Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 3)

My retirement speech? So how did it go?

The card the English faculty gave me. 🙂

Yesterday, the day of the Christmas function when all the people leaving the school give their speeches, was almost the perfect day. Today, for some unknown reason dictated to us by the state government, our employer, we have to go into work until midday. So as of midday today, Frogdancer Jones will be free to spend each day as she chooses. Wow.

But let me back-track a bit.

Wednesday was another day of meetings. The first 2 periods of the day were free, so I took the time to clear out the last of the things on my desk, including the desk drawer that I haven’t emptied since I moved onto this desk 17 years ago.

I felt like an archaeologist, working through the layers of artefacts at a burial site. I had 4 pairs of scissors in there. I don’t know why. 20c in a little paper bag, which was some long-ago change from a purchase at the canteen. Paper clips too numerous to count, lots of rubber bands which I took home with me, except for one very limp and exhausted looking one. I showed it to Adrian, saying, “I wonder how old this one is? It’s probably been here for the full 17 years!”

The best find was my ID cards. It wasn’t the complete set, but it showed me with long hair, short hair, fluorescently-dyed hair and they years when I shaved my head bald. (I did that in front of the whole school to help raise money for The World’s Greatest shave back in 2007. I loved the look so kept it going for well over a year.)

Then it was time for the Art meeting, which was really a lunch. Helen, who as well as being the head of department was also the woman who travelled with me to North Korea in 2018, ordered the most scrumptious lunch from a Thai restaurant. Every single dish was delicious.

Speaking of dishes, as a parting gift the Art dept/Helen gave me this beautiful serving dish. As I always say, if you want a great farewell gift that’s aesthetically pleasing, get a job in the Art department!

After lunch, washed down with a couple of glasses of bubbly, it was time for the English meeting. I didn’t bother taking my computer – I took Jenna’s quilt, a needle, thread and scissors and sat down to continue hand-sewing the binding. Persephone sat down next to me to have a quick chat, which was great because I was able to thank her for taking that long holiday 17 years ago, which is how I landed the initial contract to work at the school.

When she left, I took my quilt and a bowl of snakes – I love the green ones especially – over to the year 9 meeting and asked if I could sit with them. They had their computers open and were working on the first task for next year. Persuasive speeches. I sat doen, settled myself with my stitchery and asked Cath if I could do anything to help.

“No Frogdancer, that’s alright. You do you!”

I gave some suggestions and opinions a couple of times as I listened to them, but mostly I kept inching my way slowly around the perimeter of the quilt, feeling interested in the talk that was going on but feeling thankful all the same that this part of my life was coming to an end.

At 3 o’clock Sam came out of the room where the year 12 team had been meeting and came over to see what the year 9 team was doing.

“Don’t worry Sam,” I said, waving the needle merrily at him. “I’ve been here supervising for you, making sure they were working hard!”

The next day was Thursday. The day I’ve been looking forward to ever since I started work at the school. The staff Christmas function, where the speeches are made.

I LOVE public speaking. Just love it. Give me something to talk about and a spotlight to stand in and I’m a happy woman. Over the years I’ve seen many farewell speeches. Most fade into the mist of time, but some live on in the years afterwards, for both good and bad reasons.

I was determined that my speech would be good. I have my pride, after all.

The trouble is, I’m a bleeding-edge sort of teacher. I don’t meticulously plan out my speeches, just like I don’t meticulously plan out my lessons. My gift is spontaneity. And the gods of spontaneity never let me down.

Still, I started to give this speech a little bit of thought, especially after one of my English faculty colleagues tried to psych me out. After my speech on Monday, he said to me in front of a few others who I respect from the English department, “You know Frogdancer, your speech on Thursday could go one of two ways. You’ll either hit it out of the park or it’ll fall flat as a tack.”

Although inside I was thinking, “WTF?!? Why would you fucking say this to someone giving a speech you dic****d?”, while outside I was as cool as a cucumber, saying, “Yes, I agree with you. It’ll be interesting to see which one it is.”

I’m not the brightest person. I had no idea that it was a warning shot across the bow.

Two days later, on Wednesday night, as soon as I got home from work I started planning my speech. When I do this, I don’t write things down. Instead, I walk around and around, muttering to myself as I try out different stories and scenarios. As they become clear I slot each anecdote, joke and message into a clear, coherent pathway. Then I make dot points. It takes time, but as I mutter and pace, it all starts to emerge as a coherent whole.

Ryan25 heard me and came into the room, asking who I was talking to.

“The whole staff,” I said. “I’m writing my speech.”

“Oh”, he said. “Thought so. Have fun!” and he left me to it. He also cooked dinner so I’d be free to keep working on it. He’s a good lad.

As I walked and muttered, a gradual pattern emerged. I knew going in that I wanted to be funny, but also to have a middle section where I got serious. Then I’d end with a funny section, a bit like most of my lessons. Reel ’em in with humour, get your point across and then leave ’em laughing.

Gradually, a few ‘must haves’ emerged, so I grabbed some paper and jotted down dot points. Nothing more than that. I wanted to speak directly to my audience, not read to them. At around 9, the perfect ending to my speech came tumbling from my mouth.

“YES!” I cried. “I’m a genius!” The last dot point was made. I ran through it, muttering but standing still now because I knew that tomorrow I’d be standing behind a podium with microphones. It was all good. I knew that basic pattern of what I was going to say, I knew the stories I wanted to tell and the running jokes that went with them and I had a kick-arse ending.

The speeches I give have rhythm and pace. This one had running jokes weaving through and a clear thread. I expected a clear space to deliver it, like every other person in the 17 years of speeches I’d enjoyed.

I was ready.

But yeah. It’s late on Friday and to be quite honest… I’m a bit pissed. (In the Aussie meaning of inebriated: not the other meaning of being angry.)

Lets pick up this convo tomorrow. Lots to tell.

But this meme will give you an indication –

Someone tried to scuttle the speech. Not in a major way, but enough to try and derail my focus and make my speech fail. Seriously? Are we in grade 3???

Anyway, I’m tired. I’ll pick this up tomorrow. I’ll keep telling what happened on Thursday, but real terms – it’s Friday evening. I’m free!! I’m retired! But I still need to fill you in on the almost perfect day Thursday was – my send off from teaching.

I’ll pick this up tomorrow. It’s a good story so stick with me. 🙂

Book review: “Retirement Made Simple.”

Cover of Noel Whittaker's book "Retirement Made Simple."
Disclosure: Please note that I may benefit from purchases made through my affiliate links below, at no cost to you.

A little while ago Noel Whittaker, who is a member of a FB group I’m also in, wrote that he was releasing a new book in October – ‘Retirement Made Simple.‘ Perfect timing for me, of course. I ordered it, telling him that if it made me rethink my retirement plans I was going to be pretty mad!!

