Burning Desire For FIRE

Financial-Independence-Retire-Early(er) in Australia from the female perspective.

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.

29 Comments

  1. Good for you for taking the plunge and for being in a financial position to do so. You won’t regret the extra time you have with your mum and dad and taking the pressure off yourself time wise. I’m weighing a similar decision: have been offered a massive promotion after having worked ridiculous hours to the point of burn out, I’m thinking of asking to go 3 days as well. So many emotions of trying to figure the right decision, not just financially (which is fine) but more mentally and emotionally. It’s complicated.

    • I think 3 days a week is perfect – it’s enough so the work week still holds cohesion, but you have the extra time to carry out any tasks, projects, or lazing about that you want to do in your ‘real’ life.
      Your last two sentences are so true.

  2. Change is good, although scary (unknown factor) but good. You’ve made a positive decision for yourself. This time next year, you can say to yourself – “I’ve got this”!

    • You sound like you’re a Barefooter!
      Yes, it’s definitely a positive change. It’s amazing the difference it’s made in my attitude already, just knowing next year is coming.

  3. Sounds just wonderful! I hope to do the same in 2021. Next year my husband and I are having a “practice retirement” – 17 weeks of leave and a 4 month road trip planned. So excited! Enjoy the rest of this year with the anticipation – which often is almost as enjoyable as the doing…

  4. I’m so happy for you!

  5. It’s not surprising that it took a while for you to feel ready to talk about it here because it’s a such bittersweet step. When the parent-child caregiving relationship begins to flip, the whole world stands on its head. But next-year-Frogdancer is going to be so glad she has that extra time each week to handle whatever life has for her!

  6. congratulations. it’s sad that it took you mom getting into this situation to push you towards the decision but it sounds like you have good use for the extra time. we just saw my father in law in a nursing home as he can no longer walk. it happened fast, as he was still able to walk with a walker or cane 6 months ago at christmas. that’s also been doubly rough on the able spouse too. these are hard things we deal with.

    i’m glad you partly pulled the plug. i also have proximity to beach envy.

    • We’re lucky that my brother and his wife have gone through the whole nursing home learning curve with her parents. There are so many things to consider and to beware of! At least they can advise us all of what to look out for when the time comes.
      And yes, the able spouse would feel such a wrench at the change.
      I hope that your parents-in-law are coping well with all of it.

  7. I’m sorry to hear about your mom, that’s really hard. Good for you for taking the step towards fewer work days! Working can be a huge time suck, especially when there are more important things to do with our time, and it’s fantastic you can take advantage of extra financial flexibility this way.

    • Yes, it was the thought of, ‘Why did you go through all the stress and risk of the geoarbitrage for? It was to give yourself the finances to be able to make choices. Not to keep mindlessly turning up to school every day!’ that gave me the final nudge.

  8. Woohoo! Congratulations on making such a big decision!
    It’s wonderful that you’ve put yourself in a great financial position to be able to work part time. I know it took a lot of mental strength to come to this decision 😊

    • Yes, now that I’m used to the decision I’m glad that money isn’t stopping me from doing this.
      I’d feel awful if I was forced to keep working full-time when they need extra time from me.
      When I was taking the risky path of developing the old house block and enduring 18 months of bridging finance, I hoped that it would all work out for the better. You know, I don’t think I ever thought about Mum and Dad getting frail and needing more time from the kids.
      This has been an unexpected benefit.

  9. Very sorry to hear the news about your mum. It’s great though that you’ve got the financial resources to be able to do less work and help her and your dad out, another great reason to go down the FIRE path.

    And as much as it might be nice to keep working and being able to save more, presumably at this point in time your invstment returns are doing most of the work compared to your extra savings anyway. Math FTW!

  10. Sorry about your Mum but good decision all round….for her and for you. And it’s not a complete break from teaching; you’re still doing what you love and are good at, and you’ll have more time to yourself to prepare for the biggie….full retirement.

  11. 100% the right decision.

  12. I haven’t worked full time since I had my daughter 13 years ago. The positives: working 3 days a week has meant less tax (yay!), more time with those I love, and more time to pursue my interests (which now include FI/RE and the sharemarket). It also gave me more precious time with my dad before he passed away unexpectedly 2 years ago. It will take you longer to reach your financial goals but you’ll never get this time with your mum back. All the best xxx

  13. I’m very sorry to hear about your mum – it really takes you by surprise when your parents suddenly start being affected by aging, and all of a sudden there are Things You Have To Do. My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/dementia three and a half years ago, and it certainly threw my life into a bit of a spin there for a while, what with sorting out updating his will and getting Enduring Power of Attorney, and dealing with his (very messy!) finances. You’re lucky that your dad is still with you, but yes, the job of finding good aged care is a pain in the butt. We (my sister and I) ended up using a broker – the cost was worth the saving of our sanity!

  14. Just find out your site from Aussie HIFIRE. Helping ageing parents will not be an easy task but time spent with them would be worthwhile and treasured. Everyone has their own expiry dates on earth, right ?

    You are a kind hearted daughter and I hope all the good things for you. You will set a good examples for your kids many years to come.

    After reading your journey and this post, I just want to post some positive notes for you above. Be strong and happy.

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