Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

How much is enough?

A small grey, white and orange kitten is outside in the grass alone. In this frame the cat is looking curious and giving lots of effort to get out a big meow. In this frame the kitten is sitting next to a dandelion.

What a time to be alive!

Only 5 more days to go before I walk out the door having finished my contract teaching job. I’ve done most of the marking – only dribs and drabs of late projects and 2 tests to give out and mark – and two more yard duties, (unless Rosie hits me with an extra one like she did on Friday), and by 2:30 PM Friday I’ll be a free woman again. Thank God for early finish times when terms end.

Let me state upfrontthe job I’m finishing up is by any sane person’s definition an absolute DREAM job. The money’s great; the students are respectful and funny; the people I work with are (mostly) lovely; I don’t have to attend meetings; I can leave as soon as the bell rings; the biggest physical labour is walking up and down stairs all day (and if I want I can take the lifts), and tomorrow I get a free lunch provided because it’s Diversity Week. (Lamb Rogan Josh, if anyone’s interested.) To add icing on the cake, the admin at the new campus are on the ball and are a pleasure to work with.

So if that’s the definition of a sane person’s idea of a dream job, why am I feeling insane right now?

It’s simple. After experiencing retirement, even in the midst of lockdown after lockdown, my whole mindset has changed. Now that I’ve achieved financial independence, I’m in the position to start valuing my time more than money. This is a whole new ball game.

And yes, I used a sporting metaphor. Ugh. That’s how new and strange this is.

Unless you’re born into money, everyone has to work to financially establish themselves. It takes many years of work, sacrifices and tenacity to get to a point where you no longer have to trade your time for money. Along the way, some of us get divorced, so we have to start over and do the whole thing again.

That’s fun.

But after years of work, saving, and investing while life swirls around you, you’re then at the point where going into work becomes a choice. You can choose to keep building a career that you love, or you can quietly step back from giving most of your waking hours to a job and begin to use those hours for your own pursuits.

Now, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but even I knew that this would happen once I hit my magic number and stepped back from work. But intellectually knowing it and then resisting the siren call of easy money once I dipped my toe back into working again are two very different things.

Taking this 7-week full-time contract has been invaluable.

It’s easy to say that you want to get out of work if the job you have isn’t great. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to leave a job where you’re overworked, underpaid and you’re unhappy being there? It makes perfect sense.

But this job is fantastic! Yet 3 weeks into the 7 weeks I was the most depressed I’ve been in years. Not clinically depressed of course, but by God, I was miserable. But this was an easy gig that I CHOSE to do myself. It had a definite finish date so I wasn’t locked into years of indentured servitude or anything. Yet I felt like I was dragging my feet through mud to get to perform this fantastic job each day.

Now that I’m nearing the end of the contract, I’ve realised that this was actually the perfect way to experience how financial independence has truly changed my life. It’s one thing to hate going to work if the job is blah/awful, but when the job is terrific and yet you feel you’ve boxed yourself in for no real reason, then it’s obvious that certain priorities have changed.

The final nail in the coffin of knowing that I won’t take a contract again was when I had a couple of parents contact me about their sons’ abysmal performance on their geography projects. The second I see that a parent has phoned or emailed me, my stress levels go through the roof. It’s never good news. People rarely contact teachers to tell them they’re doing a great job.

One parent was pretty standard, but the other one wanted me to “give him the third degree” about why he hadn’t handed in his project because they” have tried to speak to Joe Lunchbucket [not his real name] to find out what caused the work to be incomplete but he has not given me a straight answer, so I would like you to speak to him and find out.”   They signed off the email with their phone number so I could report back to them after the interrogation.

I read the email, rolled my eyes and was like, “Oh, so you want me to do your parenting for you?”

I wasn’t happy, but I did the right thing and kept the kid after class, had a chat with him about the work, resisted the temptation to use the thumbscrews or the cat o’ 9 tails, and he promised to submit the project in the next 5 minutes. All good. I walked upstairs to my desk and opened my laptop to mark his project during lunch.

There was an email from the front desk, sent 5 minutes before the period had even ended, saying that this parent was asking me to call them back and giving me their number again. Seriously??? Give me a chance to have the chat in the first place and then walk upstairs and sit down.

Oof. Some parents.

The talk with the parent actually went better than I expected. They were worried about their son, “so different after having the girls!”, and I understand where they were coming from. However, I think it was fair to say that their anxiety was a little over the top. Joe Lunchbucket [not his real name] is a good kid who is a little lazy at the moment. Sounds like a typical year 9 boy to me.

What I didn’t appreciate was the effect it had on MY anxiety levels. Disgruntled parents can cause a lot of problems for a teacher if they decide to get nasty about something. I don’t need to be here. I don’t have to be feeling this.

I’m definitely over it.