I’m a bit of a fan of his work. As some of you may recall, every Christmas for the last 5 years I’ve given a finance book to my sons and nieces. They’ve received TWO of Whittaker’s books – the first being the book that gives a broad education of the Australian financial scene – ‘Making Money Made Simple‘ and the one designed for young adults starting out – ‘The Beginner’s Guide to Wealth.’

This new book was bought just with ME in mind. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. I really know how to pamper myself.

I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow account of every chapter, as I’ve seen some in the PF world do in their reviews. I think doing so is a disservice to the author. A review isn’t meant to be a summary; it’s meant to give an idea of the flavour of the book.

I will say that ‘Retirement Made Simple’ is a well laid out and comprehensive view of the things every Australian needs to know (and think about) as they’re either heading towards or are actually into the retirement stage.

It begins with the numbers – what people need to know about superannuation, pensions, investments, insurances… all of the things that underpin the financial bedrock of financial independence and security. After all, there’s no point in retiring if you find yourself eating cat food a few years later just to survive!

Once all that is dealt with, the later chapters move into how to make the most of the freedom of retirement. Health, activities, relationships, philosophies of living – all the things that people sometimes forget to consider before they pull the pin on working. In other words – the answers to “But what will you DO all day?” (Someone at work asked me that question only yesterday. I don’t think they know me very well!)

Mr Bean saying "Now I get it!"

The chapters are also peppered with case studies of the things being explored, which I think is an excellent idea. A few people are numbers people and so they’re happy with charts and graphs, but the rest of us can grasp a concept more readily if it’s presented in a story. Somehow, after reading the story, the chart or graph makes much more sense.

I’m a speed reader, so I read it over a couple of days. I learned a bit here and there and by the end of it I felt that I’d prepared both my financial and emotional worlds pretty well prior to taking the jump. Phew!

I have a friend at work who is a couple of years away from pulling the pin. He and his wife are both English teachers and are even more numeral-averse than I am, if you can believe that such a thing is possible. When I finished reading it I passed the book over to him.

I was almost sure that he’d start reading it and then put it aside. I wasn’t completely sure, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered giving it to him. But I felt that this book may have just come along at the right time for them to be ready for the information.

Yesterday he reminded me that he had the book, then when I asked if he’d been reading it he told me this:

“Last night I was washing the dishes and Ellen (his wife) was reading it aloud to me. The author has a very good way of making the information accessible to readers who don’t have a lot of financial knowledge. He’s making it easy for us to follow and understand. It’s really very good.”

That’s a ringing endorsement if ever I’ve heard one.

This stuff is important. The better we’re able to prepare for retirement, both financially and emotionally, the better our lives will be.

Making Retirement Simple‘ by Noel Whittaker. Check it out.

Knowledge is power.

Time’s ticking away.

Cavaliers sitting at the front door.
Poppy and Jeff watching me leave for work. Only 5 weeks to go!

Five weeks (and 1 day) of work left before I retire! It seems real and yet not, if you know what I mean.

I’m constantly being asked at work, “Counting down the days?” and yes, I suppose I am.

I’ve had people saying they’re specifically coming to the staff luncheon at the end of the year because they know my speech will be hilarious – oof, no pressure everyone! – and others saying that they’ll miss me next year. That’s nice of them to say, but we all know how quickly workplaces move on. Today’s superstar is barely remembered a month into next year. It’s all about the here and now.

One thing I’m kicking myself about.

Due to remote learning being hard on some of the kids, the year 7s didn’t have to write a full essay on their novel this year, just 3 body paragraphs. This means that I read my very last essay ever LAST YEAR!!!! This means that I read my very last essay ever and I didn’t even know it. ARGH!!!! That would have been a sweet, sweet feeling.

Hand made soap curing.
Work Christmas presents done.

I’ve made my very last Work Christmas presents. For the last couple of years I’ve made soap to give to people. This year I bought cornflower and calendula petals to make them look pretty. The soap takes 6 weeks to cure so it can be safely used, so it means that you have to be organised early. I’m really pleased with how these look.

Oh, and if you’re a work friend who’s reading this, just pretend to be surprised in the last week of term. 🙂

Brick path to the letterbox, next to the 'Orchard.'
Another little job ticked off the list!

I decided to bite the bullet and finish off the front yard. New guttering on the verandah, a new garden bed and brick path have all been put in. This means that, apart from the side fence that has to be replaced, the bones of the yard have been completed and now the pottering about bit – otherwise known as planting and gardening – are ready to be worked on next year when I have all the time in the world.

Like it says in the caption.
Front, curved garden bed.

I still have no clear idea what is going to be planted in this garden bed. All I know for sure is that I want it to be full of flowers to bring the bees to pollinate all the fruit trees. The dark fence behind it will be the perfect backdrop for splashes of colour.

Seedlings.
Grown from seeds.

The other cheap entertainment I’ll have for myself is seriously learning how to grow food from seed. I’ve been doing it for years, but in a haphazard sort of way, so I’m looking forward to refining how I do it and being more consistent and productive.

There’s nothing so rewarding as harvesting food that you’ve grown yourself from seeds you’ve saved. Free food is my favourite flavour!

Black plastic pots - big ones - with pumpkin plants.
Pumpkins in pots in the orchard.

Speaking about growing food from saved seed, last year was the first time I successfully grew pumpkins. Never have pumpkins tasted better! I saved seed from the largest one and I’ve planted them in pots which I’ve popped in the new orchard. The idea is that while the grass underneath the mulch is slowly being killed off, the pumpkin plants can tumble over the sides of the pots and ramble all over the ground under the baby trees.

It’s an experiment. Hopefully, they’ll produce glorious pumpkins and I’ll be making use of all that spare ground. That’s the great thing about food gardening. There’s always a new experiment to be carried out to keep things interesting.

There are unexpected benefits to growing your own food. Last summer we had a tomato glut. I’ve never seen so many tomatoes in one garden in my life before. By the time summer ended I had packed away around 50 kilos in bags of chopped-up tomatoes in 400g lots in the freezers. Anytime a recipe called for a tin of tomatoes, I’d just defrost a bag. Along with other produce from the garden, our big freezer in the laundry and our smaller one in the kitchen was jam-packed full.

Then covid happened. Having all of that food saved meant that our visits to the shops were dramatically cut. I planned our meals around what we had to use up and now, in late spring, we have just 4 bags of tomatoes left. I’m so rapt. The utter convenience of having all of this on-site, along with the motivation of “if we grows it, we eats it!” meant that it was easier to simply throw a meal together from home, rather than get takeaway and risk getting the virus.

I’ve spent so much money on landscaping the yard to include the wicking vegetable beds that I’ll NEVER make my money back on grocery savings. But that wasn’t why I did it.

Old Lady Frogdancer’s ongoing grocery bills will be slightly smaller, yes. But she’ll also have endless hours of entertainment, plotting and planning for next year’s crops, devising the next new experiment, getting out in the sun to enjoy the weather and look after her plant babies. She’ll be able to give away produce to her boys and they’ll all be eating the cheapest, healthiest organic fruit and vegetables possible.

