spending it – what would happen if I became far more intentional about WHEN I spent money? I’m a naturally frugal person, except when I go on holidays, so restricting the dollar amounts wasn’t a particular issue for me. But when I started bundling up my spending so that I only waved the credit card around 3 days per week or less… a couple of things happened.

I saved some money. Anything that was an impulse buy on a day when I was trying not to spend money got put off. “I’ll buy that tomorrow,” I’d think. Usually, what was an impulse buy on one day was totally forgotten about by the next. A little more money stayed in my bank account.

The simple act of keeping the chart meant that I had to write it down. If it was a silly waste of money like buying a Caramello Koala when I was marking a stack of essays, I sometimes wouldn’t buy it. Every time, I was glad the next day when I woke up. I’d saved a precious square on my chart!

This chart has also come in handy when I wanted to check on when I’d bought something, such as a computer, the little woofs’ vaccinations, or when I’d last had the car serviced. Every now and then I’ve been pleased that I had the chart to refer to.

It’s become part of the lexicon of this house.

“Mum, we’re out of ham. Can you get some more?”

“I’ll do an Aldi shop tomorrow, babe. Today’s a no-spend day.” Everyone knows what I’m talking about, and we’re all good with it.

Keeping track of personal challenges like this definitely works for me. If you’re still reading this, maybe something like this will work for you too. The saying “What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get managed” has a lot of truth to it.

Like I said above, if nothing else, it’s a bit of fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

(Here’s a link to the chicken stock paste recipe that I mentioned yesterday. You make veggie stock paste by simply removing the chicken thigh. )

Dad joke of the day:

Why is it called a “dad-bod” and not a “father figure”?

Frugal Friday: Perennial plants – the gifts that keep on giving.

On Christmas Eve last year, Ryan27 and I drove over to Mt Eliza to his friend’s place. She had some lilies and elephant garlic that she was happy to give away.

I stood and watched while Ryan27 dug them up and we brought them home.

The elephant garlic was planted last week in one of the wicking vegetable beds. The lilies were planted as soon as we got home in the backyard, right near the pizza oven.

The main entertainment up till now has been watching how quickly these plants have been leaping up from the ground.

But two days ago I went out to get some green leaves for dinner and there it was – the first flower.

There are two more flowers quietly growing that will soon be out.

Over time, I’m looking forward to being able to have these as cut flowers in the house. I’ve always loved their shape – so simple and elegant.

Why am I writing about this on Frugal Friday? Because I’ll be enjoying these flowers for (possibly) the rest of my life… and they were free.

Not to mention the elephant garlic – a lifetime’s supply of garlic for free as well.

If you have the space, setting aside spots for perennial flowers and vegetables is a great investment, both financially and for personal satisfaction.

My $7 rhubarb plant I bought from Aldi 3 years ago has provided huge amounts of rhubarb stalks each year – enough to supply our household, my parents and my sister. I think it paid for itself in the first 3 months of being planted. Imagine how much free food it’ll give when I dig it up and divide it into more plants?

I have a lime verbena, 3 lemon verbenas and a lemon myrtle, as well as many different types of peppermint. Free herbal tea, anyone? They’re great either fresh or dried and make great little gifts.

I haven’t bought bean seeds for years – I just let some dry on the vine and then plant the dried beans in the following Spring. Free beans are my favourite type.

I’m not even going to try listing my fruit trees. Once they become well-established I’ll be one happy little gardener.

One piece of advice – only plant what you’ll want to eat!

Do you have any perennial plants that have been absolutely worth it?

Dad joke of the day:

If Satan ever lost his hair, there’d be hell toupee.

Frugal Friday: a day for me.

Today is the last day of the school term and, as I hoped thought, there was no text asking me to come to work. I’ve worked 10 days in the last 2.5 weeks. I need a break!!! LOL.

Yesterday Tom30 worked from home and posted a photo of the walk he took on the beach before 9 AM. I decided that the little woofs have been so patient, putting up with me being gone, that they deserved the same thing. So after breakfast, I strapped on their leads – such hysterical barking! – and off we set.

It was sparkling. There were a few people and dogs there, but we pretty much had the beach to ourselves. Halfway along, I sat down and took the time to gaze out into the bay. The blues of the sea and sky were stunningly beautiful. Three seagulls were swooping low across the water. The white against the blue was amazing.

