Burning Desire For FIRE

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

Two years into early(ish) retirement – interview.

Yachts from the beach.
Beach views…

I’m always interested when retired people continue writing their blogs, or when people post interviews with people who have already reached early(ish) retirement. So many of us in this space are still working our way towards the time when we can strap on our socks and sandals and skip off towards the sunset, so it gives me great motivation to hear from people who have reached the goal and can let us know what it’s like to live the dream.

Today I have a post from my best friend Blogless Sandy. She and her husband retired a couple of years ago, long enough to settle into it, so I thought it’d be interesting to hear her perspective on this whole retirement thing. The photos she’s attached also means we can literally see her perspective as well!

Here she is:

Blogless Sandy at a vineyard.
After a lazy mid-week lunch at a winery.

I’m Blogless Sandy, aptly named by Frogdancer because my real name is Sandy and I don’t have a blog. Who would have thought an English teacher could be so imaginative!

Anyway, given that Frogdancer is working her way towards retirement and I’m already there, she has asked me to write about my experience of retirement so far, a whole 2½ years of it. This all started after her post quite while back titled “Retire? But what will you DO all day?” and a discussion we had at the time about retirement in general. Frogdancer and I met 24 years ago when our kids were still babies and we’ve remained best friends ever since, so we discuss stuff a lot.

A little bit about me. I’m married with 2 adult children and 2 grandchildren. My husband and I retired to the Mornington Peninsula (about an hour from Melbourne, Australia) 2½ years ago, after selling our large family home in a suburb of Melbourne. My husband, who is 11 years older than me, had just retired. Selling our home and buying a smaller house further from the city meant I could also retire immediately. I was 56, so although not an early retirement by FIRE standards, it was still a lot earlier than most Australians manage.

The beach at the end of her street.
Blogless Sandy, like me, has a dog beach at the end of her street. How handy!

I retired on a Thursday and we moved to our new home (the best house on the Mornington Peninsula) the following Monday. When I look back I contemplate that it could have been a complete disaster. I left our family home of 24 years, my job of 27 years, our friends and everything that was familiar, moved to a totally new location, and all within the space of 4 days. Was I concerned? Not at all… well, if I’m being totally honest, maybe just a little bit.

When I announced to friends and work colleagues that I was retiring and moving, the question asked most often was “But what are you going to do?” I’d never considered that filling my days was going to be a problem, but it seemed to be a concern for others. This is understandable, given we spend a good deal of our lives in the workforce with our schedule dictated by our job. Then when we are at home, for many, much of the time is taken up with raising a family and running a house. Our lives are interspersed with holidays where we get to choose what we want to do, but trying to imagine a life that is essentially one big extended holiday can be difficult.

For me, the biggest change when I retired, apart from the obvious one of not having to work anymore, was the lack of social interaction compared to working in an office environment 4 days a week. Even though we often work with people that we are not necessarily friends with outside work, we tend to socialise quite a bit at work. We usually talk with work colleagues about our weekends, events we go to, activities we participate in and just make comments about things in general. Suddenly all that was gone! It was just me and hubby! But don’t panic, it all worked out fine, without one of us doing serious harm to the other. Just saying though, it was a huge change that I hadn’t really thought about before it happened.

Fortunately for us, we’re both reasonably self-contained people who are quite happy with our own and each other’s company. For people who struggle a little with the whole being on your own thing though, it’s probably worth considering how this will impact you. You might surprise yourself and learn to love all that “aloneness”. You may discover that you’re actually damned good company and that a bit of alone time can be quite replenishing.

Biking near the bathing boxes at Portsea.
Just another afternoon at the office on the beach.

I liked Frogdancer’s post (mentioned above) as she was obviously considering that retirement is not just about travel and sleeping in. The day to day needs to be filled with something too and having a number of projects or interests in mind is a good start. When people asked me what I was going to do in retirement, my response was that for the first 6 months I would sleep, read, knit, take long walks along the beach, spend time with my grandchildren and explore our new location. Then once I got bored with that I would consider what else I wanted to do. Of course, I had projects and activities in mind, but my initial goal was to just unwind and treat the first stage of my retirement as an extended “staycation”. I picked 6 months as an arbitrary length of time, not really knowing if it would take more or less time before the boredom began to set in.

Grandchild running down a path.
Imagine retiring early enough so you can keep up with a toddler?

And there’s that word – boredom – that we all seem to be so afraid of. Now I agree that an extended period of boredom is not a good thing, but I don’t believe that short periods of boredom are all bad. After all, if you’re a bit bored, isn’t that when you start looking for something to do? I know in my life, many a good project or new activity has been kick-started by a little bit of boredom.

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.

Blogless Sandy's dogs snoozing together.
Being able to spend more time with the dogs – sounds good.

I know that before I retired, I generally thought of retirement as a fixed kind of thing. You retire, you do certain things, lead a certain kind of life and that’s it until you’re carried out in a box. I realise now, that for me at least, retirement is more of an evolving process. Initial retirement was the “relax and unwind” phase. After years of raising a family and being in the workforce that’s what I needed. There were lots of sleep-ins and idle mornings, lots of lazing around. There were lots of days with nothing planned and lots of spur of the moment outings. It was wonderful, but I reached a point where I needed more than that. I’m the kind of person who functions better when I have some kind of structure to my week and that’s what I have now.

I like the sameness of familiar activities and pastimes, but I also revel in the challenge of doing new things too. Now, 2½ years into retirement I find I’m busy, but a new kind of busy. I’m busy doing the things that I want to do. I always said that when I retired I wanted to volunteer at an animal shelter, so now I walk the dogs at a shelter one morning a week.

Walking group heading off into the bush.
Taking a hike on a mid-morning Thursday.

I also participate in a walking group one morning each week, always in a different, but nearby location. I get exercise and social interaction and get to explore the local area, all in one activity. We look after our grandchildren 1 or 2 days a week, but that has become fixed days rather than the casual arrangement it started out as. I prefer the fixed arrangement as it fills my need for structure.

Yoga studio overlooking the bush.
Imagine having yoga classes in a studio with this outlook?

I always used to speak about doing yoga or pilates but had never actually done more than talk about it. I no longer had the excuse of being time-poor, so I took up yoga about 15 months ago and currently attend 5 classes a week. Then there’s the small commitment of being a member of the local beach cleaning group and trying to combat the never-ending amount of rubbish that gets left behind or washed up on our local beach. In amongst these things are the outings, the dog walking, the bike rides, the walks along the beach, the catching up with friends, the gardening and the pottering around. Oh, and just a bit of bad news, even in retirement the housework still needs to be done!

It’s a lovely kind of life that I’ve created and I’m very content. That’s not to say things can’t or won’t continue to change though. I feel free to keep creating the kind of retirement I want and as time goes on circumstances are bound to keep changing. We were only recently contemplating that before we know it our caring commitment to our grandchildren will be reduced to just school drops-offs and pick-ups. Then we found out that grandchild number 3 is on the way!

Two grandchildren hand-in-hand.
Little do they know they’ll have company soon…

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.

As mentioned, I took up yoga about 15 months ago. I was attending classes once or twice a week and decided about 5 months ago to make a bigger commitment. I didn’t feel I was doing my yoga practice justice and wanted to see how I’d feel about the whole yoga thing if I got a bit more serious about it. So now I attend 5 classes a week and yoga is my current obsession!

After another 2½ years of retirement, my weeks may be entirely different. I may decide in the future that I want more in my weeks, less in my weeks, different or new things in my weeks. The beauty of retirement is that it’s an evolving process full of endless possibilities, limited only by what I want it to be.

So don’t be concerned when people ask you what you’re going to do in retirement and you don’t have all the answers. If you have a vague idea of some things you want to do and some interests you might want to explore, you will be able to create the perfect retirement for you.

Spa time with bubbly.
Retirement looks awful, doesn’t it?

It’s me, Frogdancer Jones again!

I really like how Sandy and her husband utilised domestic geoarbitrage in much the same way I did to free up capital that was otherwise locked into real estate. Being able to use that money to downsize and invest has shaved YEARS off her working life (and mine too! It’s 2020 – hello part-time work!!)

Something that she didn’t touch upon is that retirement looks a bit different for her and her ‘hubby’. Blogless Sandy likes a structure to her week, whereas her husband is a more ‘go with the flow’ person who takes each day as it comes.

For me, looking at how they’ve settled into their new life down on the Peninsula, it’s made early(ish) retirement seem far less risky and scary. They live life in their own ways and they’re very happy. I could do with a piece of that…

Thanks, Blogless Sandy. Enjoy your beach and your spa!

19 Comments

  1. Love this post!

    I’m in a position financially to be retired (at 48) but am concerned about my mental health if I was to retire, as so much of my life revolves around my job.
    Despite the extremely long hours and stress of my role, it gives me a strong sense of purpose and achievement but I have times where I loathe my job (or probably more my boss).

    It’s really helpful to see the positive reality of being brave enough to take that step.

    • Maybe you could do what I’m doing and go part-time?
      I’ll be working Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays this year. I’m looking forward to it.

    • Thank you. I’m pleased that this resonated with you.
      Reading your comment made me realise that I didn’t touch on the whole change in identity thing that happens with retirement. I used to be “Sandy, Legal Secretary” and then I became “Sandy, Retired”. In a way I felt like I’d lost a part of who I was and it was a little disconcerting to realise that (in my head) my identity was so tied up with the job I did. Admittedly the feeling of loss was short-lived though. I quickly realised that “Sandy, Retired” has a far better life than “Sandy, Legal Secretary” ever did!