Assuming that some charitable souls take on my unfortunate-looking sons, in years to come Old Lady Frogdancer, in between overseas trips, will be able to teach the next generation how to get their hands dirty and show them where food actually comes from. That’ll be pretty cool, I think.

Well, as the title at the top of this post says, time’s ticking away. The timer is about to ding for the last kneading for today’s sourdough loaves and once that’s done I have to go out and water the gardens. It’s a beautifully sunny day today and Thursday is my day off.

Hmm.. will I take the dogs down to the beach? Will I plant out some of the seedlings in the greenhouse? Will I continue painting the verandah? Ryan25’s quilt and Jenna’s scarf need to be finished soon, should I attack one or both of them? Should I knock over a couple more chapters in that retirement book I’m reading?

You know, it’s almost impossible to comprehend that soon I’ll be asking these questions of myself every single day… and then doing whatever I feel like.

Wow.

Aussie fire – The Ultimate Guide to Financial Independence for Australians.

Cover of the book "Aussie FIRE - The ultimate guide to financial independence for Australians."

Earlier this year, way before Melbourne went into our second lockdown and the world was a sunnier place, a call went out to put together a book about FIRE, with Australian FIRE bloggers collaborating to write for an Australian audience. Much as we love the Americans, much of what is applicable to them isn’t the same in our corner of the world. We need Australian hints and tips to tweak to find the way to financial independence, and luckily there are some very clever people who have trodden the path before us to help show the way.

The very clever people and I were each assigned chapter/s and now, a few months later, the book has been released. It’s free on the Pearler website. It’s a comprehensive look at how the Financial Independence, Retire Early idea is being adopted and adapted by ordinary Australians who wish to take back control over their lives.

Aussie FIRE – The Ultimate Guide to FIRE for Australians

My chapter is towards the end of the book, where I talk about the possibilities in life without mandatory work. Interestingly, this was written way before I decided to actually retire at the end of this year. Maybe writing this piece was the first nudge towards my decision?

Chapter 21: Find your FIREstyle

If a genie emerged from a magic lamp and granted you 2 extra days a week to do
whatever you wanted – what would you do with that extra time? Do you even know?


If this scenario sounds improbable, think again. It happened to me at the start of this year. Well, ok… it wasn’t a genie but my principal who granted me the extra 2 days though I was so happy when she said yes that the moment appeared magical! I’m a secondary teacher and I decided, after 30 years in the classroom and 6 years on the FIRE path, that now was the time to go from full-time to part-time work.


Think of it – that’s 2 full workdays suddenly transformed into “me” time. Instead of
the job taking over the lion’s share of my week, I’m now there for 3 days. Over the
course of a year, that’s a LOT of extra free time.


Now put yourself in that picture. Whether you decide to slow down as I did or to pull the pin entirely from your job, there’s going to come a time when you have lots of free time in every week, month and year. Those weeks, months and years are going to keep on coming. It’s important to start thinking NOW about how you’re going to use that time in ways that bring joy and fulfilment to your life.

Quote from the chapter.

You’ve read plenty of good advice about money, numbers and spreadsheets in the
chapters before this one. It’s important to get your head around these things. But
ultimately, money is only a tool to facilitate every other area of your life. I’ll say it
again – money is a tool. It’s the other areas of your post-retirement life that often get overlooked in the planning stages. Yet these are the very areas in which our lives are built.

Let’s assume your financial plans are in place – one day you’ll be able to enjoy many
decades of life in retirement. Terrific! Now… how are you going to fill your days?


I don’t mind admitting that this question still fills me with a creeping kind of fear. I
know I’m not alone. The questions of “But what if I get bored?” and, “But what will I do all day?” are real. Our jobs take up a huge part of each workday, especially when the time spent on commuting is taken into account. Many people leave home in the dark and get home in the dark, only having the weekends to race around to get everything else done.


Given this, it makes total sense that people might be a bit leery about what life in
early retirement will be like. And yet, that’s precisely why we should be looking
towards that time and building relationships, friendships, investigating possible
interests, and building expectations about how we’ll design our lives once we’re the ones deciding how our hours will be spent.


There’s no point running towards having total freedom over our time if we don’t
know what we’ll do with it once we get there!

Early retirement
This sounds fabulous but really; what does “early” even mean? Depending on where you currently stand on the continuum between the cradle and the grave, “early” can mean anything from 25 to 65.


Speaking as a woman who’s heading into the shady end of her fifties, “early” to me
means anything a few years before pension age. Anyone who has been able to get
their financial act together and retire before they “have to” is doing alright in my
book. But to someone in their thirties or forties, the prospect of retiring at 60 might seem impossibly old. It’s all relative.

An important consideration about early retirement, especially if you’re on the younger end of that continuum is that your plans need to have the flexibility to pivot and change as your interests and situations evolve. My wishes and needs as a single parent of 4 small boys, back when I was on the Sole Parents Pension over 20 years ago are now very different as my family has grown and I’ve reached FI. Same person, but different life stages. You won’t remain as you are now – take my word for it!

Beware of remaining too rigid in your plans and expectations – it’s smart to allow
some wriggle-room in your plans for how your retirement will appear.


Whether you’re aiming at 20 or 50 years of retirement, those days will have to be
filled. We’ve already assumed that you have your finances in order, so before you
actually pull the pin and charge off into the sunset, it’s an excellent idea to put some serious thought into the core beliefs and values that underpin your life.


In other words: what brings you a deep sense of satisfaction – of a day well spent?
Who (or what) brings laughter and joy to your life?
Are there any skills or creative endeavours that you’ve always had a yen to master
but simply never had the time?
Think of travel. Which destinations lift your heart and make you want to pack your
bags to head out there??

Do you feel a desire to give back to the community in some way? Our society is run
on the work of volunteers in so many different areas. Is there a niche where you’ve
always had a sneaking suspicion that you’d enjoy working in?


Maybe you don’t want to create works of art, but instead, you’d like to be a
consumer. Are there books you’ve always wanted to get lost in? Galleries that you’d love to wander around in, unfettered by time? Bands or orchestras that you’ve always wanted to hear? Sporting teams or events that you’d love to be able to soak up the atmosphere and get lost in the excitement?


Retirement is definitely the time to dust off those dreams and start living them. If
not then, when? And if you’ve set yourself up for ‘early’ retirement, that’s even better! Imagine all the possibilities…

Passion projects.

Isn’t that a great term? PASSION PROJECTS! How could you not want to sink your
teeth into something like this?

For me, a passion project is something that you do for yourself. I’ll be covering
voluntary work next – but a passion project is an activity that you’ve always hankered to spend more time on but had to back off from, due to the pressures of life and work. Now – as you leave work, time is no longer a barrier.

What do you want to achieve?


