Burning Desire For FIRE

Financial-Independence-Retire-Early(er). Achieved the first two letters of FIRE, now onto the rest!

Category: The ‘why’ of FI. (page 3 of 6)

Yikes! Yabba Dabba Dooo.

Normally, you don’t get a window into how other people may see you, but last week I did. It was pretty confronting, to be honest. It actually stopped me blogging, while I mulled over it.

I’ve known Fred and Wilma pretty much all my life. They’re old friends of the family and, now that I’ve changed the way I drive home each night, I drop in on them occasionally.

Anyway, I was visiting Fred and Wilma after work one night last week and having a cuppa and a chat. We were talking about their family and mine and just generally catching up on what’s been going on.

We’d been talking about money matters a few minutes before. Fred and I share a similar interest, so I told them about a financial goal I’d achieved. Then the conversation moved on, as it does. Coincidentally, Wilma had talked with my sister a day before and she shared a story about a win that my sister had. Kate’s a Thermomix consultant and she did a demo at a gorgeous Bed And Breakfast place in the country – and ended up being able to stay there that night for nothing. She had a lovely time.

“Looks like being a good week for the Jones girls,” I said. “We’ve both had wins.”

“Yes, but yours are only ever about money,” replied Wilma.

Wait… what?!?

Yeeouch!

This has been reverberating around my head ever since she sad it. At the time I made some sort of verbal come-back, but it was pretty feeble, as she’d well and truly caught me on the back foot.

I’m still not sure exactly what she meant by it, though I have a sneaking suspicion that me still being single, 22 years after I left my husband, might have a bit to do with it. I don’t think it can be the boys – no one’s in jail, on drugs or living on the street. All of them have either finished University or are well on the way to.

I’ve held down a full-time job for the last 15/16 years – I’m never quite sure how long I’ve been at the school – and I’m pretty sure I’m good at what I do. After all, I’m changing lives… one English or Theatre Studies lesson at a time.

It’s a weird thought to think that just when I’m closer than ever to reaching my goal of early(ish) retirement and I’m stepping back from a six-figure wage, I’m being called on for being too mercenary.

The thing is… I don’t think I measure my life’s success simply by how big my net worth is. Sure, it’s a part of it, because I’ve worked too hard and planned too much for it not to be. But I’m investing and planning so that all the intangibles in my life will be easier – things like the freedom to spend my time how I choose; the ability to help anyone I feel like; the choice to share things like theatre tickets and other fun things with the people I care about and the ability to go traveling any time I want.

Ok, so maybe that first and last ones on the list might appear a bit selfish, but so be it! I bought a beautiful house three years ago when I did the whole geoarbitrage gamble, but part of the decision to buy this place was that the layout of the space meant that when the boys want to move back for any reason, we won’t be living cheek to jowl with each other. Part of my job as a parent is to provide a roof over their heads and I feel glad that I can provide it if they need it, even though they’re all adults now.

Doesn’t mean I still don’t love my house. Doesn’t mean I still don’t think it’s beautiful. But it’s an example of the way I make decisions – there’s often a long-term plan behind the spending/life decisions I make.

It’s an interesting question though – money is behind a lot of the decisions, obligations and freedoms we have in life. It’s obviously important. We in the Personal Finance and FI/RE blogging communities write about it all the time.

But Wilma’s perception of me rocked me back on my heels a bit. It makes me wonder. Is she alone in her view of how I view success, or do others feel the same?

Of course, short of asking everyone I know, I’ll never get the answer to that curly question! But it was interesting to have that little window into how someone else perceives me.

I guess it does you good to get the wind knocked out of your sails every once in a while, to stop you getting complacent.

I’ll still drop in every now and then to see Fred and Wilma, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Fred and I have our little financial chats in private from now on…

How to work for 3 days and get paid for 4.

I walked into HR today with a very particular question to ask. Basically, the crux of it was, “I wish to work 3 days a week next year and be paid for 4. Can you grant this wish?”

Turns out she can. She’s like a fairy godmother, granting wishes all over the place.

Long Service Leave is a perfectly brilliant thing!

In Australia we have LSL, which is earned after you work with the same employer for more than 7 years. You get extra days’ holidays that you MUST take as an actual holiday – you can’t cash them out or transfer them to someone else. You can store them up or years if you want to and then take a holiday when it suits. This is what I did when I took a whole term off in 2015 and went to Europe and used up 50 days on full pay, and I did it again last year when I took an extra week’s holiday in April (5 days on full pay) and went to North Korea.

There’s nothing so sweet as standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower/Juche Tower and knowing that you’re getting paid while you’re looking out over Paris/Pyongyang.

People who job-hop obviously forego gaining LSL, but for people like me, who work as teachers in the government system, LSL works brilliantly. Even if we hop from school to school, the State Government is still our employer, so our LSL gently piles up until we’re ready to use it. I don’t know how many days we get/year. I tried googling it but the website had a mathematical formula to explain it so I got out of there quick smart. I’ll just call it magic.

I always assumed that you have to take LSL in biggish blocks of time until I talked with a retiring work colleague late last year. She said that she was going to spend the last 6 months of her career working part-time but getting paid full-time, by using a couple of LSL days every week.

Mind. Blown.

This has rocked my world.

Think about it. In two or three years I’m going to be retired, so I’ll be able to take holidays whenever I want. I won’t be restricted to school holiday times with their exorbitant prices. I won’t need to have access to some holiday days – the whole year will be my holiday smorgasbord table.

I have around 45 LSL days available. Roughly speaking, school terms are 10 weeks long. There’s 4 of them a year.

Imagine being able to work 3 days a week, while having another day’s pay coming in over the first year to Get Things Done and smooth the ride down to retirement?

Now THAT seems like a good use of Long Service Leave!

I sat down 5 minutes later with my principal and ran the idea past her. She’s officially approved it. In writing. It’s really going to happen, folks!

Of course, there’s the other option, which is what most people do. Work and get paid for your normal days, “retire”, then stay on the books and use up the LSL in one fell swoop at the end. This also has its charms.

But I like my way better.

One More Year?

Dwight Shrute meme

I tot up my net worth at the end of each calendar month. It doesn’t take long – it’s not as if I have a hugely complicated estate, after all – and I have a table that I record my figures on. I don’t include The Best House in Melbourne’s value on the table because the purpose of the exercise is to track my progress towards my “FI” number. You can’t eat your house, after all!

My ‘FI number’ is the dollar amount that I’ve estimated I’ll need before I can think about pulling the pin on my job. Financial Independence is the goal I’m aiming for. I want to have enough money coming in so that I can afford to maintain the lifestyle I have, along with a few added extras like an overseas holiday every year or so.

I’m a pretty frugal person, so when I say that I’m aiming for ‘FAT FIRE’, I mean that it’s a figure that’s far more than I need to survive on. For many people, my “FAT FIRE” figure will be their ‘LEAN FIRE’ number.

They don’t call it personal finance for nothing!

Anyway, I was totting up my numbers last month and it appears that I’ve passed a fairly significant figure, which puts me at 80% of the way towards my goal. Already! (I was vaguely aiming to get there by the end of the year.) I won’t stay at this level – I’m going to get those security doors and screens I was telling you about last week, along with finishing off the landscaping in the back yard. But still, it’s encouraging to see that this compounding effect that all of the numbers people keep telling us about actually appears to be working.

Last week I was on a podcast, where I was talking with Breanna about how important it is for teachers to get to FI as soon as they can. It gives options and helps us to avoid being one of “those teachers”… the teachers who are burnt out and don’t want to be in the classroom anymore, but they’re forced to stay there because they can’t afford to walk away.

Those of us who are teachers know exactly what I’m talking about – we’ve all worked alongside them. Those of us who have been students know exactly what I’m talking about – we’ve all been taught by at least one person who’s heart has clearly gone out of it, but they plug along regardless.

Teachers like this can do a lot of damage. Kids always know who wants to be in front of them and who doesn’t.

A teacher can make or break kids’ passion for a subject. When I was a student manager I used to interview kids for the subjects they wanted to do for the next year. It was so common for kids to be fired up about a subject because they liked the teacher that had taught them. It’s so important to have people teaching subjects that they love and who eagerly share the really cool things about them.

Now, I’m not saying I’m a burned-out and bitter old crone, but for the first time since I came back to teaching after my 10-year gap when I was raising my pre-schoolers, I can see that the time is approaching when the annoying things about the job will outweigh the fun stuff.

This morning, as my feet hit the floor, I thought to myself, “How about I make it One More Year?” One more year of full-time work, then either pull the pin entirely or drop back to part-time work, but not just for 4 days/week. How about if it was 2 or 3 days?

How would that feel?

One more year of the long commute every weekday…

One more year of getting up in the dark every weekday for most of the year…

One more year of earning over 6 figures so I can Get Things Done…

I reckon I could put up with another year of full-time work if it was the last year of full-time work.

This is an interesting idea for me to kick around. I could always drop back to part-time in 2021 if my ‘FIRE figure’ wasn’t where I wanted it to be, or if the share market looked shaky. One more year of full-time work would mean that all of the big, expensive jobs I want to tick off would almost certainly be finished. Especially if I knew that it was the last year of that level of income.