  2. Great post! I CAN’T WAIT to retire early(ish) – only another 7 years to go! I’m building a list of things/activities I may pursue once retired but I may not wait until I’m fully retired to start them. We’ll see – life is full of possibilities. I can’t wait to sleep in and have lazy days for the first 6 months like Sandy

    • Thank you. Yes, life is full of possibilities and retirement just amplifies the possibilities. I’m so impressed to hear that you’re already building of list of things to pursue. Enjoy that first 6 months when you get there, it’s awesome!

  3. This is amazing!! Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s awesome to hear we don’t have to have it all figured out before retirement. When people ask me what I’m going to do my answer of read, travel, write and be with loved ones doesn’t seem to satisfy them. You’re helping me see I shouldn’t be worried about it😉.

    • Thank you. It seems you’re getting exactly the kind of responses I encountered prior to retiring. I found it intriguing that people seemed so concerned about my plans, or more correctly, what they perceived as my lack of plans. It almost made me concerned that they were concerned – almost. Trust yourself – it sounds like you already have a number of interests in mind that will form a good basis for your retirement.

  4. “Fortunately for us, we’re both reasonably self-contained people who are quite happy with our own and each other’s company.”

    This is certainly the attitude that Mrs. Groovy and I have. And I think any couple who has this attitude has a built-in advantage for retirement. Mrs. Groovy and I have been retired for three years now. No boredom concerns at all. In fact, we actually feel more fulfilled in retirement than we did in our 9-to-5 days. Great freakin’ post, Blogless Sandy. Cheers.

    • Thank you. I think being quite self-contained and comfortable spending time alone is a great life skill to have. Unfortunately not everyone seems to have acquired the skill by the time they retire (or ever). Like you I also feel more fulfilled in retirement than I was in working life. I find it quite liberating being able to pursue the interests and activities that bring me contentment and satisfaction.

  5. “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.”

    This was one of our motivations for retiring early as well. We have a lot of projects and passions we want to explore, and retiring at 65 or 70…well, might not leave a lot of time for such things.

    Thank you for sharing your story, Sandy!

    (We also have 4 children under age 9, so sitting on the couch and sleeping our life away was never really an option to begin with.)

    • My pleasure. Yes, winding down to a slower pace has been a very happy by-product of retirement. The retired version of me certainly drives my husband (and me) a little less crazy than the working life version used to (only a little though!). You’re right that retiring early gives the advantage of more time to do the things you’re passionate about. Another advantage of course is that you’re young enough and (hopefully) healthy enough to still be capable of doing the things you’re passionate about.

  6. oh, i like this post very much. it’s good to hear from somebody who’s living the life of no mandatory scheduled work. i really fear the boredom of quitting. we could sell our house and make a similar move (maybe without the beach) to a much cheaper area but i’m not sure how rural we want to live.

    i like to see people making it work for them. all the best.

    • Thank you. I know that, like you, a lot of people worry that they will be bored in retirement. This hasn’t been my experience, but we are lucky enough to live in an area where we have no shortage of choice when it comes to activities and pastimes. I understand that deciding how rural you are comfortable with is a difficult decision. At one time hubby and I had considered moving to a beautiful area 4 hours from a major city. The deciding factor for us (apart from being too far from our adult children) was lack of access to good health care as we aged. Of course the upside is that the more rural you get, the more the sense of community increases.

  7. Thank you! This is very inspiring.

    I keep derailing my own spending plans with short term pleasures (dumplings with friends or some such), and visualising the goal is the best way to make better choices.

    Sounds like a fantastic and honourable life.

    • Thank you. It’s hard to stay on track when a long-term goal seems so far away. Frogdancer is way better at staying focussed and on track than I am. Having a hubby out of work for 12 months is another great way to start making better choices. My husband spent most of 2010 unemployed and it certainly made us get our financial sh!t together. It also clarified for us the difference between a want and a need. And interestingly enough, we realised that as long as we had everything we needed (food, shelter, basic necessities) we could be quite happy without having any of the things we wanted. It’s certainly nice to have some of the “wants” sometimes though!

  8. YES, domestic geo-arbitrage is very powerful. We did the same even within the NYC area by moving from the most expensive area to a less-expensive area and reduced our FIRE requirement by $300+k. Moving to another state would reduce that requirement even further.
    I love how Sandy posted about exercise, volunteering, staying active — that’s an inspiring retirement!

    • Freeing up capital that was tied up in our family home was certainly a good move for us. Great to hear you’re making domestic geoarbitrage work for you too.
      After a day of mostly domestic drudgery today, I laughed to read that you think my retirement is inspiring!

  9. I loved this blog post! It sounds like Sandy is living a lovely life. I was reassured by her comment that you don’t need to know how you’ll fill in the boredom, but rather just have a few ideas of what you want to explore. As someone who doesn’t have that post-retirement answer all figured out, this made me feel a lot better about it!

    • Thank you and yes, it is a lovely life. I don’t think many of us have it all figured out before retirement, but most of us have hobbies, interests and activities we would like more time for. We also usually have at least one or two “if I had more time I would…” ideas at the back of our mind. My problem at the moment is that I often don’t have enough time for all the things I’d like to do, but it’s a good problem to have!

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