Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: The ‘why’ of FI. (Page 2 of 16)

Antarctica trip, Day 2 and 3: Santiago, Chile. Gee, Uber’s pretty good, isn’t it?

(I meant to write this paragraph at the beginning of Day 1, but I forgot. These posts about my Antarctica trip were written as I went, so as you read, it’s as if you’re coming along with me. I’m putting identical posts on both this blog and my frogblog, so if you’re one of the people who read both, be aware that the posts will be the same.)

Well, isn’t Uber a great invention?

I’ve never used it before. Never needed to. But with a day of unfettered freedom ahead of me with no tour guide to ferry me from place to place, today seemed like a good idea to download the app and give it a go. 

So that means I was testing out a transport app in a continent so far around the world that if I went any further away I’d be coming home, and it’s a country where I don’t speak the language. What could go wrong?

As it turns out, something did go wrong, but it wasn’t with Uber. I boldly set out to get to the Sculpture park on foot, and somehow got myself turned around. Twenty minutes later, with the help of a nice woman who didn’t speak a word of English, I worked out what I was doing wrong and boldly (but with a far more humble attitude), set off again.

I made it, but that’s when I decided that from now on I was going to use Uber. I’m not all that fond of walking without a dog or three in front of me.

Speaking of dogs, there were quite a few in this park. People seem to use the parks more here than at home. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more canoodling young couples lying on picnic blankets in my life before. But as I said, there were also dogs.

As I was nearing the end of the park, I saw the unmistakable shape of a snag on a leash. His name was Luca and he was a nice old man, walking with a mother around my age and her daughter. Of course, we had a chat and I told them about Scout. 

“What do you think about Chile?” The daughter asked. Her mother couldn’t speak English. When I said the polite words about how lovely it is … you know, what everyone with manners says in answer to that question, her mouth turned down at the corners.

“Chile is an awful place,” she said. “There is so much crime and it’s not safe to walk the streets by yourself. I hope you’re not travelling alone?”

Yikes! I said something about being out and about during the day, but at night I stay in. 

She nodded. “Oh, during the day it is alright,” she said.

When the waiter yesterday told me about the park, I was expecting something bigger, like McClelland Park at home. This one is a small sliver of land, running in between a river and a road. But it’s very popular with the locals.

Even though it’s little and narrow, it has an atmosphere very different from the hustle and bustle surrounding it.

The roads on three sides are totally busy, especially the one that runs along the length of it, the Avenue Santa Maria. It’s a major thoroughfare. Then, running the length of the park on the other side is the most turbulent river I’ve ever seen run through a city. They say that the Yarra in Melbourne is brown but this one is the colour of dirt and mud, almost to the point of looking like liquid mud.

Yet once I stepped into the park, the noise from outside faded into a background hum. Birdsong was everywhere and I swear that a couple of times I could smell flowers in the air.

After the park, I walked to a side street and summoned my first Uber to go to the Museum of Memories. How easy is Uber? Who knew??? I didn’t even have to pay as the fare was already deducted from my debit card that holds my travel funds. This means that I have plenty of pesos left for when I come back after Antarctica:

But back to the Museum.

When I was at work this year, I’d caught up with a little girl I used to teach in year 7 who had just come over from Santiago to live in Australia for 6 years. She was excited to hear that the trip I’d talked about 2 years before was finally going ahead. Back then, she’d emailed me a list of things to do in Santiago. On that list was the Museum of Memories. I remember being enchanted by its name. “It sounds like something out of Harry Potter,” I remember thinking. A little googling soon showed that yes… it was like Harry Potter… but if Voldemort was running the place.

The Museum of Memories is devoted to human rights abuses that happened during the coup Chile had fifty years ago. I knew it was going to be a bit of a downer going in, but once I knew about it I couldn’t ignore it. I knew I’d feel bad if I didn’t go, so I decided to knock it over and get it done. 

When I went in I was pleased to hear that the museum was free. Two free activities on the first day! I was expecting to be issued headphones and a tape pack with English translations like when I was in Europe in 2015, but time has moved on. Nowadays you download an app to your phone and work your way through it: if I’d realised that, I would’ve brought some headphones over with me. 

I vaguely remember the coup from when I was a child but it was just a story you see on the news. I’ve heard the name Pinochet from then. But to see the footage as an adult was another experience. Those coup guys weren’t mucking around. They bombed the government buildings to bits, shot the president and then set up torture places all over the country. 

There was one part where I stayed the longest. It was a little room with a metal bed, no mattress, with electrodes and a battery attached. Above it was a screen where a video of the survivors spoke of their experiences while in captivity by the new regime. It wasn’t pleasant viewing but I felt as if I should bear some kind of witness. (Plus, the video had English subtitles, so that made it easier.)

I didn’t do the whole museum. I felt an hour was enough so after having lunch – water and a bread roll I swiped from breakfast –  I grabbed an Uber and headed back into the centre of town.

Here was where I made a mistake. I meant to be dropped off at a museum of pre-Colombian art but I clicked on the cathedral instead. I’m pretty sure I get to see this on the walking tour I’ve booked for when I come back, but what the hell? I went in anyway and wandered around.

Look at who I saw in a stained glass window! His chain of op shops is legendary.

The cool of the cathedral was a welcome relief from the heat from the square outside. It was around 2 pm and the temperature was hovering around 30C. There weren’t all that many people there. Around half were there praying and the rest of us were tourists wandering around or sitting quietly and checking phones.

I wasn’t sure if I could take photos so I took a sneaky few until I saw a girl openly taking a shot in front of a guard. Then all pressure was off.

At the front of the cathedral, near the doors, was a side chapel. It was sparsely occupied and very quiet. It looked like there was some serious praying going on in here. I crept in, took this picture of the altar and then sat at the very end of the front pew. One row behind me, next to the aisle, was a man praying with rosary beads. He was muttering under his breath while he worked his way through the beads.

Suddenly, on the other side of the chapel, a jaunty phone tune rang out at full volume. As the guy hastily fumbled to get his phone and answer it, I smiled under my mask at how incongruous it was. The rosary guy didn’t miss a beat, though.

I admit I was a bit smug. No way MY phone was going to ring!

Once I was out in the sun again, I saw a few stalls outside the cathedral doors and realised with a jolt that I needed to get a decoration for the Christmas tree. Once that important task was done, I wandered around the square for a bit, looking at the paintings on sale. Gaudy seems to be popular.

As I was walking around, I saw a group of men playing chess, so I stopped to watch a game. The first time I remember seeing the little ‘timer’ clocks was when I watched ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, so of course, I watched a game that was using one of these. Once the game was done, I found a seat in the shade and looked up how far away the pre-Columbian art museum was.