I was so happy that I wasn’t in a classroom!

The daily yoga has definitely slipped over the last few weeks, but as I sat there I did some breathing exercises and some neck stretches and we walked in the soft sand at the top of the beach on the way back. That wasn’t my choice, by the way. Scout saw an exuberant Doberman puppy and decided that discretion was the better part of valour.

Here’s the photo of the 5,000+ piece quilt, with a 50c piece on it to give an idea of scale. After I go out and water the gardens, I’ll be chipping away at this. I’ve discovered that it’s not so much the sewing together of all the tiny squares that’s time-consuming, (though it’s slow going), it’s the proper ironing of all the seams that will take up a huge amount of time.

Now I know why in the Quilt-a-long, Kellie has allowed 3 weeks for each row. I thought it was a bit too generous, but after working on this bit of the quilt on Tuesday, I’m seeing the logic.

I took home a little over $1,600 in my first pay packet. I’m happy with that, as I’ve been able to cross quite a few things from my list already. Now I settle into working to pay for my share of David28 and Izzy’s wedding costs. It’s a little disheartening to think that a full day’s work will only pay for around 2 places at the reception, but that’s how these things go. As I left school yesterday, I thought, ‘Well, I guess I’ve just paid for Mum and Dad’s places!”

Right now I’m home alone. Tom30 is at work and Ryan27 has gone out for a walk. The dogs are sleeping beside me and there’s total peace and quiet. All I can hear is birdsong, the occasional car and Jeffrey’s snores.

I’m thinking that doing some days of CRT work, even though there was nothing further from my mind than doing it, will give me a nice balance. When I’m at work it’s go!go!go! with every minute scheduled, while being at home is so unstructured and free.

I’m enjoying the challenge of bringing in money to pay for the things I want, while at the same time there’s no stress when the school doesn’t need me. I’m happy to work and I’m happy to stay home.

It’s a nice spot to be in.

Dad joke of the day:

How do you make holy water?

You boil the hell out of it.

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?

Disgruntled.

(The students are loving this one today!)

So what’s it like to go back to work?

It’s been 15 months since I hung up the whiteboard markers and walked out the door towards sweet, sweet freedom. I’ve enjoyed every minute.

The absolute and total control over my time has been the best part, closely followed by the lifting of almost all of the time-stress I had in my life. If something doesn’t get done, suddenly it’s no drama. I have all of tomorrow to look after it. Or the next day.

Weekends have turned into just another two days, instead of frenzied errand-running and housework days. I can’t tell you how nice it is.

So how has it been, going back to work for the last couple of days?

Surprisingly good.

Though maybe it’s not so surprising. I really enjoyed lots of things about teaching. The banter with the kids, (most of) the people I worked with, and the liveliness of the place. Working with lots of young people around will definitely have a bright vibe.

It was the other things that drove me out. The increasing micromanagement in the classroom, the increased data collection and marking… not to mention the increasing number of meetings. Not to mention a pandemic with no vaccines.

Interestingly, these hideous things are NOT a part of being a CRT, (Casual/relief teacher for anyone unfamiliar with this acronym.)

On Wednesday I was working at the new campus, which is a place I’d never been to before. Walking in, I was instantly greeted by a woman I’ve known for as long as I’ve been working at the school – she’d been doing CRT work for at least 19 years. She swept me under her wing and showed me the ropes.

For some reason my details weren’t logged onto the system, so I hot-footed it to the techs. One of them turned out to be one of my beautiful Year 12 Theatre Studies students from my last class. He was unsurprised to see that I had tech troubles, even though this time I had absolutely nothing to do with it. I think computers just smell my fear.

This new campus is home to over 900 year 8 and 9 kids. I don’t know any of the year 8s, but a surprising number of the year 9s were racing up to me in the hallways and talking to me. They all look TALL – and their faces are different, getting the angularity of adolescence. It was so heartwarming to see them again.

The best thing, though, was settling into conversations with people that I haven’t seen for ages. Catching up on how our families are going – actually, quite a few people taught my boys when they were at the school – and hearing how people’s lives have been going since I left was really interesting.