Just let that question sit with you for a bit…


Can you feel your spirits lift as ideas start to rise to the surface?


Creative types can dust off the woodworking tools, the paintbrushes or dive
headlong into their stashes of crafting materials. A guy I went to school with retired a little while ago and has turned his garage into a studio. In his youth, he went to art school but then spent decades in the police force in order to support his family. Now, he finally has the time to spend honing his craft – and he loves it.


My cousin chooses to spend a lot of time on the golf course. She’s always been active throughout her life but golf is a game that takes up a fair chunk of time. She’s happily engaged in improving her game as often as she likes now – her job is no longer standing in her way.


People with itchy feet, whether for local or international travel, are in for a treat. The world is almost literally their oyster. This is something that I’m definitely looking forward to exploring. I’m an English history buff and it was so thrilling to actually walk in the same rooms and streets as the people I’ve been reading about my whole life. My trip to North Korea, by contrast, was fascinating (and a little unnerving) in very different ways. The world is such a wide and wonderful place and I can’t wait to see more of it.


So many passion projects that revolve around the home! Gardening, pottering
around the shed and doing projects around the place – all bring a great sense of
pride and satisfaction.


My father spent years doing up vintage cars. His passion was for an English brand –
the Riley. It was his first car, so naturally, he has a warm spot in his heart for them.
He’d find old wrecks, bring them home in boxes and spend the next few years
painstakingly restoring them, one by one, back to their former glory. Along the way he taught himself many skills such as rebuilding motors, painting the exterior,
rewiring them, varnishing the woodwork dashboards and door features. He spent
HOURS in the garage, happy as a clam. He now has some beautiful cars to drive –
almost like works of art. Without a doubt, he counts those hours as time well spent.


Ultimately, the people we love and care about are what our lives revolve around. Our friends and family are a passion project in themselves! This can run the full spectrum of just chilling and having fun to becoming caregivers. When my mother fell and was very frail for a long while afterwards, I realised that the time spent with her is something to be cherished as it wasn’t going to last forever. One of the reasons I decided to work part-time was so I could see her more often and enjoy little moments that we’d otherwise not have had. Looking after grandchildren is definitely a passion project – apparently, people who have grandchildren are quite fond of them and like to spend time developing that relationship. Not something I know much about as of yet!

Quote from the chapter.

These passion projects are one thing, but what if you take it a step further and push these interests out into the wider world? You have the joy of doing things you enjoy, with the added benefits of working with other people and adding value to the community.

Volunteering
I have a friend, Mandy, who retired a couple of years ago when she was 56. She and her husband downsized to the Peninsula, where they were nearer to their
grandchildren and a more relaxed lifestyle near the beach. Even before she left her
job, she said to me a couple of times, “When I retire, I’m going to find a dog shelter
and walk the dogs. Not the little dogs; the big dogs that no one wants to walk.”


This is what she says about the role of volunteering in her life:
“I spent 12 months volunteering at 2 animal shelters and recently decided to
discontinue one of the roles. I was feeling overcommitted, (overcommitted in
retirement! Haha!!), and my role at one of the shelters was very physical and rather thankless. I kept going for the sake of the animals but ultimately decided to focus my energy on the shelter where I feel my contribution has the most impact and is more valued. If I want to increase my shelter volunteer work again in the future I can easily commit to additional shifts at that same shelter.”


Her voluntary work also has a little bonus – Buddy, one of the dogs she walked
eventually found his way home with her.


Mandy also volunteers once a month in a local group that picks up rubbish at their
local beach. She sometimes takes her little grandchildren with her, which reinforces the value held in their family of looking after the environment while also doubling as a fun afternoon on the beach with Gran.


You can see by Mandy’s example that volunteering needn’t be a huge time-suck.

She walks the dogs on Monday mornings and is home for lunch. The beach clean-
ups are once a month for an hour or two, yet doing these things means that she satisfies a need to be useful and valuable in society. She’s also naturally building new friendships and ties with her town, avoiding feeling isolated or lonely.


Mandy chose her voluntary work based on her love of dogs and the environment.
You, too, might have interests or values that would lend themselves beautifully to a voluntary gig or two.


Religious? Why not teach a Sunday school class, or do R.E. classes at primary school?
Many churches seem to have opportunity shops, so a few hours a week in one of
those would help raise much-needed funds for charity.
If you’re sporty, then there’s a myriad of community sporting groups that need
coaches, people who look after the sporting equipment and people to run the
canteens.
As a teacher, I know for a fact that schools are always looking for people to give their time to help out with kids who are having trouble with basic literacy and numeracy. Volunteering your time in a task like this can literally change a kid’s life for the better.


I have another friend, Libby, who is a keen advocate for social justice. When she
retired a few years ago, she put her hand up to help out at a charity for refugees. She collects and assembles food parcels and clothes for families who have arrived here after escaping the most horrific conditions. Libby lives in the inner suburbs and has a beautifully busy social life, but her face lights up when she talks about her days at the charity. She absolutely loves it


As for me, I haven’t really thought that far ahead when it comes to volunteering. I’ve vaguely thought that I might teach a class in literature or poetry at U3A – the
University of the Third Age, which are classes run for and by retirees. I’ll probably knit warm hats and scarves for the homeless – I hate the cold and I like making quilts and knitting things to keep my loved ones warm.


But who knows what may emerge? The beauty of volunteering is that there is
literally something for everyone. It’s just a matter of being open to possibilities and keeping your eye out.

Less stress
I don’t know about you, but almost every retired person I’ve talked to laughs and
says, “I don’t know how I ever found the time to work!”


Don’t you hate that? Especially if you’re at work and the person has dropped in to
gloat to visit their old work-mates.


I asked Mandy about whether the pace of life has changed for her since she left work two years ago. She said, “One by-product of retirement is that I’ve finally learned to slow down – most of the time anyway. It took quite a while to wind back to a gentler pace, but generally, I no longer feel the urgency to get everything done today, not when I can see a whole bunch of ‘todays’ in front of me. Life is not lived at the same frantic pace as before and there is more time to enjoy the small moments. Interestingly too, having learned to slow down, I just don’t need as many things to fill the day. Compared to my pre-retirement life, I now feel like I do a lot of “nothing”. It’s not really that I’m doing nothing of course, but I’m going at a slower pace and enjoying more quiet moments.”


The FIRE lifestyle has so much going for it! Free of financial constraints and with
years of extra time to spend on what you decide, it’s a lifestyle that’s hard to beat.
When you fill those decades of extra time with activities that mesh with your core
beliefs and values, you have the recipe for an extremely rewarding life.


For me, that’s worth striving for.

*****

I highly recommend that you jump over to Pearler’s website and snag yourself a copy if you haven’t already. So many really clever people – most of whom aren’t scared of Maths like I am – have contributed to this book. Hence there are subjects about getting on the road to FIRE that I’ll never cover!