Only 6 minutes walk. Good! But… time was ticking. It was now 3 pm. Did I want to look at things from a part of history that I have absolutely no knowledge, or should I go to the biggest hill in Santiago and ride the cable car to the top?

I think we all know the answer to that question!

A fairly long Uber trip later, I was buying a round-trip ticket on the cable car. Beside me in the queue was an American couple. I’d noticed them on the way in, when they were at the information counter and he was whinging and complaining about everything and trying to bully the girl behind the counter into giving him a map. 

There he was again, trying to bully his wife into only getting a one-way ticket. “There’s a tram to take us down,” he said to his wife.

She started to disagree, so I said, “ Yeah, I don’t think there is. “

The wife looked over and quickly flashed a smile, before saying to him, “I really don’t want to walk down the hill.”

I laughed and said, “ I feel the same! I’ve done enough walking for one day!” As I took my ticket and started to walk off, she quietly said, “Thanks for the help…”

Made me glad that I was unencumbered by a grumpy old man!

Much to my surprise, I was given a cable car all to myself. As I slowly rose towards the top, the whole of Santiago lay below me. It’s a big city. Of course, with 7 million people, it’s not going to be a village, but there it all was.

Santiago is ringed with hills. It occurred to me later that night how strange it would be to never have an uninterrupted view of the horizon. Wherever you go, the view is stopped by the hills.

Anyway, in the tradition that started when I went to The Great Wall and bought myself a Magnum ice cream, I bought a scoop of pistachio ice cream and found a seat where I could take in the view.

After a while, I realised I could see my hotel. That mural on the side is pretty distinctive.

The music playing here was all English. Britney Spears did it again etc. I find that kind of weird. In the airport, they were constantly playing Christmas songs in English, but old ones. Bing Crosby thinking that it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas… that sort of thing. I suppose the bonus is that whenever I hear Bing and Britney again, I’ll remember Chile.

After I finished the ice cream, it was time to keep walking. At the very top of the hill is a 25m statue of the Virgin Mary. She’s surrounded by terraced gardens filled with pigface, which made me happy because I have some in the garden, one of my Little Adventures souvenirs.

What didn’t make me happy was the number of steps I still had to climb to reach the top. My feet were starting to hurt after all the walking. But my mother didn’t raise a coward, so up I climbed.

It was worth it. The wind was gently blowing, the sun was shining and the city was laid out before us. I leaned on the rail and took it all in. I was here… on a hill in South America. Me! I’m one of the luckiest people in the world.

Then all too soon, the woman I’d helped at the ticket line started coughing. Now, I’ve had a chronic cough for around 6 years. Worst thing to have in a pandemic! But this was a hacking cough. She was bent over, hands on her knees, coughing up what sounded like huge chunks of phlegm. Of course, she wasn’t wearing a mask.

The man leaning on the rail next to me said to his wife, “This is when we get out of here, I think!” I don’t know about her, but I was in perfect agreement. If I catch COVID now, there goes my holiday. I’d be viewing Antarctica from a porthole instead of actually being there.

So I followed them down the steps.

On the way, the cautious American and I struck up a conversation. He was Kermit, ( yes, really, poor man), from Minnesota. He said he and his wife are retired, so they now spend 6 months a year in California.

“Of course you do! I said. “All of that snow.”

“How do you know about that?” he asked.

“ I grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder,” I said.

We had a nice chat as we ambled back, then I made my way down in solitary state in the cable car and then grabbed a taxi to take me back to my hotel. 

On the way, guess what happened?


I was astonished. I unzipped my bag and grabbed it, looking to see who on earth it was. It was a call through FB messenger from a friend from work, Cam. He arrived in Santiago a couple of days ahead of me. He’s a great guy. He was a student in Exan26’s year level and did year 12 Drama with him. He is another CRT like me.

He was calling to let me know that the situation in Argentina is much easier to navigate with American dollars. He said that their economy is crashing and they’re desperate for USD rather than pesos, and if you exchange USD for pesos you get nearly double the official exchange rate.

I don’t think it’ll affect me much. I’m pretty much just going from airport to airport to hotels while I’m here. The only real travel I’m doing is the actual Antarctic cruise, so hopefully the fact that I don’t have USD on me won’t be an issue. 

It was lovely to hear a familiar voice.

I got back to the hotel, took a quick nap and decided to treat myself to dinner in the hotel restaurant. My feet didn’t want to do any more walking! A nice meal with a glass of wine, a quick WhatsApp chat with Ryan27 and then it was bed with a book.

I’ve finished 2 books now and I’m on my third.

I wrote most of this post sitting in the airport and then on the plane on my way to Buenos Ares airport on Day 3 of this trip. I have a 5-hour layover here before I fly down to Ushuaia, landing at 10 pm at night. The next day I board the ship.

One thing about flying with Aerolineas Argentinas. I had to pay to get my suitcase on the plane. Yes, my massively UNDERweight suitcase. I hadn’t heard anything about this before. They’ve got you where they want you- of course you’re going to pay it at this late stage! I was inwardly irate but I coughed up the cash.

Fingers crossed that my suddenly ‘expensive’ suitcase continues to stay with me. I have to confess, I’m looking forward to joining up with my tour group and having the tour leader, Morgan, take care of things for a while.

People are allowed to bring their dogs with them into the actual airport in Santiago. I saw so many of them, even a dachshund on a leash when the people were getting their passports looked at. Amazing.

One more observation:

Small toddlers are utterly adorable when they’re playing in an airport. So cute and such an abundance of energy! When crying in a plane for much of the night… not so much.

6 pm that night:

I’m sitting on the plane bound for Ushuaia, waiting for take off. I have tears in my eyes. I was so anxious that all of the interconnecting flights would fall apart with a delay or cancellation.

But here I am. Five hours away from the southernmost city in the world.

I think this crazy adventure is really going to happen…

Later, at the hotel in Ushuaia:

By god it’s freezing here!

My flight was a surprise. Of the two seats left empty, guess where they were? Of course, I had to stretch out and grab a couple of hours sleep. It would have been wasteful not to, right? Plus there was no in-flight entertainment for a four-hour flight. Thank goodness I loaded up the iPad with books. I’m on my 4th now.

But I was happy to see that the luck of Fortunate Frogdancer was still with me. My two biggest fears about this trip didn’t eventuate:  my suitcase stayed with me the whole time and despite the tight timeline, I made it to Ushuaia in time to catch the cruise.

