Burning Desire For FIRE

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

Page 2 of 10

Full Circle.

Something happened on the second-last week of the holidays and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I was walking the dogs around the block. It was mid-morning and for some reason we had left it too late to go to the dog beach. We rounded the corner near the primary school and there was a woman sitting at the bus stop, talking on her mobile.

“Yeah, I’m on my way home,” she said as we passed. “I was volunteering but it’s finished now.”

I glanced at my watch, thinking, ‘It’s only 10 o’clock. How could a job be finishing up now?’ I shrugged and then kept walking. The sun was shining and the dogs’ tails were wagging. It was all good.

As we walked further up the street, an elderly lady and her son were walking towards us, pushing a trolley loaded up with boxes of fruit and vegetables. I could see that they were commenting about the dogs, so as we got closer I smiled and we stopped to exchange a few words. Her son looked to be in his forties and he had Downs Syndrome. He was torn between being taken with the dogs and worried that they might bite. His mother, who was clearly his carer, reassured him and we talked briefly about the dogs, then we moved on again.

As we kept going, there were another couple of people walking towards us, also loaded up with bags of what looked like shopping. I thought nothing of it and kept going up to the corner, where the church is.

As we got closer I could see people coming in and out of the church hall. They were wheeling shopping trolleys in and carrying boxes full of food out. It was a hive of activity in there.

This was on a Thursday morning, when I’m usually at work.

A woman and her husband were coming along the path towards us, so I pulled the dogs in beside me to let them pass. The woman stopped and after the usual compliments about the dogs, said, “Do you know what’s going on in there?”

When I shook my head, she said, “They’re giving away free food!”

I glanced towards the church. “Really?”

“Yes. It’s so wonderful. My son is starting year 7 this year so we’ve been buying books and uniform and paying the school fees… it’s so expensive. I was worrying about how we were going to pay for everything, but look at all this!”

She gestured to the boxes of produce that her husband was carrying.

“This takes all the pressure off. And guess what’s in this?”

She patted the tartan shopping trolley that she was pushing.

“It’s FULL of lunch box snacks! Like LCMs and Uncle Toby’s. I won’t have to worry about school lunches for ages! You should go in and have a look.”

I laughed and looked at the dogs. “I don’t think they’d like it too much if I brought the dogs in with me!”

She urged me to go in again, then she found out I was a teacher and we talked about starting secondary school She was nice enough to thank me for being a teacher, which (to be frank) is a bit of a novelty. Most people whinge about the holidays we get, especially at this time of the year!

As we headed towards home, I could see quite a few people heading for the church, shopping trolleys and bags in hand. If I hadn’t have talked with the woman outside the church, I would never have noticed them.

I didn’t go into the church to grab some free food, because it wasn’t put there for people like me. I have a full-time job, my kids are grown and I’m financially secure. But my head was spinning.

Because you see, it wasn’t so long ago that it would have been for me.

Back when I was at home with my 4 small boys, money was tight. I was watching every penny like a hawk and it was definitely on the cards that if something went wrong financially, I could lose the house and the kids and they would lose that security. It was incredibly stressful.

Then, one day my Aunty Doris asked if I’d be interested in getting free bread every week. Her brother-in-law was a member of a church that sent people to pick up everything that wasn’t sold at a gourmet bakery in East Brighton and then deliver it to people who needed it. The Tuesday night woman couldn’t do it any more and he thought of the boys and me. I couldn’t believe my luck!

We went to that bakery every Tuesday night for the next 14 years. We’d drive into the laneway at the back of the shop, armed with 3 or 4 empty laundry baskets and lots of plastic bags. It wasn’t just bread – there were cakes and buns, pies and pasties… it was a lucky dip every week.

The boys ate a LOT of bread growing up. Every Tuesday night was pie night. We’d eat whatever hot food was there. We grew very tired of pies and pasties but I insisted we keep the tradition going. That was a night where feeding the 5 of us didn’t cost me a cent!