I’d like to thank Pearler, (a new trading platform) and Michelle for the chance to collaborate with all of the other writers.

Hope you find it useful!

Financial Independence = reaping the harvest.

When a harvest occurs, it’s usually the end result of actions that have gone before. A farmer plants his crops and reaps the harvest, a gardener plants her seeds and has a glut of tomatoes, and a student studies diligently and scores well in the end-of-year exams.

Six years ago I had a paid-off house and $10 in the bank. Today I have the option to never work again if I feel like it. I’m a cautious soul though and that’s why I dropped back to part-time work this year. I only have myself to depend upon because I’m unlikeable and have no man to lean on, (LOL) so I want to play it safe.

But by combining the long-term strategies of frugality and being a Valuist with shorter-term strategies such as working a second job, investing and taking advantage of an opportunity when it came along, I now have financial independence.

This state of affairs didn’t come out of nowhere. I read hundreds, if not thousands of blog posts, gradually picking up ideas and concepts about esoteric things like investing… the 4% Rule… index funds vs individual shares… geoarbitrage… the concept that spreadsheets are fun, (though the jury’s still out on this one, by the way!)

These things didn’t come naturally to me. I’m scared, quite literally, when I see a lot of numbers. But like drops of water falling steadily onto a rock, over time the new concepts gradually made an impression and I began to put things into action.

A very young Poppy and Jeff in our old veggie garden.

When I began to walk along the road leading to financial independence, I had a very hazy idea that I’d like to be able to have a dignified retirement where I’d never have to ask my kids for money. My grandfather lived until his early nineties and by the time he was in his late eighties he’d run out of money. The Age Pension wasn’t enough to pay for all his needs, so Mum and Dad had to step in and give financial help every now and then.

In contrast my father’s mother was comfortably cared for up until the time she died at 96. She didn’t lead a flashy lifestyle, but every need and a huge percentage of her wants was catered for by the work she and my other grandfather put into their savings and investments.

Their portfolio was put together over decades of slow and careful work. My grandpa went out and earned the money – both by his ‘day job’ running a shop and by his ‘side hustle’ of performing on the Tivoli Circuit as a rope spinner, juggler and hypnotist. (Interesting man!) My grandma stayed at home to raise the family, but at the same time, she also ran a boarding house for international students and was FRUGAL. (To be honest… nowadays we’d definitely call her cheap.)

Their comfortable and secure retirement was the result of thousands of small decisions taken over decades, with each small step leading inexorably towards the harvest.

As a young woman, particularly after I spawned the ugly and smelly beings that I affectionately call my family, I observed and learned from these stories, even though I wasn’t fully conscious of it. When I began to learn about financial independence, FIRE and everything in between, I didn’t know exactly how I’d get to my hazy goal.

I decided that I wanted to be financially secure (whatever that was!!) by the time I reached Pension Age. AND – stretch target – to not need the pension at all!!! I was around 50 years old. Pension age in Australia is 67. I’d paid off my house and I had a secure job. The table that Mr Money Mustache had on his Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement showed me that I could do it, especially now that the kids were growing up and gradually becoming independent.

I set off, determined to work until I was 67 and retire on a very secure combination of superannuation, shares and no debt.

Good enough harvest for you?

In gardening, it’s not enough to throw some seed on the ground, walk away and come back a few months later and expect a bountiful harvest. There are hundreds of little actions that the gardener has to perform, such as weeding, watering, thinning out the seedlings and protecting them from frost and pests. The same is true of reaching the goal of financial independence.

It’s a game for the patient.

The good news is that patience can be learned.

Ask me how I know!

There’s a quiet satisfaction when you walk to your garden beds and see the seedlings steadily growing. It’s akin to the feeling when you see your mortgage heading down, further every month. The feeling you get around your heart as you deposit money from every pay and you see your FU Fund or Emergency account growing bigger.

You know that each little action, no matter how small and ineffectual it may seem on its own, is a little step closer to your goal.

And the closer you get to your goal, the sharper and more defined it becomes. Life is a funny thing. Sometimes shortcuts appear that you would probably never have noticed if you weren’t steadily working on achieving something.

Achieving the goal? Now that’s more than a quiet satisfaction! Bringing in the harvest is a sweet and precious thing. Look towards it and keep stepping to it.

After all, the time will pass anyway. You may as well enjoy living with a bountiful harvest, instead of a head full of empty wishes and dreams.

Lockdown at Frogdancer’s place.

Scout was very sick for a couple of days, but now she’s back to normal.

So it’s been a week since schools shut down when the school holidays were brought forward by 4 days and we’re now in official ‘school holiday’ time. Lockdown was officially brought in on Saturday night (I think), so what has been going on here while the country grinds slowly to a halt?

David26 packing his bags to move over to his girlfriend’s place. She lives at home with her parents…

We had the uncomfortable chat with adult kids that a lot of families are having, especially since the new laws came in forbidding meetings of more than 2 people. David26 was over at Izzy’s place when all of this came into effect. For newer readers, Izzy is immunocompromised as she’s fighting leukaemia. After checking with Izzy’s family, David26 has elected to stay there for the duration.

He came back, masked and gloved, to pack some clothes, food and musical equipment. He’s spending his days helping Izzy’s Dad with major renovations on their house, (aka learning some manly skillz) and writing lots of music with Izzy. He’s happy.

Evan23, facetiming from Ballarat. Strike a pose!

Evan23 is up in Ballarat with the other people from his acting course. This photo was what he sent after I said that his hair looked lustrous. It made me laugh! Apple doesn’t fall far, as they say. He’s moved into the share house that his girlfriend lives in, along with one of the other podcast guys. Lots of board games, lots of drinking, lots of painting. He bought canvases and paint as part of his panic buying before the lockdown.

Tom28 is an accountant and so far he’s been able to hang onto his job. We have long phone calls nearly every day.

Fortunately, I’m sharing lockdown with the quietest and most introverted son. Our house is blissfully quiet. The only sounds I hear, apart from his lectures from his uni course, are music or ‘Animal Crossing’ drifting from his room. We have little chats, then part to do our own things, then we meet up again to share things we’ve seen online etc. It’s chilled.

I posted this shot below, after a wonderful moment on Saturday night.

Unfortunately, we haven’t been back since, because on Sunday little Scout came down with a tummy bug and was really quite sick for a couple of days. Then, just as she was getting better, Jeffrey came down with it.

Jeff this morning.

Jeffrey was VERY sick. So sick that I took him to the vet at 8 AM yesterday. She couldn’t find anything wrong with him, so directed me to feed him boiled chicken and rice. This morning he ate some, the first food he’s had for over 2 days. He then wagged his tail. I’d say he’s turning the corner. Phew!

Correction still goes on…

I had to bring home some correction and I was getting kids who had self-isolated earlier to send me work via email, so I was still keeping busy in the last few weeks of term. One poor little boy, who only scored 4/30 on his grammar test, sent me what sounded like a chirpy little email after I released his mark to him.