When we landed I could see that it was raining. The linen shirt I was wearing clearly wouldn’t cut the mustard, so while we were waiting to get off the plane I grabbed my carry-on bag, popped it on one of those empty seats and pulled out my warm fleecy jacket. 

It proved its worth once I was outside the terminal and in the queue waiting for a taxi. The wind was a bit bitey. There was a guy from Brazil who just had a backpack and a thin coat and trousers. People were laughing, telling him that he’d have to go shopping tomorrow. 

I don’t like his luck. I couldn’t get an Argentinian SIM card at the airport. The girl at the hotel desk’s face fell when I asked if there was anywhere to buy one. “Tomorrow’s Sunday,” she said. 

The drive into town was quick. As we pulled away from the airport I could see mountains behind the town, looking like scoops of ice cream with snow on top. Clouds wreathed their way around them. It was beautiful and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

My room is a strange blend of old, crappy furniture you’d expect to see in a holiday house your family has had for decades, yet it has a bidet in the ensuite. Tomorrow I meet the rest of the group and we’ll be boarding the ship. 

Here’s hoping for a Drake Lake and not a Drake Shake!

Antarctica trip Day 1: Santiago, Chile.

If the only time I get a flight delay is on the very first leg of my journey, then I’ll be a happy woman!

We were two hours late flying out of Melbourne, which had the happy result of changing my long stopover in Aukland to a much more pleasant couple of hours. Apart from that, the first 2 flights went well. The movies weren’t much chop, but I caught up on 3 eps of House of the Dragon, played some Angry Birds and slept a LOT, hoping to get a jump on jetlag.

This seems to have worked pretty well.

I arrived in Santiago at around 1:30 PM on a beautifully sunny afternoon. Rookie error… forgot to get a SIM card at the airport, so I was wandering around for a few hours completely incommunicado from the family. Fortunately, Australia is 14 hours in the future so they were all asleep anyway. 

I took a car to my hotel, (pictured above… classy, right?) I haggled on the price, but I thought it’d be worth it just to get to the hotel. Probably still got ripped off, but at least I saved a bit from his first price!

Once I settled in, it was time to explore. I’m at the Pullman, Vitercura, which my driver said was an area of the city “where the rich people live.” This, of course, means that I’m not near the centre of the city, which is a bummer.

Still, not a bad view of the city, hey?

I walked around the neighbourhood. I was getting pretty hungry… if you ever fly Latam, whatever you do DON’T choose the breakfast sandwich. It’s inedible. I was also thirsty.

Yes, my room had water etc in the fridge, but it’s a frugal point of honour not to raid the minibar. I bought a litre bottle of water over the road at the convenience store, which should last me for most of tomorrow as well. Frugality for the win!

A few doors down was a funky little cafe/ bar that looked appealing. I walked in, asked if they could feed me – they could- and I asked for a menu. 

This is when it first hit me that having forgotten to buy a sim was a mistake. Their menu was online. Luckily, my waiter grabbed his phone and pulled up a ‘fish dip”, a name that doesn’t sound terrific but ended up being salmon and tuna sashimi on a bed of nuts and greens, with avocado. 

Seeing as Chile has over 6,000 miles of coastline, ( a fact I picked up on the plane when I watched a documentary), seafood is the only way to go when you’re here. It was delicious.

I mentioned to the waiter that this was the first meal I’ve eaten in Chile and he was excited. He asked where I was going to go while I was here and he told me about a sculpture park, free entry, only 30 minutes walk from here.

He showed me some pictures and it looks amazing, so it’ll probably be my first stop tomorrow. 

After lunch I felt a little sleepy, so I took a little nap. I woke after 6 pm and I was tempted to just stay in the room and read, but two things stopped me.

  1. I had to get a sim for my phone. I was supposed to stay in contact with Ryan27 over WhatsApp and I didn’t want anyone to be worried.
  2. When I went to England, my friend Scott made me stay awake until nearly 8 pm that day, to jumpstart my body into getting used to the new time. ( That was hard. I was so tired by 6 pm that I literally fell asleep over dinner and just missed face-planting my meal.)

I felt pretty good so I raced down to the desk and got directions to a shopping mall 15 minutes walk away.

What I wasn’t told was that it closed in 20 minutes. Lucily, I was in the mood for a powerwalk so I didn’t dawdle and got there just in time to buy a sim, while shops were closing their doors all around me. Phew!

Home to my kindle app , (I’ve already finished one book of the library books I downloaded) and a sound night’s sleep.

Tomorrow I have the whole day to explore Santiago. Just have to get the phone number of a taxi company from the front desk, or download the Uber app. Never had to use Uber before…

Less than a week to go!

This time next week I’ll be in Santiago, Chile, all going well. These last few days before I go, I’m planning on starting to pack and buying the last few things I need to get before I go.

One is a waterproof case for my phone. I’ve decided to buy a waterproof pouch rather than a case, so after doing some research I’ve elected to buy this one. The reviews are good and I think it’ll do the job well. My quilting mat came in handy when I had to measure the phone in inches!

I also bought a sim card for my phone which will work in both Chile and Argentina. Surprisingly, most of the sims I looked at only had one or the other, which was annoying. My travel agent advised me to get one when I was there, but as I’m arriving in Santiago in the middle of the night, I didn’t think there’d be too many phone stores open. Better to be safe than sorry. The sim should be arriving today. I’ll take it with me and swap the sim cards over on the plane. It just occurred to me that I’ll need to learn how to get the sim card out in the first place.

You’ve already seen my pee bottle, which has traumatised people both here and on FB. Steveark’s comment on my previous post made me laugh! I’m hoping to bring back the bottle untouched by human urine, which will mean I’ll have a very useful souvenir to remind me of the trip. It will have been with me on the ice on every excursion. You can bet I’ll be reminded of Antarctica every time I use it.

I’m a big fan of buying useful souvenirs.

This olive oil container is from San Gimignano in Italy. Every single time I pull it out from the pantry I’m reminded of that beautiful village on top of the hill. When my friend Scott and I were going through security at Paris airport, we were looking at my case as it went through the x-ray. “Is that YOURS? What on earth have you bought?” he said as the image of what looked to be a miniature watering can glided by.

I also have a very cheap-looking spatula that I bought in a supermarket in Pyongyang. I was there, mingling with the locals as they were buying their groceries, when I saw it and thought, “I’ve been meaning to get a spatula for ages!” It’s absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, but I know where I bought it and I love using it.

Every Christmas I blog about my Christmas tree which has decorations from all over the world on it. No one has a tree quite like mine!

So having a water bottle that has travelled with me to the end of the world and back seems like a very good fit.