Then, a trickle of part-time or CRT (supply/emergency teaching) would be enough to have day-to-day expenses taken care of and would keep me in touch with the young folk and all of their newfangled ways.

Hmmm…

I don’t mind saying that the very idea has made a huge difference to my day.

Of course, as Murphy’s Law would have it, once I thought of this, today has turned out to be a very easy day on the job. I read ‘Coraline’ aloud to one group of year 7’s and I watched the movie for 2 periods with the other year 7’s. I’m in front of my angelic year 9’s who are working their way through some language analysis in their textbook and no one needs any help. The only class that’ll have any sort of grunt in them will be my year 8’s at the end of the day.

When I have days like today, I wonder why I’d ever contemplate leaving. Why would I leave such a cushy job paying 6 figures to loll around at home with my dogs all day? Am I mad?!?

Given this, and assuming I’m not actually mad, towards the end of 2020, I’d better hope for any of the following to happen:

  • an annoying helicopter parent to pop up and harass me.
  • a new government teaching initiative to come along that will either offer nothing new at all/has been tried 20 years ago and it didn’t work then either/will mean bucketfuls of extra work for no benefit to the students in front of us.
  • notification that a staff member that I find intensely annoying will be moved to the desk beside mine in the staffroom.
  • I’ve been named to teach year 12 English the next year.

Any one of those will be enough to push me over the edge and get my to drop my hours. A combination of these would probably get me to drop the job entirely!

It’s an idea that I’ll continue to mull over. It gives me time to sort out what I want to do before I jump into anything too reckless. I can access my Super in 3 years, so the part-time/CRT route gives a gentle glide-path down towards being fully reliant on that money.

If I keep on working full-time without any clear end in sight, I can see that I’ll become burnt-out and I’ll be one of ‘those’ teachers.

But I can certainly keep going at the pace I’m at if I know it’s for one more year…

Things I won’t miss: Parent/teacher days.

Today is parent/teacher day. I’m writing this in a half-hour gap I have between parents, as I sit at my desk with a coffee and a biscuit.

Our school has a full day set aside for talking to parents. We start at 9:45 AM and finish at 8:30 PM, with parents shuttling through on 5 minute increments. I have 4 full classes, with one being a year 12 class and the rest are English, so my dance card is always jam-packed. I’m seeing nearly 80 sets of parents today.

It’s a long day. The school feeds us dinner, which is a nice little bonus, but all the talking is hard on the voice. Some teachers hate these days, but personally, I don’t mind them. It’s not the interviews that bother me, it’s simply the length of the day.

The kids are expected to come with their parents, dressed in full school uniform. (The kids, not the parents.) It’s a nice opportunity to congratulate the good kids, rev up the lazy kids and sink the boot into the naughty kids.

This year I have a year 8 class with a clot of very immature, loud boys that have been driving all their teachers and the rest of their class crazy. They’ve been eating the new, young teachers alive because they work in tandem to create disruption, which we rarely see at our school. I’ve brought up lots of boys and taught hundreds more, but even I sometimes feel as if I have to carry a whip ad chair into class when I have them, particularly at the end of the day.

A few weeks ago we instituted a seating plan for them across all of their classes. It’s spoiled all their fun and so it’s a great success. It’s been interesting to see which parents know about it and which don’t. I’ll give you three guesses as to which parents fall into which camp!

These interviews are very therapeutic to a teacher’s soul. The parents look daggers at their son and the kid looks sheepish. I never start off on the attack – instead, I ask the kid what they think I’d say if I was asked to comment on how they’re going.

Kids are pretty honest. It’s very rare that I have to cough, lean forward and say, “That’s a very interesting interpretation of what’s going on in the class. However…”

But yeah, as I said before, it’s the sheer length of the day that gets you.

After 8:30, by the time you get to your desk, grab your stuff and get to your car it’s pushing 8:45. Granted, the drive home takes far less time at this hour of the day than the morning and afternoon commute, but I’m still walking through the door at 9:15 at night.

A couple of students asked me if we get extra pay for this. I laughed and laughed.

We go through this twice a year. I know that when I retire, even though I don’t have a bad time while they’re going on, these parent/teacher days are definitely not ones that I’ll be looking nostalgically back upon.

You always have a choice.

1985 Tarago Van, just like Frogdancer Jones used to drive!

Do you laugh or do you cry?

When I was at home with the boys, right after my marriage failed and we were living on nothing, I drove a Tarago van. It had seen better days. It was rusty, about as aerodynamic as a loaf of bread and the skylight leaked. Every time it was raining and I had to turn right, a trickle of water would sneak down the back of my neck. If you think that doesn’t snap you to attention, you’d be wrong!

But I owned it outright, so I kept on driving it.