It was a crazy thought that we were so poor, yet we were eating the same bread as the “rich” people in East Brighton. Some of it was your ordinary white loaves, but mixed among that was the BEST rye bread and gourmet wholemeal seedy loaves that I’ve ever eaten. Nothing better than a chewy crust of rye bread with lashings of butter. Now that I’m writing about it, I really miss that rye bread…

After a few years we bought chickens. Every Wednesday was bread day for the chooks, which saved me a day’s worth of pellets. The neighbourhood birds soon got to know our backyard – it wasn’t an unusual sight to see a raven flying away with a Boston bun in its beak and sparrows snatching dinner rolls and squabbling over them.

Every week, I’d pack the leftovers from the bakery into different laundry baskets, depending on who was going to get the contents. At first, when I was home with the kids, there was our basket, Mum’s basket, and then various friends who’d put their hands up for free bread. Later on, the chook basket, for the food that wasn’t as pristine. Then, when I went back to work, there was the school basket. Every Wednesday morning I’d walk from the car to the common room, basket loaded up with loaves of bread and all the cakes and buns. People loved that they had a free morning tea every week and that they could take home some bread to use for toast.

When I bought The Best House in Melbourne and moved 50 minutes away, I knew the bread run had to come to an end. I tried it once and the trip home at peak hour along Nepean Highway was awful. I didn’t get home until 6:30. There was no way I was going to make my Tuesdays that long and I knew that times had changed. Although I was paying over 70% of my takehome pay in bridging finance, I knew that we’d be able to survive without it. It was time to pass the baton to someone else.

I walked away from my conversation with the couple outside the church and my eyes widened as I started to recognise how far the boys and I have come. She was once me, with all these bills to pay and barely enough money to keep things going. Once, there is no way I would have walked away from that free food! I would have tied the dogs up on the fence outside and dived in, desperate to save some money so I could put it towards uniforms, bills or servicing the car.

Instead, the dogs and I quietly walked home, seeing the other people clearly making their way towards the church hall. Some were young mothers pushing prams, some were older people and some looked like they’d clearly had a hard life.

I opened the gate to The Best House in Melbourne and brought the dogs inside and bent down to take off their leads. I stood up and looked at my beautiful, fully-paid-for house and I sighed a deep sigh of thankfulness that things have ended up as they have.

I kept my head together and didn’t waste anything while we were struggling, whether it be free bread, donated kids’ clothes or my teaching degree. We were very fortunate to have had help along the way, such as the bakery run and we didn’t squander it. I will be eternally grateful for the impulse that led that man to offer the Tuesday night run to the boys and me. It was a huge help when we were struggling and it also taught the boys about spreading our good fortune by sharing with others.

But the thing I’m now most grateful for? When I looked at that excited woman who urged me to go on and get some of this miraculous bounty for myself and I felt nothing but a calm certainty that this generosity was not for me. I can safely leave it on the table for others to use.

I’m not used to the feeling of financial security. It’s lovely.

Today and tomorrow- compare the pair.

Today is the Australia Day public holiday, which to all teachers is The Last Day of the Summer Holidays ( aka day of mourning). The dogs and I slept in till 8 AM, then I took the pups down to the dog beach for the last weekday walk here for a long time.

Keep in mind that when we set foot on the beach it was around 8:30 AM. This time tomorrow, I’ll be sitting in the lecture theatre with the rest of the staff, listening to our principal start off the new school year. There’ll be talk of tirelessly working for the benefit of our students, OH&S reminders, lots of talk of pedagogy (which is just ultra-boring education jargon) and exhortations to keep the standards high, watch uniform infringements and reminders of all the meetings we’ll have over the next two days before the kids come back.

The weather outside will be just like this…

The beach was packed. Every (wo)man and their dog was there. We were all enjoying the moment. Maybe I’ll be doing the same 24 hours from now, but I’m hazarding a guess that it won’t be to the same extent.