I still need to buy some lip balm. This morning I was looking at the blog 43 Blue Doors. Bonnie and her partner Trin retired in (I think) 2016 and have been slow travelling around the world ever since. It’s a fabulous blog with incredible photography and detailed descriptions of the places they’re travelling.

I posted about ‘My New Goal’ in October 2020, when I had 3 references to Antarctica in the one day. Up until then, I’d never even dreamed about going there. Bonnie wrote a post about her trip, which was the third nudge from the universe I received that day. This morning I looked at the page again and played the video of the chinstrap penguin colony. The sound of the wind made it obvious why lip balm is on the list as a necessity.

I hope Penguindancer! still checks in here and knows that I’m finally going. She was working in Antarctica and used to read my blog. If it wasn’t for her, I doubt I’d be going.

Today I’m going to be getting out my itinerary and hopefully booking a couple of day tours for Santiago and the surrounding countryside. I will only see the inside of the airport in Buenos Ares, but I’ll be spending a couple of days in Santiago and I think that being ferried around in a group might be the most efficient way to cover as much ground as possible.

Unless I buy a horrifically expensive souvenir, I think that all of the major expenses for my trip have already been paid for. I have tiny slivers of time on either side of the cruise where I probably won’t be spending a lot, especially if I’m on tours, and once I’m on the ship everything except alcohol and souvenirs are taken care of. I’m hoping that my pesos for Chile and Argentina will be enough for taxis and food, while the euros and my debit/credit cards will take care of everything else.

I’m known for being frugal in most areas of my life, but travelling overseas isn’t one of them. Being able to see and do everything I want when I travel is one of the reasons why I’m so frugal in other areas. I like to get bang for my buck! So who knows what I’ll end up spending?

I’m already starting to look at where I’ll travel in 2023…

… I have just one continent to go to complete the set.

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.

I went back to work to see what it’s like- so you don’t have to!

I was searching through “school memes” to find an image for this post and then I saw this one. It’s perfect! Retirement means never having to know which day it is unless you choose to, while being a teacher??? That damned timetable changes day by day so you have to keep track of which day it is.

When I retired at the end of 2020 I had no intention of ever setting foot in a schoolroom again. It wasn’t that I hated teaching – I still really enjoyed being in the classroom and mucking around with the kids. Teenagers are hilarious and never a day went by where I didn’t have a huge laugh from something my students said or did.

The school I taught at is a large school in a wealthy middle-class suburb where the parents and kids are pretty aspirational. The kids are polite, well-behaved and anxious to learn. (Of course, there are a few exceptions but they truly are the exceptions.) Being in the classroom here is usually a pretty nice place to work.

What drove me out was the insidious creep of admin work that kept increasing year by year. The reports. Not school reports that kids have always had… other reports. The data collection. Then the reports on the data collected. Meetings that were suddenly mandated by the government, so even when there was no reason to have meetings, we had to have a certain amount of them each month.

The admin stuff was sucking the fun out of the job, so when it was brought to my attention that I could actually afford to retire, I took action. This led to the best year of my life, even though it was a year full of lockdowns for Melbourne. 2021 – the year that I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

Retirement is magical. The absolute freedom over your time is something that’s so precious. Truly, if you’re working towards gaining financial independence – keep going! It’s definitely worth it.

Then I started teaching again. I wrote about why I decided to trade my time for money HERE, even though I was so happy living the retired life.

So now I’m nearing the second-last week of a seven-week contract teaching Geography full-time. I’m scheduled to come to work every day until the September school holidays, whether I feel like it or not. Sounds brutal, hey?

If you’ve ever idly wondered what it would be like to go back to work after retiring, read on! I’ve lived the experience so you don’t have to:

How does full-time teaching differ from the CRT work you’ve been doing?

Instead of having a grab-bag of different classes, subjects and yard duty every day, along with no free periods, full-time teaching only has 2 yard duties a week, with some free periods scattered through the week for lesson prep and marking. I also have a desk to sit at instead of camping out in the staff common room.

The lesson plans are already done, so I just have to post them on Compass at the end of each week and ensure that any worksheets, projects or tests are accessible for the kids.

I also have to do MARKING. Surprisingly though, I haven’t minded the correction. In Geography, the kids have either got it right or wrong, which makes this subject an easier beast to mark than English or Theatre Studies. I’ve just about finished my 3 X year 9 classes work, just in time for the 2 X year 8 projects and tests to roll in. I’ll make sure I’m finished by the end of term. No way I want to have work hanging over my head when I finish this gig!

CRT is all go!go!go! during the day, but there are no meetings, marking or admin. It’s far better for someone like me who isn’t interested in climbing a career ladder.

What’s it been like going back to work every single day?

Hard. I won’t lie.

Even though I’ve worked almost every single day of term 3, CRT days seem easier because you never know when you’ll get a day off. So each day of working is a separate entity. Working this 7-week contract, knowing that apart from parent/teacher days and a professional development day, I’ll be in classrooms all day for weeks on end was harder than I thought it would be.

Especially in the middle few weeks, when the novelty was starting to wear off and it seemed like it was stretching on forever. Now, with less than 2 weeks to go, it’s easier.

Still… today is my birthday. I’m here at work. *sigh* This is only a 2 day work week for me, so it didn’t seem right to take another day off for my birthday.

I won’t get paid for the parent/teacher and professional development days that I didn’t have to attend, but they happened at the right end of the contract for me, so I don’t mind. After all, if I hadn’t taken the contract and I was just doing CRT, I wouldn’t have been hired for those days anyway.

Is it nicer to have the same classes of kids instead of teaching random classes all day?

In some ways, yes. But it’s a funny thing – even though I’ve had them for weeks, in both my head and theirs, their REAL teacher will be back with them next term. I definitely haven’t bonded with them the same way that I used to when I knew they’d be mine for the whole year.

Have there been any benefits to taking a set contract instead of casual teaching days?

The money. Definitely. Having a guaranteed amount coming in each fortnight has been nice. My super has also been given a boost, which is a sweet little bonus.

Taking this contract has meant that 2 things have happened. The first is that I’ve earned the money to pay for my Antarctica cruise, which is nice. The second is that when Tom30 needed help to get his deposit together for his new place, knowing that I had an income to pay the bills along the way made it far easier for me to give him my Emergency Fund, which was the only large amount of cash I had immediately available. It’s an unexpected perk of taking this job that’s benefited my boy.

I’m also glad that I chose to do it, just to see what it was like. Heaps of teachers do CRT and/or exam invigilation for a bit of pocket money in retirement, but not too many go back to a full teaching load, even if just for a few weeks. Now I know how I feel about it.