One of the reasons that I put my name down for CRT at my old school was that I know the kids are well-behaved. This makes an enormous difference to a “sub”, as the kids call us. What i didn’t realise was that the new freeway extension cuts the commute from 45 – 50 minutes to 30 minutes. Talk about making a difference! That’s a huge amount of time shaved from the commute each way. I was a very happy camper when I realised.

What I found really interesting was that about midway through the afternoon, I was getting a little bored. This was a new experience. When you are a teacher with your own classes for the year, you’re actively involved with how the kids are progressing. CRTs don’t have that level of active engagement with what’s happening with the kids’ lessons.

The kids were doing a science experiment involving batteries, lights and circuits (or something) and they were as happy as clams. As I think I’ve said before, “boring” is actually a good thing for a CRT. It means everything is running smoothly. It’s when you’re a little too interested in what’s going on… that’s usually a problem.

Thursday was a day at the main campus, where I spent all of my 17 years’ teaching at this school.

First of all – What a difference in the space! Remove 900+ kids and around 50 teachers and suddenly the campus is spacious, with no bottlenecks between classes. I could hardly believe the difference it made.

Seeing so many people that I’ve worked with for years was amazing, as the bulk of the teaching staff has remained here. Hugs in the corridors, greetings as we walk past each other in the hallways… like the day before in the new campus, it was lovely.

One thing I really appreciated was knowing where everything was. There was no angst in looking at the schedule for the day, because I could picture where every room was.

The first period I watched the end of a National Theatre performence of ‘Medea’ for year 11 English. It was really good. I googled the lead because she looked familiar and it turns out she’s in ‘Peaky Blinders’, which I’ve just started watching.

The rest of the day was a mishmash of English, Media and Physics (!) classes. Thank goodness all I had to do in the Physics class is hand out a worksheet. If the kids were expecting any hints and tips from me to help them get through the lesson, they would’ve just had me drawing a sign of the cross over them and a “good luck, my child”. Physics is DEFINITELY not in my wheelhouse!

I had a yard duty at lunchtime in the Oasis, so I was glad I’d brought my hat. The year 7s were still running around like little kids, but without the 8’s and 9’s the noise and the sheer number of bodies in the space has dropped by a huge amount. A gentle stroll after eating lunch is a very civilised way to spend some time. It aids the digestion, I’m sure.

You want to know what the best thing was? After school the rest of the staff had to attend a meeting until 4:30 PM. Haha, suckers!!!!!! We CRTs skipped out of there as soon as we handed in our keys and chromebooks.

What were the downsides?

  • Obviously, getting up at 6:30 when it’s just starting to become light. I haven’t had an alarm since I retired. The dogs didn’t know what hit them – they’ve finally adjusted to a later waking time and now I hit them with this!
  • Driving in the morning, when I’d normally be doing yoga or lolling on the couch with the dogs. I was hoping to see some hot air balloons, but maybe they don’t do midweek flights since covid.
  • Having such a big chunk of my day being dictated by someone else. Obviously not a surprise, of course! It’s a subtle difference between idly daydreaming of the things you might be doing while you’re retired, and another thing to KNOW what retired life is like.
  • I didn’t expect the boredom factor. I haven’t been bored snce I retired. On the Wednesday, I found myself looking at the clock, working out how many minutes I had until the final bell. It felt so natural… I realised that doing this was a routine that I’d been doing for years. Talk about wishing your life away!
  • Driving home during peak hour on Wednesday. I had to run some errands for Mum and Dad after school, so I hit that dreaded time of the day on the freeway. Normally, I would’ve made sure I was well and truly done and at home before the roads filled up at the end of the day.

The upsides?

  • I’ve already spoken about a lot of them. The social aspect of seeing familiar friends and students is huge. I don’t care who you are – when you see people’s faces light up when they see you, it definitely adds a spring to your step!
  • It feels good to help kids with something. Just a little nudge in the right direction, even though I’m not a regular teacher but just a “sub”, still lifts the heart.
  • Kids still like the Dad jokes. Some things never change.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing how much my take-home pay is. I know I could work it out, but we all know that’s never going to happen! Besides, with my lack of numeracy skills, I’d probably come up with the wrong answer anyway.
  • Wearing the lovely work clothes that I bought just before the pandemic started and I’ve barely touched since.
  • Already being able to wipe a couple of items from my ‘CRT Earnings’ chart. I knew that it’d keep me motivated! That pizza oven will be paid off in no time… assuming I get more work.
  • It’s still fun to tell off kids but in a humerous way, so that they get back on task but without any unpleasantness. I guess it’s a skill that you just don’t forget.