Another little moment was when I was having dinner with a longtime friend a couple of weeks ago. He said to me, “But don’t you have enough money to live on for the rest of your life? Why are you doing this for? How much is enough?”

Hmmm. He got me there!

I’ll more than likely do the odd day of CRT teaching going forward. The job itself is great and it’ll be a nice day of catching up with friends, writing Dad jokes on the board and bantering with the kids.

But feeling miserable in the midst of the perfect job was a definite sign that my life and priorities have moved on. I’ve ticked the “money/security” item off my list of life goals.

Time to get back to living every day on MY timetable again.

Dad joke of the day:

Ok, so not really a Dad joke but it made me chuckle anyway.


  1. Flirby

    This is a great read (as usual!), I love the reality check this contract has provided you and you sharing your perspective on it.

    I’m almost 12 months post retirement from my stressful corp job. The first 6 months were spent resting and recovering from burnout and dysfunctional politics but I’m now fully embracing and enjoying the freedom of choosing how I spend my days and my mental and physical health have never been better..

    • FrogdancerJones

      I’m so happy!!
      That’s really what it’s all about.
      I’m feeling quite tired as the end of term approaches, so I hope I haven’t undone my time of R and R last year when I recovered from fulltime work.

  2. Andrew

    When you and I were at school, parental intrusion just did not happen. At worst parents might be invited to have chat about their child.

    I’ve never forgotten how teachers tried to help the shunned Rosie, a neglected and stinky girl with a slight mental disability.

    • FrogdancerJones

      There are two layers to this comment.
      Yes, we care about our kids. It’s such a great thing that we now have psychologists in every school in Victoria to look after the kids’ mental health.
      I hope Rosie got the help she needed.

    • FrogdancerJones

      There are two layers to this comment.
      Yes, we care about our kids. It’s such a great thing that we now have psychologists in every school in Victoria to look after the kids’ mental health.
      I hope Rosie got the help she needed.

  3. Josie

    Another insightful post! I retired 5 months ago and it is funny how many friends are monitoring if “I still like not working” or “will you find another job when you get bored”. I recognized that I was while I could get a less stressful job, why would I? There is just too much in the non-work life to enjoy and the reality is, you never know how long good health lasts.
    Also, I love you book recommendations! I finally finished Immune and for a non-science person it was a terrific read.

    • FrogdancerJones

      I’m glad you liked ‘Immune’. Ryan27 wanted me to read it for ages before I finally gave in.

  4. Maureen

    Excellent post! I had similar feelings when I took a 2nd job as an airport weather observer (while still teaching full time). I enjoyed the challenge of getting certified and the work. But the extra $ didn’t make me any happier (how much is enough?), and the added stress in the control tower made me quite unhappy. Stress that I handled without a hitch in my 30’s was debilitating in my 50’s. Lessons to be learned all around.
    Have a quick end to the week as well as a quick transition back to FREEDOM.

  5. Karen

    So glad I read your post today—your parent interaction and how you felt about it is so common to my experience. I love teaching but will retire in June after 32 years. The anxiety is so high sometimes! I will finish the year as gracefully as I can but the burnout is real. Many people love to remind you how much you will miss the kids and tell you that you will be bored. I’m sure I will miss the kids but living without the pressure, time constraints and all the compromises to my programs will be a blessing – not boring!

    • FrogdancerJones

      Trust me – you won’t miss the kids.
      They’re great when you’re in front of them in a class, but you won’t actively hunt them out once you leave.

  6. Steveark

    I worked about eight hours a week for the first few years of retirement, wanting not to sever my ties to my former career completely. It was kind of fun but a year ago I decided to just cut back to almost nothing. I’ll do an expert witness gig for a friend still, like you may take a day now and then, but not often and not on anything really difficult to explain. Like you I finally realized that I had better ways to spend my time and didn’t need the stress that a hostile attorney cross examining me could elicit. You are just a faster learner than me Frogdancer, but that doesn’t surprise me in the least! I truly understand what you are saying because it mirrors my own experience.

    • FrogdancerJones

      It’s so true, isn’t it? It’s such a luxury to be in a position to prioritise our own comfort over the need to earn a wage. There were MANY years where I never thought I’d ever be able to be in this position.

  7. sandyg61

    It’s great how you have learnt so much about yourself from this 7 week stint. I went back for a 3 month stint working between 15 and 25 hours each week and became so tired. I know it’s because I feel for the clients and want to do the best for them, not just follow the rules. Some of it is heartbreaking and adding their Covid work stories to the mix was awful.
    I’m very happy to have been able to learn from that and say no more but still retain some of the friendships. When we meet or chat they can talk to me as I know what they are talking about but I can leave with a clear head. It’s great.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Yes! I like that I know this place so well that I can still keep up with the goss. Still, I’m looking forward to taking a step back after tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *