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

Lockdown was my retirement ‘training wheels’.

My leisurely Lockdown mornings. Scout knows darned well she’s blocking the computer screen.

When we were told to go into lockdown, it was a bit scary but also – to be honest – I was a little bit excited. I felt like I’d been training for lockdown my whole life. I love being at home. I have so many things to do, books to read and things to think about and plan for. It also occurred to me that being at home 24/7 for weeks on end would also be a crash course in what everyday life would be like in retirement but without the little outings and holidays. In other words – retirement on steroids!.

Writing this blog as I do, it’s obvious that preparing for retirement, both financially and emotionally, has been on my mind for a while. The money side isn’t a worry. I have enough, or nearly enough, I think. Anyway, my early training in being frugal, when I was at home with 4 small boys living on 18K/year means that if money ever got tight I can live on the smell of an oily rag. But… would life get dull and boring after a while?

I didn’t think it would be… but you never really know these things until you start to live them. I’m a bit of a hermit when I’m home. I love shutting the gate and being in my own little world. That’s fine and dandy when I spend most of my time at work, knee-deep in 2,300 kids and 200 other teachers, but it niggles at me that maybe it would be a different kettle of fish when my days at home are all I have. Would I get bored and lonely?

After 11 weeks of staying at home, I have a much clearer idea of what my days will look like in retirement. Granted, it’s not exactly the same as retirement because remote teaching takes up lots of my time on the 3 days a week I work. However, my days without an hour and a half being taken up by the commute have given me a sneak peek at what life will be like when I can call my days my own.

Most of the things that I’ve revelled in during lockdown have been the little things. But they all seem to have the same basic thing in common – freedom.

Lockdown gave me the time to create. This is a quilt for Evan23.

It seems that my natural awakening time is anywhere from 7:30 – 8 AM. Did you know that the difference between being forced to wake up in the dark and being able to wake up whenever your body wants to can put a spring in your step first thing in the morning? The best mornings are the ones where I get up at the same time as when I’d be backing the car out of the driveway to get to work. Oh yeah, baby! Without the commute, I can still wake up at 7:45 and be ready to go online to teach my classes by 8:50.

Oh, the freedom!

On my non-working days (aka Retirement Training Days) I spend the early morning reading on the laptop, mostly blogs, Twitter and Facebook, though a novel will sneak its way in every now and then. Interestingly, during lockdown I didn’t have the urge to write. The dogs are glued to me on the couch and the mornings are peaceful as I tap away on the laptop and they snuggle and snore.

These luxurious starts to my mornings will be very sweet when I can do them every day.

The interesting thing about this lockdown was that it was impossible to over-schedule myself, once I staged an intervention on myself to stop me from working 7 day weeks in remote learning when I was only getting paid for 3. There was nowhere else I had to be, no one I was allowed to meet and so my son and I were thrown onto our own resources. This, of course, was more than a crash-course in retirement. It was like ‘retirement on steroids’ – and yet, we weren’t bored. Not even for a day.

Another project – find some plants for the front door that stick upwards. I’m hoping this ‘lockdown project’ will last for years.

After I slowly got over the tiredness I felt at the end of the term, I began to find that I felt much better if I accomplished something practical each day. Lockdown, as lovely as it is, wasn’t going to last forever, so I set a series of projects to try and get done before it finished. I liked the idea of being able to point to something and say, “That’s my Pandemic Quilt/Fence/Whatever.”

I wanted to finish painting my front fence – 2 coats.

Same with the side fence.

My veggie garden had to be made ready for winter.

I have 2 quilts to finish.

I have a lot of pruning down the sideway to get done.

I needed to master sourdough bread making.

If, at the end of each day I’d accomplished something on at least a couple of these things to push them forward, I was happy.

The main difference I’ve noticed is that the pace of my days changed – just as retired people report. There’s no mad rush to get as many things done during the weekends as possible. There’s no pile-up of scheduled blocks of time, where I’m racing to get as much done as I can before the work week begins again.

Instead – if I can sit on the couch with a wine and the dogs at the end of the day and think, “I painted some more of the fence, made 2 sourdough loaves and chopped half a bed of dead tomato plants into little bits to use for mulch… that’s a day well-spent.”

There’s a beauty in having a day filled with simple tasks around the home. I’m not one who loves the drudgery of housework; instead, I like projects. Much more fun, particularly as once a project is done, it STAYS done. Not like housework.

So, after having spent 11 weeks at home and having barely pushed my nose outside the front gate (except for painting the fence, walking the dogs and the off Aldi trip every fortnight or so), I’m here to report that I’m ripe and ready for retirement. I wasn’t bored at all… not even for a day. I was as happy as a pig in muck, which bodes well for when I’ll be home all day every day.

I’ll almost certainly work at least another year – I have a lot of projects that I want to have finished and paid for before I give the wage the flick – but yes. Emotionally, Lockdown has given me the certainty that when I retire, I’ll be just fine.

18 Comments

  1. Girt

    This is all great to hear! I was curious to see whether there was any downsides for you.