Lots of people asked me how retirement life was going, and absolutely none of them asked the obvious question after I answered, “It’s fantastic. Happiest year of my life!” Maybe I forestalled them when I told them that with Tom30 listening to wrestling shows when he works from home, school is a lot more peaceful!! (Actually, I’m only half-joking when I say that!)

One of the teachers laughed when I said that and replied, “So you’re doing the adult thing about this problem and running away from home?”

Obviously with only two days under my belt, going back to work as a CRT is still a novelty. However, as it stands at the moment, the upsides are outweighing the downsides, so I’d happily work more days.

I was looking forward to indulging in a HUGE nap later today, though. This whole going to work gig is tiring! However, I was asked at the end of the day if I could work on Friday. You all know how hard it is for me to say no to work…

… the good thing is that the pizza oven will be well and truly paid off by the end of the day!

Dad joke of the day:

Never fight a dinosaur. You’ll get Jurasskicked.

I feel in my waters that it’s time to pivot.

Pulp fiction meme

Whenever anyone talks about the risks/benefits of early retirement, the one thing they bring up, almost without fail, is that if conditions change, you should consider going back to work if you need a few extra dollars. Even in my early(ish) retirement, especially being a teacher, I knew I always had that option tucked away.

September last year the VIT registration fees came up. It was the expensive one because it included the working with children police check thing. I paid it, more as insurance than anything else. I had no intention of going back to work… but you never know. As my friend Blogless Sandy said, “You may as well pay it. You’ll kick yourself if you wanted to work and couldn’t do it.”

Then in 2022, things shifted slightly in the Jones household, as well as in the wider world. Let’s go through them one at a time.

Man on an elliptical.

ONE:

As you know, around a month ago Tom30 abruptly moved back in. There was a fairly tumultuous week of driving back and forth from Ormond to The Best House in Melbourne, getting all of his belongings out. After 7 years away, that guy had a lot of things, including a huge elliptical machine. There’s no denying that it adds a certain something to the decor in the Man Cave.

Anytime a new person moves in, the household dynamic changes. Tom30 is a communicative person who gets excited about what he’s interested in. As Ryan27 said a couple of days ago, “I kind of admire how Tom30 gets so enthused about things. I wish I could have such a simple life!”

It’s true. I’ve learned so much about the worlds of wrestling and gaming – he plays different games to Ryan27 – and I would have learned a lot about American politics, except I’ve put a ban on discussing this. It’s a good thing I did this – it’s saved a lot of bickering.

Tom30 works from home 2 days a week. He likes to have wrestling vids, sporting shows and angry American men podcasts playing while he works. So there’s a different vibe here 4 days a week.

Ok, so that’s a bit of a whinge. Honestly, I’m happy he’s back because it’s allowed us to reconnect again. There’s no better way to deepen a relationship than to share the same house with someone. It’s coming up to a month and the new Jones household is settling into the new normal.

TWO:

Having another adult in the house raises the expenses. Now before everyone goes crazy —- YES. I’m charging both boys board. They pay me $50/week each.

My choice is to put that money aside for them and let it build up in a bank account. Tom30 is saving for a house deposit and Ryan27 will no doubt be doing that too one day. I can’t be the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ like so many people can. I can’t merrily hand over thousands of dollars to help get a deposit together for my 4 kids. I figure the least I can do is to feed and house them when they’re under my roof, then hand their board money back when they need it. (Tom30 has no idea that this is going to happen, by the way.)

So that’s all warm and fuzzy and lovely, but when prices suddenly rise, due to Putin, the pandemic and the floods, then that’s something that as a good FIRE person, I have to take note of. I can’t see prices subsiding any time soon.

I could choose to take their board money and use it for bills, or I could choose to pivot. (There’s that word again...)

Some sort of financial chart.

THREE:

Ever since I learned about Sequence of Returns Risk, I’ve kept it in the back of my mind as something to watch out for in the first 5 years of retirement. I took the above chart from this article, which explains it in a bit more detail, but the chart gives a good TL;DR summary.