It wasn’t too hot, but the bigger dogs were already enjoying the water.

One of them was enjoying the water WAY out with his paddle-boarding owners. See his head bobbing along after them?

Everyone was taking the chance to get their feet wet and enjoy the public holiday.

The saying that people grow to look like their dogs sprang to mind when I saw this guy and his staffies. He looked as if he was trying to blend in with the pack.

Scout gets hot on walks when the temperature goes above the mid-twenties. She’s also a magnet for every single dog on the beach to come up and sniff her. She started to stop, refusing to walk with us.

This is what she did when I insisted. Short of dragging her, there was nothing I could do but wait for her. It’s lucky she’s so cute.

This dog’s owner was holding a tennis ball. I had to hold Poppy’s collar so she wouldn’t go in and try to get it. She wouldn’t win the battle for the ball with a staffie!

Action shot.

In Australia, even our sandcastles have nasty creepy-crawlies in them. Can you see it? Someone has a sense of humour!

Soon, like these people, it was time to turn around and head for home. The day was starting to get warmer and all dogs had to be off the beach by 10 AM.

I said goodbye to all this blue. It was around the time where, in 24 hours, the meeting would be finishing and I’d be heading back to my desk to get things ready for the classes I’m taking this year.

When we got back, I made a China Jasmine tea in the cup I brought back as a souvenir from South Africa. Tomorrow, it’ll be back to the “World’s Greatest Teacher’ mug at school.

(Well, I won’t say it isn’t wrong… Who am I to argue against a mug?)

I’m going to miss spending lazy days with this little crew. Summer school holidays in Victoria run for a little over 5 weeks. This year, I spent the whole time at home.

I didn’t do anything momentous. I spent time with my family over Christmas especially and I saw friends a few times. I pottered around the house and garden, getting a few things done and I read 15 books. I caught up on some Netflix series that I’ve been meaning to watch and I made sure to keep up with the chart I started to try and be more productive. I swapped this site to a self-hosted one and did a lot more writing. I also napped. A lot. Last year at work ended up being pretty tiring for some reason.

Basically, I lived these 5 weeks as if I was retired and it was a normal stretch of time at home.

Was I bored? Not at all.

I guess this ‘beachy’ post is my ode to summer. I’m not sure when the life I’ve been enjoying these last 5 weeks will become my retirement life, but I know that I’ll enjoy it when it comes.

Oh! And if you hear a psychic scream of anguish at about 7 AM tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, Australian Eastern Standard time, you’ll know that I’ve just hopped in the car to come to work.

I love my job, but as I get older I’m valuing having control over my time more and more.

How do you GROW wealth?

Gardeners have a lot in common with investors. We both need to have a long-term view and the paths to success in each field are very similar.

Here’s where most people start off their financial lives: complete and utter devastation. They’re either starting from $0 if they’re lucky, or they’re in debt for credit cards, mortgages, student loan and cars. Some of us start the journey to FI early, but most of us start later in life.

This photo is an accurate representation of my financial life the day I left my husband. I had $60 cash, a 100K mortgage and 4 boys under 5. Like this snap of my backyard, it wasn’t a pretty picture.

These shots were taken after the first day the landscaper started. He dragged out the overgrown hedges and chopped down some trees. The white planter pot you can see in this picture had a lime verbena plant in it that I’d let die from neglect. I simply wasn’t paying attention. Basically, just as some people put their heads in the sand and try to ignore the devastation of their finances, I did the same with the yard. But once you face up to it, it’s time for a clear-out so that the work can commence.

Once your financial life is laid bare and there are no more surprises – (like that blue clamshell toddlers pool we found lurking behind the shed – who knew?!?) – it’s time to sniff out where you want to go from here. Poppy is demonstrating.

The new backyard is designed to give Old Lady Frogdancer as little upkeep as possible when she’s all old and rickety. Just like how I want her investment portfolio to be like. No one likes weeding, whether it be actual weeds or looking at bad investments.