One Saturday, we’d been to watch Tom8 play football. After the game, we went home via JB Hi Fi, an electronics shop that had a peculiar fascination for my boys. They’d save up their pocket money to buy games, cds and dads. One or two of them had some money that was burning a hole in their pockets, so to JB Hi Fi we went!

How the back door used to slide open.
How the back door used to slide open.

Once they’d finished, they followed me back to the car.

I grabbed the door handle and slid the door open.

Except it kept on going. The door slid right off the car, with only one set of bolts or screws or something holding it on. It hung by one screw, gently swinging.

The kids stared, open-mouthed. 

I stared, open-mouthed. 

My thoughts were racing. My mobile was at home. Speaking of home, we were too far away from there to walk. The car was now unroadworthy and the door was hanging off like a drunken teenager off a tram. How could I sort this out? What was it going to cost?

My choice was clear. I could either laugh or cry.

I swung around to face the kids. They were looking at me, awaiting their cue. I knew whatever I did next would be important.

I started to laugh. 

I laughed and laughed, practically doubling over.

The kids’ faces relaxed and they followed my lead, all 5 of us laughing like crazy.

I mean, why wouldn’t we? The whole situation was ludicrous. 

If something happens that you can’t change – unless it’s an absolute life tragedy – you always have a choice on your attitude towards it. Whether you laugh or act like it’s the biggest drama EVER, it’s not going to change the situation. So why not make things easier for yourself and everyone around you by seeing the lighter side of it? Nobody likes a Debbie Downer.

And if there’s one thing those hard years have taught me, everything bad, embarrassing or uncomfortable that happens to you ends up being a damned good story one day. Think about it – it’s true.

We ended up walking to a car yard a few hundred metres up the road, where they let me use their phone to call the RACV. The mechanic came and secured the door and we were able to drive home. All’s well that ends well.

And ironically, one of my most treasured memories of those hard days is swinging around to see the kids’ faces after the door kept going, and then our (probably slightly hysterical) laughter on the side of the road as the door hung crookedly, still swinging as we laughed.

Why am I going for FAT-FIRE?

Waves on our backyard beach

I’m going for FAT FIRE.

Why?

I’m working towards (what I consider to be) FAT-FIRE. I have a very important reason why I’m going for FAT-FIRE and it’s definitely rooted in my past and in my future. But what do I mean by FAT-FIRE?

I’ve seen many definitions for lean-FIRE and Fat-FIRE, and most of them put a dollar value on these terms. I think that’s pretty ridiculous, to tell you the truth. How does my lifestyle equate to anyone else’s? I’m going for FAT-FIRE, but the amount I’ll be pulling out is far less than the 100K/year which is “supposed” to be what the benchmark is for this.

The amount of money I’m aiming to amass in my portfolios and Superannuation is slated to provide me with around 20K – 25K/year more than I’ll need for my current lifestyle. That sounds like FAT-FIRE to me! I’ll be able to travel and indulge in going to the theatre, while still enjoying the frugal delights of growing my own food, walking the dogs on our “backyard beach” and reading, Netflixing and crafting. 

Aside from indulging myself with trips to Europe and the like, there’s another hugely important reason why I’m still working to scrape my FI number together. 

It’s my Grandfather.

We always called him George. Never Grandad, always George. He was my Mum’s father. He and Gran lived a couple of suburbs away when we were growing up, so we saw a fair bit of them when we were young. They were our go-to grandparents, because Dad’s parents moved to the Gold Coast, (aka ‘God’s Waiting Room), when we were little and so we only saw them every couple of years. 

George was old-school when it came to his career. He grew up in the Depression era and so had to leave school at the age of 13 and get a job as a packer in a clothing warehouse down on Flinders Lane. He worked as an unskilled labourer and brought his wages home to his mother every week. 

He was ambitious though. Every week he’d go upstairs and ask if there were any vacancies for salespeople. He was knocked back every week for 6 months or more, but he kept on climbing those stairs. Finally, probably just to shut him up, they offered him a place, but it had a pay cut of 6 shillings. When he ran home to proudly tell his mother that he was moving up the ladder, when she heard about the pay cut she burst into tears. In that era, they relied on every penny coming in to survive.

Over the years he rose through the ranks of salesman, travelling salesman, right up to being part of the management team. He stayed at the one company all of his working life in a career that was only interrupted by 5 years as an aircraft mechanic in Darwin during WWII. 

He bought their house in Murrumbeena only when his solicitor offered to lend him the money. He paid it off quickly, then in 1970, just a couple of years before he retired, he and Gran bought a little holiday house right on the beach at Inverloch for 10K. 