    My experience of lockdown started out like yours, but as soon as the three kiddos got over the novelty of being at home a lot, I moved to a state of near-constant facilitation / interaction / support / feeding. On top of working remotely it has all been rawther exhausting. Despite this, I am so grateful for many many things at the moment and can only count my blessings and pay it forward in any way I can.

    • FrogdancerJones

      My students are looking forward to getting back to school, but when we were talking they admitted they’ll miss some aspects of remote learning.
      Lord knows I will, too!

  2. Latestarterfire

    You’ve just described my kind of heaven! My closest experience of lockdown was the Easter break where I stayed home 4 days in a row. And I’m having another 4 days off this weekend – yippee! May your final year before retirement pass swiftly 🙂

    • FrogdancerJones

      Enjoy your 4 days off. Make the most of them!

  3. Lucinda

    Sounds great. Getting through projects, reading, waking as your body wants, not being stuck in traffic.

  4. Katie Camel

    You’ve described how I imagine my day to day will go once I retire. Nice life you’ve created for yourself! I look forward to the time I don’t have to rush all weekend to get things done.

  5. Budget Life List

    I was fortunate to experience a slice of retirement as well during the Coronachaos. It. Was. Delightful. Similar to your experience, it felt so good to go about tasks in a relaxed state. I enjoyed everything including the menial things like cooking and cleaning, which I typically dont take any pleasure in. Is it ironic that the pleasures of life come from more time and less work?

  6. steveark

    That’s a good observation because I’ve been retired for over four years and I almost am unaware of the lockdown. The fun things I do, playing tennis, running, fishing and hiking are what my wife and I still do through this event. The structured things I do, the college board and charity boards I still meet, via Zoom, but that isn’t much different. And my consulting work that I dabble in has mostly always been remote. We always cooked more than we ate out so honestly I can tell you that yes, this period probably is a great test run for you. And since you’ve enjoyed it that really is a positive indicator for the real thing in the future!

    • FrogdancerJones

      “Retired for over four years”… sounds good, especially when you go on to talk about all that you two do.
      I have 4 full days of freedom left before I’m back in front of my classes so I have a lot of ‘job finishing’ that I want to do in that time.
      I’ll enjoy being back with the kids, but I’ll think back wistfully to the days of no commutes and all the time to myself to do whatever I want…

  7. Dar

    I can relate to this! I’ve been working full-time from home for 12 weeks and it is likely to continue until September. Even though I have a workweek schedule, I got a taste of what an unhurried, home-based life feels like. It feels great! I may have spent one afternoon bored. But 1 out of 84 is not bad.

  8. Maureen

    One year retired here. Yes, lockdown didn’t feel all that different from normal retired life, other than not getting together with my girl posse! As a minimalist and FIRE follower, I really didn’t need that much and as long as I was willing to add a little tech savvy to the mix (curbside pickup, GrubHub) I had plenty of time to get house projects done, sew masks with my 90 yr old mother, and plant a garden. Now that I’m getting out more I really appreciate the friendships and family members that matter most.
    I love hearing about the situation on your side of the planet – you’re going to love retirement!

    • FrogdancerJones

      Love this comment.
      Today on my last day at home before face-to-face teaching, I woke up at 8:48 AM.
      Tomorrow at this time I’ll be walking into the Theatre to teach my year 9’s.
      (if I had the ‘horrified face’ emoji I’d use it here!)
      I’ll enjoy being back, but yes. Roll on retirement!

  9. Jamie

    It’s lovely to hear from you, Frogdancer, and all you’ve been up to.

    In many ways, life in the time of Corona plodded along as usual for us. I’ve been a SAHM for 17.5 years now, and our three kids started homeschooling about 8.5 years ago. My husband continued to go to work at the hospital (though it was very odd when he first shaved off his beard so his PPE would fit properly!) The big difference for us was no extra curricular activities. And boy did I enjoy that!

    So many evenings at home, with no going here and there. Dinners together every evening. Very soon we will have three teens in the house and over Corona they’ve all started staying up later at night. We’ve had some lovely, cosy evenings in front of the fire, watching their anime shows together, or playing piano. I’m a little sad now we are getting back into the routine of school, activity, dinner, bed. It will be interesting to see if the extracurriculars wear them out a bit more and they go back to getting an earlier night, or if the nights will continue to stretch out after their activities.

    • FrogdancerJones

      It sounds like you’ve made some lovely memories of the lockdown for your family.
      In years to come it’ll be a time you’ll all regard with nostalgia.
      Ryan25 and I watched all 5 seasons of ‘Breaking Bad’. I hadn’t seen it before. Ryan25 said it was great and he’d watch it again with me, so we did.
      Happily, he was right!

  10. chasingFIREdownunder

    I am so jealous of your ability to work from home 😅. I definitely feel you about the natural wake time vs when the alarm clock forces you awake. However over the past 5 years my body has already been trained to the 5.30am wake up call, so much so that even when I want to have a chill sleep in on the weekends, I still wake up naturally around 6! Fortunately I am young enough and unstressed enough that I can usually get myself back to sleep again, but I sincerely hope that when I do retire I will be able to sleep in later!

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