Something along the lines of “Hi Ms Jones! Could you please send me my grammar test so my Mum and tutor can go over it with me? I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!”

Poor kid. That’s the LAST thing anyone would want. His Mum was almost certainly standing by his shoulder, dictating what to type. I’d already given him 15 extra minutes to complete the test, as I knew he struggles with English. Fortunately – or UNfortunately, depending on whether you’re the student or his Mum – his was a test I’d brought home. So I photo-ed the pages and emailed them across.

Another chirpy email thanked me. Poor kid…

Our fence – naked.

One of the projects I want to get done is to paint the front fence. Over the fullness of time, the lawn will be mostly replaced by garden beds. It’ll be an oasis. The following photo is the colour scheme I’ve chosen.

Soon…

My parents have been gallivanting around, so I had a stern talking-to with them. They’re over 80, for God’s sake. Anyway, after this, they’ll either heed what I say or they just won’t tell me. After all we’ve been through with them, health-wise, over the past year, you’d think they’d be more sensible.

My first pumpkin.

It was the end of the month yesterday, so I did my usual monthly net worth check. I estimated that it would’ve gone down around 150K due to the wild ride that the share market has been delivering. Imagine my relief when I was ‘only’ down 107K!! Feels like a bargain! Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again!

But look at this fine pumpkin. I’ve never been able to grow them before, but the compost materials I’ve been bringing home from work, coupled with the wicking beds, have brought forth a bonanza of pumpkins. I’m so happy. This one was so heavy it fell off the vine, so Ryan25 brought it in. It’s sitting next to the tromboncino zucchini seeds I’m drying for next year.

Ryan25 just came in to tell me that it looks like Australia is starting to flatten out the curve, which is good news. Meanwhile in the US, this is happening:

It beggars belief, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I hope that you and yours are safe and well. It’s a time to quietly enjoy our nearest and dearests and live life at a slower pace. It’s Wednesday morning at 10:30 and I’m still sitting on the couch in my pjs. On a normal Wednesday I would have taught 2 classes by now! Jeff is snoring beside me, Ryan25 is playing some 80’s music and the sun is shining. I’ll have brunch and get out into the garden today, I think.

Stay safe! Stay home!

Teaching in the time of Coronavirus.

Cartoon of schoolroom crowded with kids.
People don’t realise, but kids are often this close together in schools, just walking to and from classes. Trying to keep social distancing is impossible. There’s not enough room.

“May you live in interesting times” goes the ancient blessing/curse. Well here we are. Two weeks ago today I was flying in a helicopter without a care in the world and now the world is in covid19 lockdown.

All except Australian schools.

As a public teacher in a very large secondary school, I’m not altogether pleased about this. In fact, I’m getting angry. Everywhere else in the world schools have been closed and kids have been taught by the teachers online. It’s exactly the same as all of these office workers now working from home. And just what has our government done? Looked around the world and latched on to the only country who has kept kids at school and has dampened down the spread of coronavirus.

“We’re following the Singapore model of keeping kids in school,” says our Prime Minister.

Except they’re NOT.

In Singapore every kid is temperature tested before they enter the school. If they have a temperature, they’re sent home. As soon as they’re through the school gates, they’re made to wash their hands with soap. This is critical to the success of the Singapore model.

In Australia?

The kids wander in, mingling freely with their friends. Their lockers are jammed together in little areas, so the kids are literally standing over, around and under each other to get their books and laptops to get to class. No one takes their temperature. No one makes them wash their hands unless they go to the toilet where (hopefully) they do that then.

The government is refusing to do the very things that make the Singapore and Taiwan models work. Yet they’re saying that we’re following these models to keep our schools safe. It’s total BS.

So if even one kid is incubating, we won’t know about it. The alarming thing is, given all of the crowding together that is a natural part of school life, a kid who is incubating the coronavirus won’t just pass it on to the 2.6 people that we see in the graphs and charts. They’ll pass it on to far more.

Ever seen kids in a line at the canteen at lunchtime??? Even the kids that aren’t buying anything swarm around the area, drawn by the smell of hot food and the hope that they’ll be able to scavenge a chip from someone. I have yard duty at the canteen at lunchtime tomorrow. I’ll be surrounded by literally hundreds of kids. It only takes one kid to be carrying the virus…

We have a school with around 2,300 teenagers and 200 teachers. It’s not a huge, sprawling campus. The corridors and passageways between buildings are always crowded in between classes. You’d be lucky to get 1.5cms between people at these times, let alone 1.5 metres, which is the official guideline for social distancing.

Two days ago the Prime Minister announced new rules for indoor gatherings. “…what we are now moving to is an arrangement for gatherings of less than 100, is that there would be 4 square metres provided per person in an enclosed space, in a room. So that’s 2 metres by 2 metres.”

Great. Sounds good. But schools are exempt from this rule. Imagine how big classrooms would have to be to allow that much space for 28 kids and a teacher? So although everyone else in society has to stay away from each other, we’re still all jammed into small rooms for 6 periods a day.

School desks in a rows.
An accurate representation of ‘social distancing’ in our classrooms at present.

As of Friday, we were directed to move all tables apart in rows, in an attempt to keep kids as far away from each other as possible. I had a year 7 class. Twenty kids were at school, while 8 had chosen to stay home.

“Why are we doing this?” asked Shaye, as the kids were obediently moving their tables into the new positions.

“It’s the coronavirus. We’re just trying to keep people as safe as we can,” I said.

“But it’s pointless!” she said. “Our lockers are centimetres apart!!”

If a 13-year-old girl can see it and our politicians can’t, there’s more to worry about than covid19. And then of course, during the course of the lessons that followed, I walked up and down and around those set-apart desks to keep an eye on the kids’ work, to offer help and to generally make sure the kids were on track.

If I’d kept appropriate social distancing, I’d be teaching them from outside through an open window. It’s ridiculous.

I want to state very clearly that I don’t blame my principal or the admin team for this at all. Their hands are tied. We’re a public school and until the government changes their mind, they have to keep the school open.

Our school is doing the best it can, such as staggering the beginning of lunchtimes, ( years 7 and 8 go out 10 minutes before the end of period 4 to reduce congestion at the canteen) and staggering the end of the day (years 9 and 10 leave 10 minutes earlier than everyone else to reduce the congestion at the school gates.) Hand sanitiser containers have been fixed to the wall outside staff toilets and in places like the Theatre where I teach drama. All my year 9’s now have ultra-clean hands before we start our lessons!

But it’s not enough. The whole philosophy underpinning this is that “Kids don’t get sick from coronavirus.” That doesn’t mean that they can’t carry it. And guess what? Not everyone in a school is in their teens. To the surprise of no one, teachers tend to be older than their students. Sometimes much older. But who cares? Teachers are expected to soldier on, coming in close contact every day with kids who could be asymptomatic.