At the moment the market is a bit panicky and has slipped a bit. I’m not breaking out the cat food tins for dinner any time soon, but it’s something that I’m keeping an eye on. The share market has been rising steadily for the last 10 years or so. It can’t last forever, so retiring at this stage, I knew I’d need to keep in touch with what was going on.

We can prepare for many things when we retire, but we have absolutely no control over Sequence of Returns Risk. The market is going to do what the market is going to do, regardless of who is retiring when. I’ve set up my finances to mitigate against this by having several layers of investments, so intellectually I know that I’ll be alright.

But Past Frogdancer Jones would like to feel as secure as she can get.

One of the best ways to insulate my investments from being tapped too harshly, too early in a market downturn is to have a bit of extra income sliding in.

Can’t hurt and it might help!

Kath Day-Knght.

For a few weeks now, I’ve had a niggling feeling that it mightn’t be such a bad thing if I earned a little money on the side. Maybe that was why I took so long to make a decision about tutoring because it felt wrong to be knocking back income – but I’ve learned that if I ignore that niggling feeling I do so at my peril.

I definitely didn’t want to do tutoring, as I wrote “When you’re happily retired and you get offered a job”, but CRT (Casual Relief Teaching) is a different kettle of fish. Basically, a CRT supervises classes when the regular teacher is absent. You unlock the door, let them in, mark the roll, direct them to Compass where their work is set, then for the rest of the lesson you keep them quiet and on-task.

Basically, for a CRT, a boring day is a good day. When I first started working again when Evan25 was Evan5 and he’d started primary school, I did CRT work for a year. When you’re VERY VERY INTERESTED in what’s happening in the classroom, it’s either really good or really bad…

Last week I went into my old school and put my name down for CRT work. I could have gone to schools closer to me, but I know my way around the Main campus and I know that the kids are lovely, which makes a huge difference to a CRT’s day. A feral class is absolute misery for 48 minutes. It’ll also be nice to see people on staff and have quick catch-ups.

The catch-ups will have to be quick. Schools get their money’s worth when they hire a CRT – you work all 6 periods and do 2 yard duties. I’d better wear comfy shoes!

The daily pay rate isn’t bad – just over $380 – but as an early(ish) retiree the flexibility is what is really appealing to me. I have the freedom to say ‘No’ if I’ve planned something on a day that work is offered. Tutoring doesn’t offer that luxury.

Yesterday I was offered 2 days’ work – tomorrow and Thursday – so it’s Game ON!

Speaking of games, you know how I like to gamify my spending and paying for my rates. Of course, I’ve drawn up a list of things that the CRT days will ‘pay’ for.

Chart.

I’ve put asterisks beside the things I’ve already bought. Once I knock them over, then I can start chipping away at the big expenses. Woo babayyyy – I like a list and I like to see progress. If anything will keep me motivated; this is it!

Of course, if I decide that I hate it and it’s sucking the joy out of my retirement life, I can always stop. That’s the good thing about being financially independent.

I’m fully aware that the feeling in my waters about the benefits of having a bit of money coming in is definitely because of the struggle I had when the boys and I were newly single. It took nearly two DECADES for us to recover from the financial aftershocks of the divorce. I love the freedom of being the only captain driving the financial ship, but it comes with the downside of being wholly responsible for navigating it safely through choppy economic waters. I don’t have the luxury of knowing that I’ll be able to nestle into a partner’s super fund in my old age.

So I figure that a few days’ work here and there that will help Past Frogdancer Jones sleep better at night isn’t too high a price to pay. I’m glad I chose to work in a field that can offer such flexible options for people who want to work in a different way than the typical full-time allotment… and who knows?

I might actually like it…

… and if I don’t, I’m not locked in.

Dad joke of the day:

How do you catch a cat?

With a MEOWS trap.

Yoga or a walk with the Little Woofs?

Tom30 works from home 2 days a week. Now he’s here in the mornings he uses the time he’d normally be commuting, to walk on the Backyard Beach. This morning he posted a pic on FB and it looked so good, I decided to switch it up a little and take the little woofs to the beach before breakfast instead of doing yoga.

Safe to say that they approved!

It was beautiful there – bright and sparkly without being too hot. It was so nice that I actually went paddling *gasp*! Normally I’m happy to stay on the sand. The Cavaliers shrugged their shoulders and went, “Ok, if we must,” and followed me in.

Scout, on the other hand, was delighted. “Mum! You’re joining me! Yay!”

We were only there for around 20 minutes and on the way home we bumped into the young Mum of the baby I mentioned yesterday. She was walking with her friend who also has a new baby. We had a nice little chat and then went on our ways.

This happened during what would be period 1 at work. (I may have sent the top photo to some friends at work who are planning to retire next year. )

To anyone who’s a little nervous about “what will I do all day if I retire”… it’s truly amazing how so many little things pop up to do during the days that you never think of when you’re stuck at work.

Dad joke of the day:

Saw a guy standing on one leg at the ATM.

He was just checking his balance.

The rewards of Delayed Gratification.

Our first pizza in the new oven.

It’s funny how my perception of worthwhile purchases has changed since I reached financial independence, (FI). The latest thing I’ve bought – the pizza oven – is a perfect example of this.

I’ve always made pizzas for my family. Firstly, I married an Italian, so I learned to make pizza, pasta and lasagne very quickly after I moved in. I was brought up in a Skip family in the 60’s and 70’s, and Mum’s repertoire was pretty much meat and 3 veg with tinned fruit for dessert. The Italian cuisine was definitely a step up!

Then, after the divorce, when the boys and I were living off the Sole Parent’s pension of around 18K per year and, (for the first few years when I wasn’t teaching), $20/month child support, pizza, pasta, pancakes and mince were my best friends. You can feed an army with those items and, with 4 boys, I practically was.

Back then, the only pizza ovens that were around were in pizza shops. But if domestic pizza ovens were a thing in the 1990’s/2000’s, there would have been NO WAY I would’ve even considered buying one.

So what if the taste of pizza made in a proper pizza oven was superior? I was baking perfectly adequate pizzas in my regular oven, thank you very much.

So it only takes a minute to cook a pizza, as opposed to around 12 – 15 minutes in a regular oven? That sounds good, but really… it’s dinner time. We’re already in the kitchen where we need to be – a few minutes saved isn’t that big a deal.

And of course – the clincher:

They cost HOW MUCH??? Are you KIDDING me? Who in their right mind would pay hundreds of dollars to make a pizza taste better and save a few minutes? Not this little black duck! I have far better things to do with my money.

And Past Frogdancer would have been correct. She DID have better things to do with her money, such as pay off the house, send the boys through school, buy braces and glasses for whoever needed them etc etc. I called myself a ‘little black duck’ a few sentences back and that’s a pretty apt description for how life was back then. My little webbed feet were paddling furiously under the surface to make sure that the boys and I stayed afloat.

But now that I’ve reached FI?

It seems that the rules have changed a bit.

The second pizza. We need to practice launching them into the oven a little more!

When I first saw that Thermomix was selling pizza ovens, the first thing I thought of was how fantastic entertaining would be with one of these working with me. I realised this was something that could definitely make a positive difference in my life. Safe to say, I was interested in finding out more.

But hey, let’s not get crazy here! The next thing I did was check out the price. I haven’t changed that much! There’s no point fantasising about owning something if it’s impossible to pay for.

Fortunately, the price was reasonable.

It’s interesting though. Unlike buying a thermomix, I won’t be using this pizza oven nearly as much. There’ll be weeks that go by when it won’t be touched. Granted, it’s not as pricey as a thermomix, but even so. The cost per use won’t be nearly as good.

But for the first time, that wasn’t the important part. The major tipping point for me was the thought of seeing my boys, my wider family and my friends gathering together and having fun, enjoying good food – because who doesn’t like pizza? – and it being something that everyone could look forward to doing.

In other words, the emotional draw of this product trumped (ugh – hate that word… I wonder why) the financial considerations.

This is the side of practising delayed gratification that we don’t often hear of. Everyone talks about front-loading the sacrifices to get to a point where you can loosen the reins and start indulging yourself. Not many people talk about what it’s like once they reach the point of being able to relax and reap the rewards earned by being disciplined with expenditure for so long.

Well, I’m at that point. I don’t want to run crazy, buying every shiny new bauble in sight, but it’s nice to have other things be the deciding consideration, rather than simply “How much does it cost?”