He retired when he was 59. I remember going over to their house to see the fat gold watch the company gave him as a farewell gift. Then he and Gran moved down to Inverloch, selling the house in Murrumbeena to pay off the mortgage. They settled into their retirement.

They were grey nomads, pulling their caravan up to Kurramine Beach, just past Cairns, for 6 months during our winter, then coming down again for 6 months during our summer. Even after Gran died, George kept up this routine until he grew too old. He then settled into Inverloch all year round, eventually dying when he was 94, after he took a fall and broke his hip.

The thing about this tale that impels me to aim for FAT-FIRE is what happened about 5 years before he died. 

George ran out of money.

I remember Mum telling me that George asked them if they’d buy the caravan from him for 5K. By that stage the van hadn’t been used for years and it was shabby and old. Mum and Dad definitely didn’t want it, but what could they do? They had to help him save his pride. So they “bought” it.

George had the Age Pension to live off, so the 5K was for extras. I can’t imagine that it would have lasted him the rest of his life, so I’m sure that Mum and Dad would have had to dip their hands into their pockets a few more times. Mum was his only child. He refused to sell Inverloch, telling Mum that “this block will be the family fortune.” (He was right about that – when Mum and Dad eventually sold it, they got nearly 700K for it. A buy and hold strategy for real estate certainly seems like the way to go!)

I can imagine the uncomfortable talk when George was asking for financial help. He was a proud man…

I NEVER want to have that talk with my boys. 

I truly believe that the best gift I can give them is the gift of my financial independence. 

When I’m George’s age… (well, he’s dead… I mean the age when the lack of money began to bite!) … my boys will presumably be raising young families, paying off mortgages, dealing with school fees and all of the expenses that come with being Dads of teenagers. They’ll be thinking of their own retirements and trying to put money away in investments, while still living their lives. 

The LAST thing they’ll want is for their Dear Old Mum to be holding out her hand for money.

The last thing I want is for their Dear Old Mum to have to ask them for money. 

If it ever happens, both they and I will know that something catastrophic must have happened, because nothing short of that would make it a reality. They’ll know that I worked my ar$e off to try and ensure that I’d be ok financially. It still wouldn’t make the conversation any less uncomfortable, though.

This is why I’m not paying for their Uni degrees. This is why I’m still at work, putting money into investments instead of setting up a glide path towards the Age Pension and leaving work now. Future Frogdancer, along with Present Frogdancer, wants to stand on her own two feet.

This is why I’m going for FAT-FIRE. 

Serene waves and blue sky.

So my test retirement began well.

Silhouette of Scout - a true sausage dog!
Silhouette of Scout – a true sausage dog!

For those people new to the blog, I’m a teacher and the Easter holidays have just started. I’ll have 2 weeks at home, so I’m calling it a ‘test retirement’ to see if I’ll be happy when I pull the pin on my job in a couple of years or so. Today is the first day.

Daylight savings reverted back to winter time on Sunday, so it was easy to sleep in till 7:00 this morning. If that doesn’t sound like a sleep-in, keep in mind that I normally get up at 5:45 on weekdays. It was a nice little novelty to let the dogs out in daylight, instead of switching all the lights on as we walk down the hall.

Twitter post describing my morning

My friend Blogless Sandy was due to come over for lunch with her new dog, a rescue called Buddy. He’s a staffy, and staffys aren’t renowned for their love of small dogs. Blogless Sandy’s Sandy’s other staffy would go for mine on sight, (if we ever let them near each other, which we don’t. We like to keep the friendship intact!), so we wanted to see how Buddy would react to them.

I had the morning to myself, as both the boys had Uni. Ryan24 had to leave early, as there was a pack of vegans who’d chained themselves to vans, protesting about meat-eaters. They were ‘helpfully’ blocking the Flinders st/Swanston st intersection – the busiest one in the whole city – and he knew there’d be delays.

Time in the house all by myself – an introvert’s dream! Thank-you, vegans! Let’s get this test retirement happening!

I did a bit of gardening out the front, some cleaning inside. I finished off a book I began yesterday – Tobias Wolff’s ‘This Boy’s Life’. It’s good – I recommend it. I thought about blogging but … meh. I wasn’t in the zone.

I went out to put some recycling in the bin and had a chat with Dave from next door – all in my pjs and bathrobe standing out in the street. He was home to build a deck on the side of his house. Not sure that a real retirement would have me hobnobbing with the neighbours in my bathrobe every day, but for a test retirement, I’ll let it go.

3 dogs lying down - Poppy and Scout on the ends, Buddy in the middle.

Buddy arrived and all was good. He’s really tall for his breed – just think of a staffy on stilts and you’d have him. He fell in love with Poppy but she wouldn’t have a bar of him. I made some dahl for lunch and we poured ourselves a glass of wine and settled in for a chat.