The definition is as follows: “In medicine, a disease is considered asymptomatic if a patient is a carrier for a disease or infection but experiences no symptoms.”

I’m 56. I’m in a high-risk work environment. Because of this, I’ve decided to self-isolate from my elderly parents and my brother who suffered a stroke on Christmas Day last year. Ironic, because the very reason I went part-time this year was to spend time with my Mum and brother. I, and many teachers like me, are growing increasingly aware that our employer is gambling with our health. We’re the sacrificial lambs in all of this.

As of last week, teachers have been directed to take everything we need to teach from our homes home each night. Kids have been told to take the contents of their lockers home, only bringing to school the textbooks and materials needed for each day’s classes. We’re ready for on-line education. Heck, we’re doing it now for the kids who are already self-isolating. But the government refuses to act.

One kid who is coming down with the virus or is a carrier is a huge risk to the school community. It’s not as if the virus respects school gates, stepping back and waiting politely for the end-of-day bell to ring before continuing on its biological imperative of infecting as many hosts as possible. Students, teachers and the support staff are all living with what seems to be a ticking time bomb.

Personally, I’d rather teach kids where ALL of us can be safe. At the moment, that is on-line. The government is gambling with teachers’ and students’ health and I’m not happy about it.

Finally, let me post an article I saw on Facebook that was written by a doctor last week. He argues the points why he and his wife chose to pull their kids out of school last week to self-isolate. It deserves a read.

Adam Roberts18 March at 22:14

LOCKDOWN FOR YOUR FAMILY

This is why I have pulled my kids from school. I’m a doctor who works at two hospitals in a city of 300,000 people. The hospitals aren’t in overload. We have hardly any cases of suspected coronavirus cases in hospital. It’s the calm before the storm. Medical staff are bracing themselves for whatever might be in a few weeks. School holidays are 9 days away for public schools.

The government won’t close down schools early because:
Reason #1. “It will take essential health professionals away from looking after sick patients”
Concerns: If my child comes home from school with a sore throat or cough my child won’t get tested for COVID-19 as per state health policy. As a parent of a potentially infected child, I will be quarantined for 14 days even if I don’t have symptoms. Even if I get tested, if I don’t have symptoms, a negative test won’t clear me to go back to work. If I stay home to look after my sick child, my quarantine will last longer than 14 days at a high risk that at some point I may develop symptoms and end up being also infected. If I allow my wife to soldier on without my involvement, I must quarantine myself somewhere outside the home (probably in a tent in the backyard feeling absolutely fine, while I watch the rest of my family become infected. Then after 14 days of braving out my quarantine, I will wave my sick family goodbye to save the patients who don’t mean as much to me (sorry, have to be honest).

Reason #2. “Unsupervised teenagers will flock to malls spreading contagion everywhere”
Concerns: Don’t sick teenagers usually stay at home rather than running around the mall coughing all over people. Is hanging out at the mall in groups of 3-5 friends more or less of a transmission risk than hanging out in classes of 20 to 30 students at school? And I didn’t think teenagers hung out at the mall with grownups. But they do hangout with susceptible grownups at schools. Have we thought about the teachers altruistically looking after our children, who then go home hoping they haven’t just passed on the virus to their own family?

Reason #3: “Grandparents will be exposed to children who may be carriers”
Concerns: Consider this. The government believes there isn’t a lot of infection in schools at present. Which makes now the perfect time to have grandparents locked in with their grandkids at home leaving parents to save the world. If we wait till there is community spread, we’ve lost the chance to have grandparents save the day. In fact, we have now made it impossible for grandchildren to hug their grandparents without worrying that they’ve dealt a death blow to Nana. We are acting as if numbers are really quite low and that we have time, when in fact waiting to act limits our options.

So today, I came home from work, changed my clothes, sanitised and washed my hands, and wrestled with my 5 year old son who has been in lockdown since Friday. How many health professionals can do that now with confidence? Closing schools and locking down now gives us a huge advantage which we will lose if we don’t do the inevitable now. If you don’t think it’s inevitable then you will need to explain why you think we are immune when almost all of Europe is in lockdown.

In the end, you’ve gotta laugh… What else can we do?

Edited to add: look what happened a few hours after I pressed ‘publish’.

I’m a miracle worker!!!!

For those going to the shindig on Monday.

Right! I’ve just seen that the organiser on Monday’s screening of the “Playing With FIRE’ documentary has shared the link to this blog with all who are attending, which is fair enough, seeing as I’m speaking on a panel after the show.

This made me feel weird, seeing as the last couple of posts have been fairly introspective and therefore boring to anyone other than the 3.75 people who read my blog, so in the interest of giving background to everyone else, here are a few posts offering my credentials, so to speak.

How I earned my freedom. It was a Pantene thing, but that’s ok. When you leave your marriage with $60 cash, 4 kids under 5 and a 100K mortgage, it takes a while to get your feet back under you.

How I was able to recognise an opportunity to shave 10 years off my working life.

How financial independence allows you to take advantage of the weird opportunities life can throw at you. Like travelling to North Korea.

I’m not your stereotypical FIRE blogger. Some of them paved the way and for that I’m grateful. But there’s room for more stories. You don’t have to be in your twenties or thirties, married and in a 200K a year job to get this FIRE thing done.

I’m NOT a numbers person… I’m someone who had to survive with 4 boys depending on her – failure was not an option. I can talk about how Bon Jovi kept me going. (With a slight tweak in the lyrics of a particular song.)

I’m looking forward to Monday night and meeting up with like-minded people. Sadly, at the moment we’re a rare breed, but maybe with docos like ‘Playing With Fire’ the word will start spreading and igniting. (See what I did there?)

Looking forward to meeting everyone at the showing. Come up and introduce yourself… we’ll have a great time!!

Not bad, hey?

I’m sitting in front of my year 9 class as I’m writing this. I’m casting the movie we’re studying, (Yolngu Boy), onto the interactive whiteboard and so I can work on another tab on my laptop while they’re watching. I’ve taught this movie for the last 15 years at least, so I don’t need to sit there glued to it for the 401st time.

I know I’ve blogged quite a bit in recent months about making the decision to drop down to working 3 days a week, about feeling tired and more than a little burned out, but it would be a horrible job that didn’t have any good things about it! Teaching is far from being a horrible job – each day there are things that make me glad to be here.

One of the best things about teaching is that every day is different. When you’re working with kids, they always say or do things to make you laugh. For example, yesterday I was running a grammar lesson with my year 7’s. They were working out of their textbooks and I started to get a bit bored, so I began to draw caricatures of some of them up on the board.

“Draw yourself, Miss!” called out someone.

“No, I could never draw such radiant beauty as my face,” I said.

“Yeah, you could never draw so many wrinkles!!!” said Curtis.

Lucky for him that I’m not very vain! I laughed and laughed.