The decades of frugal living have left their mark, but in ways that I really like. I live a life filled with simple pleasures that don’t cost a lot, if anything. I love to go travelling – fingers crossed Antarctica can still go ahead this year – but I’m also extremely happy puddling around at home.

I spent years and years living on the knife’s edge of poverty when the boys were small, determined not to fall off. My theme song was Bon Jovi’s “We’re Halfway There”, except I changed the line to “It DOES make a difference if we make it or not.” I went without many things and made probably thousands of little sacrifices that, while I obviously noticed them at the time, have mostly faded into obscurity over the years.

All of those little daily frugal habits have brought me here. I hope that there’s someone reading this… maybe someone who feels like they’re stuck in the boring middle ground of FI when it seems like you’ve optimised every expense and now you’re just plodding through… someone who can catch a glimpse that it’ll all be worth it.

After all, the time will pass, regardless of whether you’re using the tool of delayed gratification or not. But it can make a huge difference as to where you’ll be when you’re older.

It’s 11:34 AM on a Tuesday. I’m about to get up and plant some new flowers into some hanging baskets, before making some bread rolls for lunches and then finishing off a quilt for my cousin. Tom30 is working from home and I can hear him singing in his room. Luckily, he has a beautiful voice! As I’m typing this I’m throwing a ball for Polly and Sout to chase, while Jeffrey is snoring beside me.

In an alternate universe, 11:34 AM on a weekday would mean that I’d be either in a classroom teaching 28 kids, or at my desk in the staffroom marking papers or preparing lessons. Not a bad life, granted, but I know which one I’m very happy to be living!

(In the comments last week, Maureen asked me for a review of the Ovana. Here’s the link, in case she missed it.)

Dad joke of the day:

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:

When you’re happily retired and you get offered a job…

Yesterday in my Wednesday W’s post I talked about what was front of mind – should I take a tutoring job at a school? It was a dilemma that took me a little over 2 days to decide what to do, but the questions it brought up, both from myself and from others, were fascinating.

First up; a bit of background.

On Monday I received a message on FB from a friend who used to work at my school, but has since moved on. Her question: ‘I know you’ve retired, but would you be interested in doing some tutoring?”

Such a simple question, but gee it brought up some stuff.

The simple answer would be, “No thanks. I hate tutoring!”

But…

It brought up a lot of emotional stuff.

Anyone who’s read this blog for more than 5 minutes would know that since I retired at the end of 2020, I’ve absolutely loved my life. Don’t get me wrong – I loved being in the classroom with those very funny teenagers, but the increasing amount of admin, micromanagement and more and more meetings were sucking the fun out of teaching. So when covid came, I evaluated my situation, realised I could retire, (thanks to The Mayor for nudging me!), and so I walked away.

At the time, I fully expected that I’d be asked back to do CRT (Emergency teaching), but then lockdown after lockdown happened so there was no CRT work. When schools went back to face-to-face teaching at the end of the year, I have a feeling that the person responsible for hiring CRT’s gave the work to the people who were relying on that income and who’d had such a bad year. Rightfully so. I would’ve done the same.

The result was that I had a whole year away from school. Sure, I visited my friends a couple of times, but that was it. For the rest of the time, I was here, basking in the luxury of freedom over my time, discovering this thing called “relaxation” and enjoying the sweet, sweet sound of silence.

(As I’m typing this, it’s nearly lunchtime. All I can hear is birdsong, a couple of cars going by and Jeffrey snoring on the couch beside me. Bliss. Being around 2,500 kids every weekday is a very different level of background noise.)

So when I got the message, it came completely out of the blue. My instinctive reaction was to shake my head, race away from Facebook and let it sit for a couple of hours. I had all these conflicting things swirling around in my brain.

Many of you may not know that, back when I was 34 and had 4 boys under 5, I left my husband. I had $60 cash. We shared a 90K mortgage and 2 very old, crappy cars. That was it.

In the property settlement, I managed to hang onto the house, but I had to pay my ex 18K to pay him out, and also promise to forgo spousal support. That would’ve been all ok if he’d been paying child support at the time, but for the next few years it was all very erratic. For most of the time, until I began teaching again, I was getting $20/month from him to ‘support’ our 4 boys.