Would I do it again?

Yes and no.

This contract has ended up being too long for me. In one way that’s a shame, because Long Service Leave jobs like this come up all the time. It would be a sweet gig to work for a term to earn some spending money, then have the rest of the year off.

I’m normally a very happy and contented person, yet I found that there were weeks, especially in the middle of the contract, when I wasn’t happy. I was whinging to myself so much that I even started to bore myself and I had to keep telling myself off.

“No one made you do this. You said yes to this, so shut up, get a grip and be positive”

“Stop whining! It’s only for ‘x’ more weeks… it’s not forever.”

etc etc.

I think that a 3-week contract would be my limit. It’s long enough to make some nice money but short enough so that I wouldn’t feel boxed in. Sadly, most people take longer holidays than this, so I’m way out of luck on this one.

I’m thinking that next year I’ll definitely do more CRT work, but I seriously doubt that I’ll be doing it at the rate I’ve been doing it this year. 2022 was a year that the school was desperately needing people to work, mainly due to covid, and I felt like I owed the school some help. This job absolutely saved us when the boys were little and now I could return the favour.

But the relentless grind of day after day after day, running on adrenaline and routines is too hard, especially after I said goodbye to it all and had such a long break from it. I’m glad to know that I can still do it, but I’ve learned that I don’t want to.

I’ve worked out that doing one day a week would bring in enough to pay for groceries and basic bills. I’d get to see my friends and still enjoy banter with the kids. Two days a week would pay for holidays.

I have to be careful though. Given all the years of poverty that the boys and I lived through when they were younger, it’s really hard for me to knock back work, especially if I have nothing specifically planned for that day. This year, even though I have the total freedom to say yes or no to work, I haven’t refused a single day’s work offered to me.

Going forward, I’m going to have to be tougher with myself to work far fewer days to guard my happiness.

After all, I didn’t retire so I could be sitting in classrooms every day, no matter how good the money is! I’ve achieved financial independence, so any work I choose to do should be adding to my happiness, not subtracting from it.

I’m really looking forward to getting my freedom back.

Dad joke of the day:

I trapped a couple of vegans in my basement. At least, I think they’re vegan. They keep shouting, “Lettuce leaf!”

What my phone has taught me about Financial Independence.

Yesterday I got to work and realised that I left my phone at home.

That wasn’t a big drama – I prefer to surf the internet on a laptop rather than my phone. I only use the phone for calls, texts and photos anyway. So I got on with my day, knowing that I’d pick it up from my bedside table when I got home and catch up on anything I’d missed.

But when I got home it wasn’t there. The bedside table was bare.

I knew it should be there. I’d woken up to the alarm that morning. I started looking through the house.


I went out to the car, thinking maybe it’d fallen out of my bag in the morning.


I messaged Ryan27 on FB, asking him to call my number.

He messaged back, saying that it went straight to voicemail.


Well, I couldn’t keep on looking for it. I had things to do. I decided to hang out the washing I’d put on before leaving for the day.

My first clue that something was badly awry was when I opened the washing machine door and saw my sodden phone case sitting on top of the washing.

My phone was lying underneath all of the clothes. Screen smashed, totally dead. As a doornail.

I’ve been an Apple person for YEARS. Yes, they’re expensive as all get-out, but I like the way they synch and I’m used to the way they work.

I’m like the people in the meme at the top of the page; when I get a new phone, I keep it for at least 5 years. Hell, one of my Apple laptops is a 2010 Mac that I bought secondhand 6 years ago. She’s still going strong.

So when I bought a brand new phone LAST YEAR for around $800 I was cool with it. By the time I was ready to trade it in I’d have had many years of photos, texts and calls for around $160/year. Still a biggish cost, but not unreasonable.

Except when I have to buy another one a year later. Suddenly that $800 phone has become very expensive.

I won’t deny that I was very sad last night. What with Tom30’s house deposit, the expensive appliances that died, helping out a couple of the other kids and now this – it’s been an expensive year. Around 28K of extra expenses… not counting my Antarctica holiday in December. The last thing I needed was for this to happen!

The worst thing was that I had no one to blame but myself.

I hate that.

When I posted about what I did on FB, I had people message me, offering old phones I could use until I could get myself a new one.

That’s when it struck me.

Being financially independent means that wrecking my phone is an inconvenience, not a financial tragedy. I’ll be without a phone for another 5 hours. By 4 PM I’ll be walking through the Apple shop doors, looking to buy a replacement.

Being financially independent means that I have the money to pay for it.

Will I be happy about having to do it? Hell no! Financial independence doesn’t mean that people suddenly become happy to throw money away.

But will I be glad that I put in the work for all those years to get to a point where I can simply walk into a shop and replace it without having to stress about the money?

Hell yes.

When people think about being financially independent, it’s the big things they visualise. Retirement, overseas trips and a paid-off house. And yes, those things are there for the taking.

But the enduring joy of it is actually the way it smooths the ups and downs of life – especially the downs. It turns out that the old saying, “If money can fix it then it isn’t really a problem” is true… but only if you have the money to fix it.

Becoming financially free is not easy. But it’s absolutely worth it.

Dad joke of the day:

My boyfriend and I are in a serious relationship. We haven’t laughed for 2 years.

Little Adventures #15: Creswick and Ballarat. July 2022.

Finally – the girls’ weekend arrived! Working towards Financial Independence involves a lot more things than money. One of these things is having the means and the freedom to set up experiences for the people we love. The timeshare that I bought many years ago and then barely used is now really coming into its own.

This timeshare runs on points, so I’m not tied to just one place at the same time every year. Since I retired I’ve been on 6 holidays and have used it to give a week away in New Zealand for David28 and Izzy’s honeymoon next year. I’m determined to never waste a point again. Now it was time for the girls’ weekend at the Sebel in Creswick.

I went up to the townhouse in Creswick a couple of days early, as I had to book 4 nights to secure the weekend that we wanted. On Friday, I was sewing on the 5,000+ piece quilt, (hereafter named ‘The Sea Glass quilt’) when I glanced at the tv. A HUGE kangaroo was reflected in it.

Sure enough, on the other side of the driveway was a big old man roo. I didn’t go near him… those guys can tear a hole in your abdomen if you annoy them… but I took some photos.

You know you’re in the country when there’s a roo outside your house!

The girls arrived on Friday evening and we all settled in. Izzy – David28’s fiancee; Jenna – Evan25’s girlfriend; and Ashley and Kate – my nieces. They’re all really great girls, and are all pretty much the same age, ranging from 25 – 22, so they all have lots of things in common.

After a night spent talking and sipping a few bevvies, we awoke the next morning hungry for adventure. Jenna met Evan25 when they were both doing their acting/music theatre degree in Ballarat, so she was our official tour guide.

The first stop was a patch of bush in Blackwood. Apparently it’s Evan25’s favourite place in all the world, which is a bold claim. Then again, he hasn’t seen a whole heap of the world yet, to be fair.

It’s a pine forest with lots of walking tracks/BMX paths through it.

Ash and Jenna decided to race to the top of one of the bike jumps.

We were walking along and someone saw that a cubby house had been built in one of the trees. It had fake grass, a chair and a pole to slide down.


I took this photo of Izzy to send to David28, to show him that his beloved was an intrepid woman of adventure.

(In reality, we bonded over how unfit we were. The others were racing around like mountain goats while we were sucking in air and trying not to sound as if we were dying.)

A cave. Jenna warned us that we didn’t want to go in there. I didn’t ask for further information.

The next stop was Ballarat, to a trash and treasure place called ‘The Old Mill’. Next door was an ugg boot shop. Ash mentioned that she was looking for new uggies so we went in.

She found the perfect pair on the bargain table outside.

Kate found a pair of slip-on slippers inside.

Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone so delighted by a purchase. She was giggling and skipping around like a 3 year old! Definitely an awesome souvenir!

Then we ducked into The Old Mill.

As I was wandering around I saw this massive hexagon quilt. It was double sided, with no filling in between.

And hand-sewn. It must have taken some poor woman YEARS to complete.

Jenna found a most fetching hat to try on.

Everyone but Izzy and I bought something. Izzy has a wedding to pay for and I’ve just given all my money to Tom30, (plus there’s Antarctica coming up!) so we were very restrained.

Good on us.

After all of that, we needed some lunch, so we went to a dumpling bar near where Jenna and Evan25 went to uni.

The lunch special. Not bad for $15.

After that, we went back to the town of Creswick to see what was happening there. It used to be a typical country town, but in the years since I brought the boys here for a getaway it’s become a bit bougie and trendy.

We went to a beautiful clothes shop and what was supposed to be a hardware-type place but had the most bewildering range of utilitarian and gift-shop items that you could imagine. It was obviously trying to please both the locals and the tourists.

The sisters and Jenna bought some beautifully scented bath salts. Did I mention that the apartment we were staying at had a couple of massive baths in each room? So big that you could almost swim laps.

Ashley and Kate decided that they were going to have a bath. This is the shot I sent to my sister.

This weekend was NOTHING like the weekends I’ve spent away with my boys. Conversations about eyebrow threading, hairstyles, fashion, home decor… it was a whole new world.

Ashley decided that part of her contribution to the weekend was to make mulled wine in the thermomix. After dinner on Saturday, as we were settling down to a night of card games, drinking and laughter, she revved up the thermie… I made her use the old ‘antique’ version… and she served us a glass each.

It was so good!

Two girls brought soju.

People who’ve read my account of when I went to North Korea will know that we downed many a bottle of soju while on that tour! I used to say that my lifetime of drinking had prepared me well.

Soju in Australia has many different flavours, which tones the original flavour down. Drinking soju isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s VERY strong. We decided to have a taste test, with Jenna pouring a smidgeon into our glasses and we rated them. Watermelon, pomegranate and peach were the best, though the peach made me think of peach schnapps.

However, I was the only one who could drink the original flavour, which honestly tastes like rocket fuel. The girls couldn’t stand it, but it made me nostalgic. This was the only soju we had back in North Korea. I ended up taking the bottle home with me. No way I was going to let that little taste of the happy times in the DPRK go to waste!

And to finish – here’s one of the games we played. So much laughter and fun!

I decided to try and get the girls together when it dawned on me that despite being part of the family for 4 years, Jenna and Izzy had NEVER had a conversation without some or all of the boys being around.

That’s just ridiculous.

I invited the nieces for a couple of reasons.

First – the apartment sleeps 5, so it made sense. Frogdancer Jones always likes to get more bang for her buck.

Secondly – and most importantly – women are the glue that holds families together. If you’ve been reading this for any length of time, you’ll know that I always have a view for the long game. These four young women are going to be moving the family through into the future. It makes sense for them to get to know each other on a deeper level than merely “meeting for Christmas.”

This weekend turned out even better than I hoped. I mean, I knew we’d have a good time. None of the girls are bitches (thank God!) and they already get along.

It was a weekend of conversations, laughter and bonding. We had so much fun. All 5 of us went home knowing everyone so much better, which made me very happy. Jenna and Kate live near each other and they were making plans to meet for dinner with their partners and to see each other’s houses. How lovely is that?

Now they’re all REALLY looking forward to David28 and Izzy’s wedding, because there’s a deeper connection than just being David28’s cousins.

Kate and Ash got to spend ‘sister time’ together, which is really special once long-term partners enter into the picture. My sister was so happy that they got to do this.

We know that Izzy is a smiling assassin in games of strategy and Kate and I are excellent partners in wordplay games.

We know that Jenna is never happier than when she’s got a task to organise and Ash is that rare breed of sports fan who can actually watch a game of footy with the sound turned down. Thank goodness. I hate the sound of sports commentary.

We also know how much they all love their partners. There was no whingeing about them at all, which is a fair feat seeing as they’ve all been with their partners from 2 – 5 years. They seem to have chosen well… even the ones who chose MY sons!

I knew that we’d all get along, but this was next level. I was so happy to spend time with them all and have time without partners and other family members diluting the mix. I think my family is so very lucky to have them all in it.

They were asking if we could do this again next year. I think that an annual girls’ weekend could be a truly excellent tradition to have…

Dad joke of the day:

What’s the difference between a literalist and a kleptomaniac?

A literalist takes things literally.

A kleptomaniac takes things, literally.

Adult kids – helping with a house deposit.

“Kids. Can’t shoot ’em, can’t tie ’em to a tree!” said one of my American friends in a heavy Southern accent to me when my boys were young. It made me laugh.

Most FI/RE bloggers who have kids seem to be young parents, so their posts are all about paying for child care, sourcing cheap clothing, and optimising after-school activities. Fair enough – I used to be concerned with those things too.

I’m writing this to forewarn you all that even when your kids enter adulthood, there are still possible expenses that you’ll choose to bear. I have 4 adult sons, ages 30, 28,27, and 25. You’d think that as a frugal person, I would have locked them out of the house the instant they turned 18 and abandoned them to let them make their own ways in the world. But it’s a funny thing… parents become quite attached to the humans that they’ve made and even when they grow taller than us, we still want the best for them.

So what’s the best thing to do, financially speaking, once the kids grow up?

We all know the wisdom encapsulated in ‘The Millionaire Next Door‘, (excellent book, by the way), that shows that adult kids who rely on their parents’ “economic outpatient care” end up significantly worse off than those who don’t receive it.

So what is Economic Outpatient Care?

It’s substantial gifts, usually financial, acts of ‘kindness’ etc that allow the adult children to live a lifestyle beyond what they can afford by themselves.

Adult children who sit around waiting for the next dose of economic outpatient care are usually less productive than those who forge their own paths. Cash gifts are too often earmarked for spending and the support of an unrealistically high lifestyle. This Economic Outpatient Care to adult children typically results in:

  • encouraging more consumption than saving and investing.
  • the gift receivers never fully distinguish between their wealth and the wealth of their gift-giving parents. (THIS WOULD ANNOY ME NO END!!!)
  • gift receivers are significantly more dependent on credit than are non-receivers.
  • receivers of gifts invest much less money than non-receivers.

When I read The Millionaire Next Door more than a decade ago, it cemented the decision I made about whether or not to help pay for the boys’ uni fees. I decided that they were responsible for their uni fees, books, and so on.

They needed skin in the game.

I would support them by not charging them board while they were studying for their first degree, and paying for any medical bills they might incur. Typically, this ended up being dental.

Fast forward a decade or so and I have four sons, all with tertiary qualifications that they’re paying off. (Higher Education Loan Program). They pay their own bills and receive no regular financial assistance from me. Anyone who chooses to live at home pays $50/week board, which I put aside in a savings account and will give back to them when they leave. This is a choice I’ve made because I’m in a financial position to be able to do this. Believe me, if I needed the money, I’d be spending it!

When David28 and Izzy decided they were going to tie the knot, I told them I’d contribute 5K to their wedding. Obviously, in my head, I’ve multiplied that by four to account for the other three boys. I’ve also told everyone that this is a first-wedding-only deal… any weddings after that, they’re on their own.

They are also able to take a week-long honeymoon using points from my timeshare to pay for their accommodation. David28 and Izzy will be going to New Zealand using this offer. They’ll be paying for every other expense themselves.

That was all I thought I’d do for the boys. Giving them a bit of help when they get married, as most parents do. After all, the last thing I want to do is weaken them. Life’s tough enough without deliberately making them vulnerable to every strong wind that blows. I raised my boys to be independent men. No handouts from The Bank of Mum!

But then something changed.

When Tom30 unexpectedly boomeranged home at the end of February, he was already saving for a deposit and was about a third of the way there. He’d been out from home for 7 years, paying around $250/week in rent, sharing a flat with a friend. Initially, he was only going to stay a few weeks, but when I told him about the $50/week board, he did some mathematics. He’s an accountant, poor thing, so doing the maths was inevitable.

He asked if he could stay longer, to accelerate the savings for a deposit.

I liked the sound of this, so I agreed. After all, he was 30 now and it was time to start getting some assets together. He changed jobs last year, nearly doubling his income in the process, so I was pleased to hear that he was looking to get ahead.

Then, I sat back and watched.

Would he be a typical ‘Millionaire Next Door’ second-generation child who’d work out how to make it on his own, or would he loll around and expect economic outpatient care?

Tom30 works in a company with mortgage brokers, so he picked their brains and found out about how to harness Superannuation to stretch his dollars, how to avoid paying LMI (Lenders’ Mortgage Insurance) and which criteria the banks would use to assess his loan application, along with a lot of other stuff that I’ve forgotten. When Tom30 starts spitting out numbers, it all begins to merge together for me.

Once he got his head around this information, he set his budget targets, home loan target amount, and savings timeline. We then started driving around and looking at apartments and units/townhouses in his (then) price range of high 400’s. Given this price range, looking at freestanding houses was simply not an option. He works very near the CBD so his commute time was a consideration.

What did I think of his plans?

I admired how clearly he’d laid out his way forward. I thought there was a bit too much fat with his spending money, but then, I’ve been through hard times where I really had to tighten my belt in order for the boys and me to keep the roof over our heads. But then, I realised that this is an area that could always be adjusted if needed. Flexibility is key.

All things considered, I was happy with it. He was finding solutions by himself and was all set to be in a property by the end of the year.

All went along swimmingly for quite a while until the reserve bank started to raise interest rates. That in itself wasn’t a problem – Tom30 had stress-tested his calculations to account for a 7% interest rate which we’re nowhere near (yet) – but suddenly the banks reduced the amount that he could borrow.

Overnight, this went from around 520K down to 475K. Real estate prices were softening, but nowhere near at this rate! If too much time went by, he’d miss his chance to get into the market for a 2BR place. I could see him getting stressed about it. When Tom30 decides he wants to do something, he gets very focused.

I did some thinking.

He needed a little more to get his deposit together, so I told him about the wedding gift of 5K that I’ve earmarked for each child and asked if he’d prefer to use this money as part of his deposit instead. Seeing as he’s single at the moment, he chose to do this.

Of course, I told him that when he DOES get married, he has to tell his beloved that I’ve already paid for my share of the wedding! There’ll be no double-dipping on my watch!

Then, a week or so later, we saw the perfect place for him.

It’s a couple of suburbs over, in an area that is starting to gentrify. It’s a 2BR unit with minimal body corporate fees and is in really good nick, very close to a train station, which will definitely come in handy. He first saw it when I was away on my Little Adventure in Manly, As soon as he was back in the car he rang me and we talked it through. I went with him to see it the following weekend when I was back in Melbourne.

I liked it. It was definitely one of the nicer properties we’d looked at. Honestly, property prices are crazy. The number of absolute dog boxes we looked at that had asking prices around the half million mark was appalling. This one has new flooring, was freshly painted and had new blinds. The kitchen and laundry will need renovating at some stage but everything else was good to go. It was a definite step up from the cruddy little flat he’d lived in during his twenties and, as he says, it’s future-proof. There’s enough room for two, or even two and a baby. And if he stays single, he’d be able to live there for ages quite happily.

The area it’s in is ok, but is definitely on an upward trajectory. In a few years it’ll be described as being in “a most sought-after location, close to beaches, transport and every amenity.” It’s a good buy, if you have an eye for the future.

He wanted to put in an offer, but he was missing a little from his deposit. Interest rates were set to rise and the banks would cut his borrowing power every time this happened. It was a very depressing balancing act that he was undergoing.

I had to do some more thinking. Honestly, all this thinking was getting exhausting. And expensive. But would I be weakening him by helping out a bit more, or would I be helping someone who deserves it?