The brick paving, all fully grouted in so that no weeds will sprout up, is the bedrock of the whole yard.

Education is the equivalent when we’re talking about our finances. When I was younger I had the whole ‘no debt’ thing down pat, but once I paid off the mortgage on the old house I was elated for about 3 weeks. Then I realised I knew next to nothing about retirement.

I discovered the Barefoot Investor and very shortly afterwards I stumbled onto the FIRE blogs. I read everything I could lay my hands on and learned about superannuation and investing.

On the upper level of the yard are 5 wicking beds. These are garden beds specifically designed to have a reservoir of water beneath the soil that the plants drink from. Excellent for drought protection… or, in financial terms – when the SHTF. You want to set things up so that your investments will enable you to sleep at night, even when times are tough.

This is where you start setting up some automated payments. You arrange to salary sacrifice. You open a brokerage account to start putting a share portfolio together. You might start researching where to buy a rental property. You keep reading and asking questions.

 

It’s all beginning to look fairly organised, isn’t it?

But it’s a bit bleak and stunted without any green stuff. This applies for both the gardening and investing metaphors.

Time to start planting!

And planting. And planting. In this case, columnar apple trees, with lavender to bring the bees.

With investing, you start buying shares or making regular payments into a managed fund. You might decide property’s your thing and so you start saving every payday for your first deposit.

The point is that you keep on planting and planting and planting. It becomes a habit.

Initially, you trim the budget to find some excess money. You’re able to plant more seedlings – and if you’re sensible, you make sure they’re heirloom plants so you plan to save the seeds and plant for free every year after this one.

This is a little like planning to re-investing dividends into buying more shares, rather than taking the money and running. Or planning to take rental income and use it to pay off the mortgage faster.

You hear about the damning effects of lattés and avocados on financial success, so you stop wasting little amounts of money and you add what you’ve saved to your accounts. Every little bit helps!

But a garden can’t grow without good soil. You start to look for ways to add to the health of your plants. Using the things you have available at home, you begin digging coffee grounds, tea leaves and eggshells into the soil and you begin composting.

But how can you keep adding more to your investments once you’ve trimmed the fat from your living expenses?

You look around at work and see that there’s a lot of compostable things that are being thrown away, so you arrange to bring them home. You value-add from your job, finding ways to accumulate more from your work to add to the things that you really value.

In a financial sense, if you have a job that allows paid overtime, you start picking it up. You go for a promotion. You make your job work harder for you and you pump what you make back into your investments.

After a while, you look outside your property for things to help you grow your veggies faster. You buy some worm farms, (freaking people out at work when you have them delivered there), and put them on the garden beds. It won’t be a quick fix, like winning the lottery, but over time the worms will improve the soil.

Sounds a bit like a side-hustle, doesn’t it? Most side-hustles just bring in a few extra dollars, but everything helps. I tried a few different things, mainly on Etsy or tutoring, but it was my side-hustle as a thermomix consultant that seriously accelerated our path to financial freedom. I paid off my original house YEARS earlier, as well as paying for a decadent 9-week trip to Europe and the UK.

You still live your life. No one can stay in a garden or in front of a spreadsheet their whole lives unless they want to have a life not worth living.

Go to that beach with your family!

Chase that ball! Bark at those seagulls!

Enjoy the little things along the way.

Then, after what seems like a long while, you begin to see results! Apples!

The first income from your hard work begins to trickle in. Whether it be dividends or rental income or your superannuation account starting to climb, it doesn’t matter. Your heart sings.

You keep plugging away. As time goes on, your garden (and investments) become ever more fruitful.

Not everything will go your way. These celery plants were put in last September. They haven’t grown since and are turning yellow, and just towards the back of the wicking bed, you can see a dead snow pea plant. Also, see the spring onions? They should be ready to eat by now, but they are the size of toothpicks.