This obviously had the effect of making securing an income very important. It continued to be important as I tried different ways to bring money in. I cleaned houses, and opened an Etsy shop and tried to sell knitted baby hats, doll quilts and other bits and pieces. (I shut it down after a couple of years – people simply don’t want to pay what hand-made goods should cost. It was a waste of my time.) When I discovered the Thermomix and became a consultant for 4 years, I was finally able to move the needle. Paired with my teaching wage, the money I earned from my Thermomix business enabled me to pay the house off, as well as go on my dream holiday in the UK and Europe after my youngest son finished high school.

Even after I put domestic geoarbitrage into action and moved down here to The Best House in Melbourne and dropped the thermomix business, it was still engrained in me to keep my income up. More money = security. I wasn’t planning to retire at the end of 2020. Covid brought that decision forward.

All this is going to say – when an offer comes along to earn substantial money for easy work – it’s ground into my bones to leap at the chance. Even when I know I won’t enjoy doing it. Money = security.

I didn’t WANT to take the job. But I felt I SHOULD do it. Teacher guilt is a real thing.

I was genuinely torn.

I put my dilemma out to Twitter and received some excellent feedback.

Some women on the Simple Savings forum also had some good things to say. The consensus seemed to be (from women who are still in the workforce) that I should try it and see if I liked it. Nina, however, had this to say:

“Frogdancer, only you know what’s right for you. In my huge govvie organization we have all sorts of employees as you would imagine. One lady retired last year but came back as a casual temp and she loves it – easy money, not as much responsibility.

Another came back under similar circumstances and hated it. She did her 3 months as promised and vowed never to return. It was just too hard to be ‘sort of’ part of a team but still not really committed, and she felt like her head was geared towards working every day but just getting paid for 20 hours. To each their own. You could give it a try and then like Sandra gracefully walk away if it’s not for you.”

Also, a friend from work pointed out, this is an election year. The available money for schools to offer tutoring won’t be around next year. I heard back from my friend who was offering the job. The terms and conditions were really great and she was prepared to work around anything I’d want.

Dammit.

As the hours went by, I started asking myself why I was so reluctant? It came down to a few points:

  • I don’t enjoy tutoring. One-on-one teaching isn’t all that much fun for me. I like the cut and thrust of being in front of a class, with all of the banter and repartee that comes from funny teens and their quick wits.
  • Tutoring kids who are behind in literacy skills means that you have to administer (and then mark) all of these BORING tests. There’s so much admin and paperwork to plough through. Leaving all this behind me is a huge part of why I’m loving my life so much now.
  • I’ve had tutors sitting in my classes. The kids who the tutors are helping HATE having them there. It’s a huge sign to the other kids that they’re ‘dumb’ and falling behind. No red-blooded teenager wants that! So although I’d be there to help, I’d be pushing sh*t uphill for ages to get them to even listen.
  • I’d be in an ill-ventilated space with 28 kids and a teacher in the middle of a pandemic. Admittedly, the situation is better now than in 2020 because we’re all vaccinated, but even so. This is what I retired to avoid.

All of these reasons are a bit whiney and selfish. I know I’d do a good job and I’d be doing the right thing by helping the kids. But ugh…

Yesterday morning I woke up and decided that I wasn’t going to do it. I waited until the afternoon, in case I had second thoughts, but by 2 PM I knew I’d stick to the decision. I rang my friend and let her know.

She was great about it and offered short-term tutoring, closer to exams, if I felt like it, which might be an option. But do you know what the absolute clincher was?

She was talking to me in a space where I could hear lots of kids around her. THE NOISE!!!!

omg.

It made me laugh. People who are surrounded by it every day have no idea how it chips away at you. The serenity of the soundtrack of my days here is so nourishing and peaceful.

Interestingly, it occurred to me this morning that I probably wouldn’t mind doing the occasional CRT day. I’d be in the classroom, yes, but with absolutely no admin work or diagnostic testing to mark. It would be fun to ‘earn’ things like the $600 pizza oven I just ordered, rather than pay for it out of my dividends.

Maybe I could look at dropping my resumé off to a school or two in the area???

Hmmmm. Maybe…

Dad joke of the day:

Past, Present and Future walk into a bar.

It was tense.

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