The good thing was that it was obvious that he was doing everything he could to get there. There was no lolling around going on. All he needed was a start… some seed money, if you will.

I had 10K in cash in my emergency account, sitting in an online bank. I’ve written a few times before about how important an emergency fund has been to me. It’s saved our bacon a few times, turning what could have been huge dramas into mildly inconvenient occurrences, simply because I had the money set aside to deal with them.

That emergency fund was my first line of defense against things going wrong. But I also have 3 years of expenses put aside in a term deposit to guard against Sequence of Return Risk when the stock market falls. Obviously, I have enough money, combined with my CRT work, to look after myself. Meanwhile, my son needed a hand.

I won’t lie; it was hard to withdraw that 10K and flick it over to him. This was the emergency fund that has represented security to me for well over two decades. But once it was gone, I felt nothing but good about it. He’s taking on a loan of around 450K, which is a heck of a lot of money. Me giving him an extra 10K towards the loan isn’t going to ‘save’ him from having to make sacrifices and to be disciplined with his finances, but it’ll help him right now when he needs it.

This isn’t Economic Outpatient Care. It’s a one-time gift to help him as he’s starting out. He’ll have plenty of time to struggle and develop a backbone! It takes quite a while to pay off 450K.

Besides, even if I was inclined to baby him and lavish money on him, I can’t afford it. I have 3 other children, after all. I have to provide the same help to all of them.

Fortunately, the younger two won’t be looking to get into the property market for years, while David28 has a wedding to pay for before he and Izzy can even think of saving for a deposit. I have time to spread out these gifts.


Anyway, a week ago Tom30 put in an offer, with a bid of 470K. There were 4 other bidders, all of whom were property investors. One couple outbid him by 5K.

Tom30 got the property! The owner decided that he’d rather sell to a young person just starting out, rather than to someone buying their 9th property. Isn’t that fantastic? Who knows, maybe sometime in the future Tom30 will be able to pay that forward to someone else.

The bank put a spanner in the works by insisting on a 10% deposit instead the 5% that Tom30 was aiming for. Remember how I said that his budget was a little ‘roomier’ than I thought was necessary? Now all of that is gone. After he approached his father for a little bit of help and was rudely knocked back, a family friend who has known him since he was a child offered to loan him the cash to make up any shortfall by the time settlement is required. They were disgusted by my ex-husband’s attitude, as is everyone who hears about it, and they decided that Tom30 deserves a start.

Fortunately, he has a long settlement, so he’ll be living with Ryan27 and me until October. We’ll be looking on Marketplace for free/cheap furniture and appliances, though he already has a free washing machine that a mate from school has given him. He accepted the offer from our family friend and he’s determined to borrow as little as possible from them. He’s selling everything he owns that isn’t nailed down and is actively looking for accounting customers to bring into the company he works for to add to his income through commissions.

I’m very pleased, though not surprised, to see that this son is doing as much as he can to get the property he wants with as little help as possible. He’s always been extremely organised with his finances.

It was interesting to see how my thoughts and ideas evolved around the question of how much or how little to help my adult children. When they first emerged into young adulthood, I pulled back on the financial help I gave them. They were told, “My job was to get you through secondary school. You’re absolutely expected to get a qualification, but YOU are responsible for paying for it.”

They have spent their 20’s learning how to rely on themselves and to become independent, especially the oldest and youngest who’ve both been out of home for years.

Now, when they’ve settled into their adult lives and are wanting to take the next steps forward, I’m prepared to give them a little help along the way – if they’ve already demonstrated that they’re putting in the effort.

I’ve come to realise that it’s fair enough. A little help is beneficial… it’s when too much ‘help’ is lavished upon them that the rot sets in.

As I’ve said before, if you look at the cost of an entire wedding or the total cost of a mortgage, the help I’m giving barely moves the needle. 15K in a 450K loan is a drop in the ocean.

But if you look at the up-front costs of getting that seed money together, the help I’m giving will spit off huge dividends in the years to come. Everyone needs to start from somewhere. Getting a little help at the start is a great gift that I can give my boys.

It’s funny – I began the trek of getting to financial independence for a lot of good reasons. But once I got there, the freedom to do all sorts of things I’d never thought of has been amazing.

This is just one more.

Dad joke of the day:

I would love to get paid to sleep. It’d be a dream job.

Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again!

I’ve always been a lucky person.

Even when things appear to be going pear-shaped and there’s confusion all around, when time moves on and the dust settles, it nearly always turns out that I’ve ended up in a better position afterward. Viewing life from the lens of the long game is something that has made me an optimist.

Look at what happened yesterday, for example.

You all know that I’m going to Antarctica in December. Of course, I would never go to a place without doing my research about it. Even though we’ll be getting lectures on the ship from Polar experts, who knows if I’ll be able to attend? I might be dying from seasickness. Of course, I’ll have to learn about Antarctica before I go there!

Yesterday I was having a chat with a few people in the staffroom and I was asked if I could teach geography. A friend is taking 6 weeks’ Long Service Leave in term 3 and she wondered if I’d be interested in taking over her classes. I laughed and said, “Is there marking involved?” because I’ve stated lots of times that I’ll NEVER do any marking again.**

After being told that it was at the end of term so yes, lots of marking was involved, I politely declined her invitation.

In the class after lunch, the kids were being angelic and I was bored so I decided to look at the curriculum to see what the year 8s and 9s are being taught in Geography. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the 8’s are going to be covering deserts – Antarctica and Australia’s deserts. WHAT?!?

I shot an email off to my friend, saying, “You didn’t say that I’d be teaching about Antarctica! I’ll be there in December! I’m interested now…”

She’s volunteered to teach me the ‘mathsy’ parts of the courses before she leaves, so that’s ok. Half an hour later and it was all official.

Fortunate Frogdancer is going to be paid to do her research on Antarctica!

As regards the marking, I’m pretty sure it won’t be as full-on as the English essay marking I’m used to. With most questions, the kids will either get the answers right or wrong. Lesson plans are already written and all I have to do is deliver them. Once the mathsy situations are ironed out then it’ll be a breeze.

And the extra cash will come in handy for the flights and accommodation. This trip will not be cheap. I know that I won’t enjoy having to do the marking, either.

But when I’m waddling around with the penguins on the Antarctic ice and gazing at the moai on Easter Island, I know I’ll be glad I did it.

** Every time I’ve said I’ll never do something, I’ve always ended up doing it. You’d think I’d learn!

Dad joke of the day:

My son turned 4 this morning and it took me ages to recognise him. I’ve never seen him be four.

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!

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