This can be disheartening. Some people start a garden, run into things like this and give up.

Obviously, there are times where the stock market loses value and your net worth goes down. The real estate market may soften, as it’s doing at the moment, or you may have damage from tenants. If investing was guaranteed to always make money hand over fist every year, then everyone would do it.

But investing is for people who are in it for the long haul.

Even in the lean years, there’s room for optimism for the future.

These potatoes weren’t visible above ground once the plant died off. But underneath the surface, they were still there, quietly growing.

The garden has surprises, just like the market. Sometimes you don’t get what you expect. See those purple beans? Pop them in boiling water, walk away and when you come back – they’ll be green.

Over time, as your knowledge about the ebbs and flows of the seasons grows and you keep adding to the soil, your garden will reward you.

And just like your investments, you can save the produce/profits for the future. These bags of zucchini are bound for the freezer! Future Frogancer will be enjoying the results of Present Frogdancer’s work.

With regard to your finances, if you keep treating your money like a garden, by the time you’re ready to retire you’ll be like these girls!

via GIPHY

A pungent reason to work for Financial Independence.

Today I woke up early, mainly because Jeffrey shut himself into my walk-in robe and was trying to get out. It was almost like he knew how hot the day was going to get and he was searching for the ice and snow of Narnia. There were weird noises and Scout was sniffing under the door at him. When my feet hit the floor at 6:30AM, it was already 33C/92F.

As my 4 long-term readers know, this year I’m experimenting with a chart to try and develop productive habits that I want to continue. One of the columns on the chart is to walk the dogs. If I was going to be able to do this, I had to get going pretty quickly, before the footpaths got so hot that they’d burn the pads on the dogs’ feet.

After I downed a 16 cent coffee and the dogs had their chicken necks for breakfast, we set off. Little Scout gets hot really quickly, so it was only a 5-minute walk around the smallest block. The day was already worrying. The wind was howling and the air was gearing up to be like it felt like an hour later – exactly like stepping into a fan-forced oven. It’s bush-fire weather.

By 9:30AM I had walked the dogs, watered the garden and harvested some more beans, cleaned the kitchen and read a couple of chapters of the Tess Gerritsen I’m reading at the moment. 4 columns down! Winning!

Then I had a 2-hour nanna nap. This heat is exhausting. I’m just glad that today is still in the summer holidays. If it was next week, I’d be trapped in classrooms after lunchtime with 28 sweaty teenagers.

Or almost worse… 28 teenagers who believe in ‘The Lynx Effect’ and are awash with synthetic fumes.

Now THAT’S a reason to focus on FI/RE, if ever I’ve heard one!

Just Do It.

This morning I got up and fully intended to write a blog post that would knock everyone’s socks off.

But first I had to take the dogs for a walk. It was forecast to be about 39C/ 102F today, so I needed to walk them before it got too hot. This shot is when we got down to the beach at about 8 AM.

We lingered for around half an hour. Lots of other dogs were there and it was warm, the sea was like glass and everyone was happy.

I got home and watered the veggies. I noticed that a couple of cherry tomatoes had withered on the vine in the heat, so I harvested what I could.

Not bad! I watered the garden to give the plants a sporting chance of surviving the next two days, because tomorrow is going to be even hotter. Then, just as I was settling down to write, Mum and Dad dropped in.

By the time they left, it was time to leave for Blogless Sandy’s place for lunch.

I got home, intending to write…. but then I saw that the Rockstar Rumble round that I was in had taken a turn for the worse. When I left for lunch, I had over 60% of the vote. When I got back, I was behind by 10 votes. Yikes!

I spent the next hour or so publicising the vote around different forums and social media. I may lose this round and my place in the competition, but never let it be said that I went down without a fight!

Now it’s nearly 10PM. I’m here on the couch with Jeff and Scout, air con going, watching Jack Irish on Netflix and periodically pulling up the Rockstar Rumble results page to see how the votes are going. (The summer holidays aren’t meant to be this stressful!!)