After they left I simply had to follow the years’ old tradition I’ve laid down for myself – the lengthy nanna nap in the afternoon. I could hear Dave from next door hammering away, but that gradually faded and the dogs and I had a restorative 2 hour sleep.

(Don’t judge me. Teaching takes a lot of energy and my nanna naps are always long when the holidays begin. I wonder how long the nanna naps will last into a real retirement? Anyone know? I have to say – it was pretty darned good in a test retirement scenario.)

Currently, it’s just before dinner time. Some rain is falling and I have the windows open so I can hear it drumming on the tin roof of the verandah. I’m happy because this means I don’t have to go outside and water the garden. I’m sipping a chardonnay and planning out my night’s entertainment – I think I’ll keep watching a documentary about the Roman emperor Commodus on Netflix.

The dogs are curled up next to me, the boys are both home from Uni and we’ll have the leftover dahl for dinner. I’ll just throw some rice in the thermomix to go with it.

If this is what retirement looks like on an ordinary day, I’ll take it!

Let’s test out this whole ‘retirement’ thing!

Teacher looking at clock, counting down, with a wine bottle in her hand.

Today marks the end of term 1 – the Easter holidays are finally here. It’s no secret that I’m working towards retiring in the next few years and the holidays will give me a small taste of the freedom which will one day be mine. Let’s test out whether I’ll enjoy this whole ‘retirement’ thing!

The staff room is full of laughter and Brock is playing music from his computer. Only 6 periods to get through and then sweet, sweet holidays for 2 weeks will be here.

Welcome to Teaching - where salaries are low and everything's your fault.

This morning I had a meeting with a parent at 8AM. She was worried about the mark that her daughter earned in her Theatre Studies assignment. She wants me to generate more work for her daughter so she can practice the task before the end-of-year exam, despite me telling her that the kids will get plenty of practice tasks as the exam gets closer. No – she wants new ones for her child. Now.

I won’t get meetings like that on the holidays – except maybe via email. I’ll just put an automated ‘I’m on holidays’ response so I can still enjoy my free time.

On school holidays but still working

I’ll still be coming into the school on the holidays. My year 12’s are putting on ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ in the second week of term, so there’s at least a couple of days of dress rehearsals and set painting still to do. I’ll have to drive down (with the dogs – I have to have some quality time with them, after all!) and open up the Lecture theatre (and make lunch – a vegan curry… there’s always at least 1 or 2 vegans), and stay there from 9 – 6.

I’ve been sensible enough to make sure that all my marking is done for the term, so at least my break won’t be made hideous by having to read essays.

But what will my mini-retirement holidays consist of? What will I do with my days of suddenly free time? How will I test out this whole ‘retirement’ thing?

Holiday workout - opening wine

First up – I’ll have more time to see friends.

Tonight I’m going into town to see Hannah Gadsby’s new show ‘Douglas’. What a fun way to start the break! I’ll take myself to dinner, then meet up with Blogless Liz and her friends to see the show.

My lovely friend Scott is here in Melbourne for the first time in 10 years and we’ll be seeing each other for a couple of days while I’m on holidays. I’m so looking forward to this – he’s one of my dearest friends. Face-to-face time is much better than Skype/Whatsapp time.

Blogless Sandy has adopted a new dog, so we’ll be seeing each other over the holidays to see if Buddy will get along with my 3. Sandy’s older dog has an abiding hatred of small dogs so we were never able to take them for walks or hang out together with them. We both live near dog beaches, so it’d be good to be able to take them for leisurely walks while we chat, especially after I really retire. She likes staffies, so we have to be careful. Mine would definitely come off worst in a squabble!

I have to get the garden ready for winter – AND for visitors. I’m having a couple of lunch dates so the house and garden have to look good. I always say, if your place needs a good clean, ask some visitors over! It’ll be spick and span way before they arrive.

Will I get time to work on Jack’s quilt? Do some knitting? I definitely want to take the dogs to the dog beach every day. Will I go to the movies? I’ll definitely get my hair whipper-snippered into submission. Will I redecorate the Man Cave? Read as many books as I can?

So much time! So much to do!

Not to mention the odd nanna nap (every day I can fit one in… which will hopefully be Every Day.)

Everyone’s so happy at work today. The early finish of one hour earlier helps too. (As does the drinks being put on down at the Bowls Club after work.)

Let’s see how these holidays go. Let my mini-retirement experiment begin!

getting ready to leave work like a runner in a race

Add some fun on your way to FIRE!

Best teacher ever! (meme)

Something I’ve learned from teaching that I’ve taken into my FI/RE life is that life is a whole lot more interesting if you add some fun along the way. I have to teach boring things like grammar and language analysis, but if I add in some silliness every now and then it’s really motivating for both the students and myself.

Spend a few minutes on a game! It only has to be vaguely related to your subject – mine’s English – but it changes up the routine and adds some fun to an otherwise humdrum lesson. Sometimes I spring ‘The Food Game’ on them. They line up around the room and they have to come up with food or drink starting with the letter ‘A’, then when someone freezes, repeats an item, (or can’t spell) they move on to the letter ‘B’ until we have one man or woman left standing.

The next level up – which we normally start in term 2 once they’ve mastered the basic game, is something I call ‘The Food Game on Steroids.’ The last letter of the food someone says is now the first letter of the next one. It keeps ’em on their toes!

Another welcome change from the regular routine is a quick spelling bee in teams to get them up and moving around a bit. My kids actually ask for them, which is something that you wouldn’t expect. For some reason, thinking on their feet is something most kids really enjoy.

Card with 'Ms Jones is jumping for joy. Today you did brilliantly in English!
Strange… Where did my name go on this card??? (heh heh)

I shamelessly stole the idea for these cards from my dear friend Scott, whose plane is probably touching down in Melbourne even as I’m typing this. They’re just business cards from Vistaprint, so they’re as cheap as chips, but they’re worth their weight in gold.

I give out these cards whenever someone earns an ‘Outstanding’ on their work, which is the equivalent of an A+. I hand it to the child, we shake hands and the rest of the class applauds. The kids love them. They take them home to show their parents and sometimes a kid will excitedly come to school the next day and tell us that they received a monetary reward. That doesn’t happen all the time, though.

Once, I was in a year 12 class observing the teacher and a kid I taught back in year 8 or 9 said that he’d earned one of these cards.

“No way!” I said. “You’re not bright enough!”

The joke was on me when he fished a battered “Ms Jones is pleased with you‘ card out of his wallet and proudly flashed it at me. He’d carried it around with him for years…

How does this equate to FIRE?

Remember how excited you got when you first discovered the concept of FIRE? I know when I first read about the 4% Rule it changed my world!

I'm more bored than this slumped over cat.

Surely it’s not just me who’s found that it’s sometimes hard to keep the fun in the FIRE journey after we’ve been on the trail of it for a few years. We’ve got the frugality down pat, we’ve negotiated our bills and we’ve automated everything we can to gain the most bounce per ounce with all of our income.

Then we settle back and over time all of this new exciting finance FIRE stuff becomes our new routine. It’s hard to keep the excitement up.

One thing that worked for me for at least 3 years was when I worked out how much I was taking home per teaching period every day. I’d teach a period and think, “There’s another $50!!” It made teaching seem that little bit more rewarding, especially when you had a PIA class.

As a side benefit it also helped when I was looking at buying something. Was it worth half a day’s teaching? Was it worth a period and a half? Sometimes it stopped me buying things I didn’t really want.

Update on my goals chart.

Some of you may have been around when I posted how I was going to track 7 behaviours that I wanted to turn into habits. Here’s how it’s been going so far. Funny how as the term dragged along, the more yellow and white squares began to appear! Hopefully, once I get a few nanna naps under my belt then the green will surge back.

For me, the reward is in colouring in the squares on Saturday morning. Interestingly, the only habit I’ve kept up without a break is the only one that doesn’t require action every single day – the column second from the left which is the ‘Post 3 times a week’ habit for this blog. (The other figure in this column refers to how many times I post on my personal blog.)

Why not take this idea and tweak it to your FIRE habits? Colour in a square every time you add to your Emergency Fund, or make an investment, or bring your lunch to work to save money.

It’s strangely satisfying to actually see your achievements laid out on a chart. All of a sudden, you’re adding fun instead of plodding morosely on into oblivion, all by yourself, with no one to notice your actions.

Add some fun – whatever works for you. You’re already attempting something extraordinary by reaching for FIRE – encourage yourself by rewarding yourself and smiling along the way.

Now I’m thinking about Opportunity Cost.

Hey girl, you look good when you pay your blls

Of course, as soon as I wrote a post about possibly going part-time at work, I immediately started to think about the Opportunity Cost of the 20K/year I’d be missing out on if I dropped a day. There’s also the extra year or two I’d probably be adding to my work life.

So what’s Opportunity Cost?

Opportunity cost of not studying

Opportunity cost is usually talked about in economics, but it basically applies in every area of life. It refers to all the choices and directions that you choose to give up when you make a decision to do/spend something.

For example, I chose to keep 50K from the money I received when I sold my original house to use for landscaping. That money could have been spent on more investments to bring me more income in the future. (At 7% interest, I’m missing out on an extra $3,500/year.) It could have bought me 3 or 4 trips to Europe. It could have paid for a new ensuite, shiny new kitchen appliances and a new car.

But instead, by using that money to pay for wicking vegetable garden beds, brick paving and an automatic watering system attached to my water tank, I’ve turned away from those other alternatives. This is the opportunity cost of my decision.

The opportunity cost of talking to me
(“Fallacy of composition’ means the error of assuming that what is true of a member of a group is true for the group as a whole.

What could I do with the 20K that I’d be giving up if I only taught 4 days a week? There’s no doubt that my work/life balance would be far better if I worked fewer hours. But there are items on my ‘to do’ list that I could quickly knock off if I gritted my teeth and worked full-time for another year.

Below is a list of things that I want to put into place before I leave work. I’ve already achieved the major one, which was the landscaping job. However, there are a few more things I want to get done.

Opportunity cost of being good at your job.
  • I have an ensuite – the first one I’ve ever had. I never realised how much I love having one, but it’s not really suitable for old people. It has a shower over a bath. I’m definitely not a bath person, but even if I was, the main bathroom has one. I can visualise Old Lady Frogdancer trying to get herself in or out of the bath a couple of decades from now, slipping and breaking a hip. An ensuite renovation would probably be around the 20K mark, wouldn’t it?
  • I want to get the inside and outside of my house freshly painted. This isn’t a huge priority, because I’m pretty sure the house was painted just before I bought it 3 years ago. But they painted everything the same colour and used the same paint for everything. This means that the window ledges, skirting boards and doors are all in matt paint, not gloss. This makes them much harder to keep clean.
No opportunity cost to saving money right now!
  • I still need to get the verandah roof put on at the back part of the house. When that’s done I’ll have an outdoor room, looking out towards the veggie garden. I’ll get an old couch and a table, and I’ll loll on the couch and read a book out there in the shade, drinking a glass or two of shiraz while watching my organic food grow. 20K would more than pay for that, wouldn’t it?.
  • Does anyone know if a Tesla battery can be connected to existing solar panels? This house came with an impressive array of solar panels, but ever since I found out from a friend that not only does she have zero bills for electricity since installing panels and a battery, she’s getting money paid to her by the electricity company for the power they’ve passed back to the grid! In around 6 months they’ve received nearly 1K in payments! That sounds very enticing for someone who intends to be a crazy dog lady in retirement. Those dogs need to be fed.
I need a part-time job that pays 20K a week.
  • Speaking of dogs, my dogs bark every time another dog walks past. I know that they’re only doing their jobs, but it gets a bit annoying. I’m thinking I might replace the open-view fence with a more solid one, to stop the dogs from having so much fun. I’d have lots of change from 20K if I started with this one!
  • Another thing that will need to be replaced is the ultra-cheap oven and cooktop that the previous owners put into the kitchen when they were selling. They’re stainless steel, so they look ok, but the oven is terrible. I’d like to get an induction cooktop, so I could put the thermomixes on it, under the fan, and there’d be no chance of them melting. I’d also like to get a better quality oven.
  • I’d also like to put some money aside for things like a car upgrade down the track… expenses that I know will be coming one day, but don’t have to be catered for just yet. There may even be weddings for the boys in the future, though they’re fairly unattractive so maybe this won’t happen…

There’s no denying that my work-life balance would be improved if I went part-time. There’s also no denying that, if I want to get these things knocked off my ‘To Do’ list, I’ll be increasing my work life by another one or two years. Still, as an extroverted introvert, that mightn’t be a bad thing.

When I’m at home, I’m very solitary and I love it. But when I’m at work, I’m surrounded by people and all that goes with it. This morning, I walked into The Danger Zone, (our section of the staff room) and it was filled with people wearing party hats, balloons on the ground and a couple of toddlers blowing bubbles. Someone’s mum was coming to pick up the grandkids and it was her 70th birthday.

Five minutes ago I was holding a baby who had come in with her Dad, who is taking paternity leave for a year. Last year he and his husband went to the US, organised a surrogate and now this little girl is a much-loved and doted upon Aussie.

Last year my year 7 English class threw me a surprise birthday party, while back in 2015 my Theatre Studies class threw a surprise dinner party to farewell me when I took a term off to go to Europe. These things are very special.

The Opportunity Cost of working full-time and leaving work earlier may be the loss of the human interaction I’m so used to. This is without taking into account the day-to-day laughs and general interaction with the students.

If I go part-time then the Opportunity Cost is the money and the continued lack of freedom to have total control over how I spend my time.

I guess I just have to work out which is the most valuable to me going forward…

« Older posts Newer posts »