Stand-up comedy and I get paid for it. Not bad, hey?

Tomorrow is going to be a good day. When you teach Theatre Studies, guess what? You get to take the kids to see plays. Tomorrow we’re going to the Bell Shakespeare Company’s production of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. I get to see it for free, with the school paying for my ticket and train fare, plus of course I get paid for the day. I have 4 classes that other people will cover for me while I’m off enjoying myself. Not bad, hey?

Next week I’m going on an excursion with the German faculty. Every year they take the kids to the Cuckoo restaurant up in the hills. This is an excursion every teacher wants to go on, but with 250 teachers in the school, it’s hard to get a spot. But this year, after 16 years of being at the school, my turn has finally come. Yes, Frogdancer Jones will get paid to go to a restaurant and get fed. I’ll hear rollicking German songs and we’ll have some laughs. Not bad, hey?

There are also other benefits to working here. I’ve written about how I bring home the used newspapers and the veggie scraps from the canteen and Food Tech rooms to use for my compost for my veggie gardens. I’ve also set up a Tupperware container on my desk and people drop their banana peels, tea bags and other food scraps for me to take home. A couple of girls who live in apartments bring in all of their veggie scraps from home. They’re rapt that the scraps don’t go into landfill and I’m rapt that I’m getting free compost to build up the soil in my garden beds. Not bad, hey?

Sometimes, now that I’m getting close to retirement, I get really impatient. The alarm goes off in the dark and I get up, at least an hour before I really want to. It’s cold and quiet as I settle down on the couch with my coffee after feeding the dogs. They curl up, warm beside me, as I balance my laptop in front of me and read. Then, I have to get up and start the day, when all the dogs and I want to do is to stay where we are.

Our train line is getting Skyrail, so buses are replacing trains and the traffic on the roads has increased. Yesterday it was raining and obviously many people decided they’d drive into work instead. My usual 45-minute commute blew out to 75 minutes. My couch and the dogs were looking pretty darned enticing, I don’t mind telling you! I made it to my period 1 class with only 3 minutes to spare. I was doing some very creative shortcuts through the back streets to be able to get to work on time.

My challenge in these last couple of years before I retire is to keep my eyes on the good things. The little things that happen every day that makes me coming into work worthwhile. I’ll have decades of lolling on the couch, having easy starts to my days, so I should rein in my impatience and focus instead on the people I work with and the fun things that happen.

Fortunately, this job is one where good things happen every day. Not bad, hey?

One big step closer…

Well, I’ve bitten the bullet. After weighing up all the pros and cons of whether to work full-time, part-time or pull the pin altogether, something happened that made me walk into my principal’s office a few days ago and formally let her know that I’ll be looking to cut back my time at work by 2 days a week.

From next year I’ll be working 3 days a week.

Mum is the final nudge that led me to make a decision. She’s nearly 80 and has been having problems with her health for years. What with the rheumatoid arthritis, heart bypass and breast cancer episode, she’s certainly not a boring patient! However, for the last few years she’s been feeling constantly dizzy and this has affected the way she moves around the world.

She can’t drive anymore and she walks with her father’s walking stick. Dad is there to lend a steadying arm and she’s become increasingly reliant on him. Then a couple of weeks ago she fell across the coffee table in their lounge room and broke her arm.

Shot of my backyard beach.

This has taken things to a whole new level.

She’s totally dependent on Dad now. She can’t get out of bed, go to the toilet or do anything without him being there to support her. Dad has barely cooked a meal in their 60 years of marriage, so my sister Kate and I are supplementing Meals on Wheels with cooked frozen dinners for them. They’re going to get people from the council in to do some cleaning. I thought things were on an even keel – well, as much as possible anyway – until they came over for lunch on Sunday.

I asked them over so Ryan24 could give his grandpa a back massage. Ryan24 needs to get 20 people massaged in the next 4 weeks as part of his remedial massage course and I thought that Dad would probably need a back massage, what with having to lift Mum on and off the toilet, in and out of bed and supporting her onto every chair that she sits in.

Shot of my backyard beach.

I made date scones for when they arrived. Dad loves them. Then, while he and Ryan24 went into the Man Cave and did the massage, Mum and I sat over cups of tea and talked one on one.

It was really nice. As we were talking it occurred to me that I can’t remember the last time we talked like this in person. Sure, we talk on the phone every week, but when we’re in the same room there are always other people around. It was a novel experience to sit down and talk one-on-one with my mother. How bad is that?

Then, Dad helped her out to the car and she stood beside it while he opened her door. She was too far forward and Dad asked her to step sideways so he could manoeuvre her in. She couldn’t move her feet sideways. She couldn’t move.

I looked at her feet, trying to move in the direction she wanted them to but just stepping on the spot. I thought, ‘I think it’s time. They’re going to need more help.’

Before I could talk myself out of it, I went to see my principal and let her know that I’ll need to drop back my days next year. I can’t do it this year because I have my year 12s. I told her that ideally, I’ll be working 3 days a week next year. That’ll give me a day for me and a day for Mum.

Then, once I left her office, I started telling some friends on staff. This ensures that I’ll be forced to go through with it.

And now I’m telling the whole world – or at least the part of the whole world I care about – which is of course YOU. This will really lock me in!

All of this happened a week ago, but I’ve found it hard to write about it. Crazy, really, when you’d think that a FI/RE blogger would be really excited about telling everyone that she’s taken a big step closer to reaching the big goal. But it’s taken 5 days to get my head around how much life will change next year.

Ever since I made what was probably the biggest decision I’ll ever make in my life – the scariest financial decision of all – I’ve always been on the hunt to make more money. Deciding to leave your husband, taking 4 boys under 5 with you and with only $60 cash to your name tends to make you focus on your income and expenses with laser-intensity! Raising my income and lowering my expenses has been at the forefront of the way I’ve run the household for the last 22 years.

So choosing to slash my income by 2/5ths goes very much against the grain. It’s taken a few days to embrace the thought, which is probably why I haven’t been able to finish this post until now.

I’m used to the idea now and I’m starting to look forward to having more of my life back. I’ve been running around like a crazy woman ever since my youngest hit school age and I began working full-time. Today, as I’m writing this, it’s Friday afternoon. I had to take the day off because the NBN was being installed and someone had to be here to let the technician in.

It’s been a good day. I walked into the hairdressers first thing and didn’t have to wait. I did some grocery shopping after I’d finished being beautified, then came home and read a book. After lunch I had a quick restorative nanna nap, then after I finish this post the dogs and I will go down for a walk on the beach.

Tomorrow we’re driving up to Ballarat to see Evan22 in his second-year play. That’ll take up all of Saturday. Normally, I’d be stressed by having half the weekend gone… how will I find the time to Get Everything Done? But with this extra time, it’s been lovely.

Soon every week will feel like this. I’ll have TIME. Time for me and time for my parents. I’m looking forward to how this next stage of my life is going to play out.

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