I had a goal to post 3 times a week. It’s on my chart that I blogged about a little while ago. Even though today didn’t go as planned, I still wanted to colour in that task. It’d be easy to pour another Shiraz and say that the day got away from me, but really… I’m on holidays. I have the whole day. If I can’t plug away at changing my habits now, how will I go from next week when I’m back at work?

I want to embed these habits within myself. I need to do what needs to be done, even if occasionally what I do isn’t as polished and well-thought-out as I’d like. At the risk of sounding like a sporting goods ad, sometimes I should Just Do It.

Apologies for the meandering post. Like the guy in the photo, I’ll keep paddling until I reach where I want to go.

I’m guessing you will too.

The secret to happiness.

I’ve always been a long-term thinker. I bought our old house because it was in the zone of one of the best secondary schools in the state. I did this when my oldest was still in kindergarten. He wasn’t yet 5 years old.

I set a goal to pay off that house before I decided to start investing. It took me a long time, as I wrote about here in ‘The story of how Frogdancer Jones won her Freedom.‘ But I had the goal of complete security for myself and the boys in front of me and I kept chipping away at it until the job was done.

I have always wanted to travel. I mapped out my dream holiday in the UK and Europe when I was 15.

It took me until I was 51 before I finally got to go. Actually, the header picture of this blog is the skyline above Hampton Court Palace in England, which was a dream come true for this Tudor-history buff. Those clouds remind me that I’m one of the luckiest people around.

Yes, I consider myself to be extremely lucky, so much so that nearly every day I’m calling myself “Fortunate Frogdancer!” when yet another thing goes my way. But I didn’t always see myself like this.

The first few years after I left my husband and set out on a life on my own – if you can ever say that when you have 4 small boys under 5 with you! – life was tough. I was a teacher, but there was no point even thinking about going to work with all the boys still at home. The child-care fees would have killed me, even back then.

Money was tight. I had good friends and family, but it’s still quite an isolated life being at home with small children. There’s only so many times you can sing, “I’m a little teapot” along with the presenters of ‘Play School’ before you feel like your brain is turning to mush and dribbling out from your mouth as you sing.

Because money was tight, I didn’t go out very often. It took 2 years after the separation before I could even think about dating again, but when I started, most men obviously heard the magical sentence “I have four children” and that was it. The ones who didn’t seem to care were sometimes a bit creepy so that wasn’t anything I wanted to pursue.

I remember sitting on the front porch one night after the kids were in bed, feeling anxious about the future and worrying that we were never going to get ahead. I was probably still about 2 years away from going back to work at that point and it seemed as if the position I was in was never going to change. It all looked pretty bleak.

I was getting teary, thinking about our bleak, poverty-stricken future and wondering how it was that all my goals were so far out of reach when I was a well-educated person who should have run things better. That started to get a bit depressing, so I thought I’d better do something productive, so I started watering the garden.

This garden was pretty much one that I’d inherited from the old lady who lived in there before me. One of the plants was a big, lush rose bush with huge white flowers ruffled with pink. As I was worrying about all of my big goals being so far out of reach, I leaned forward on a whim and smelled one of the roses. (You can see the rose bush in the photo – Evan18’s Valedictorydinner 4 years ago.)

I smiled. The scent was glorious. I turned around to put the hose onto another section of garden and realised that I was still smiling.

My eyes widened as I realised that I’d just been given the secret to happiness.

Appreciate the little joys in life. They come along much more frequently than the big things!

It’s so true. From that moment on my life has been wonderful.

Did I feel great when I finally paid off that mortgage? You bet. One of the best moments of my life.

How did I feel when I was walking through Westminster Abbey, seeing all of those tombs of the English Kings and Queens? I was overcome with happiness and awe and I knew I’d never forget that day.

Was it worth all of the angst when the geo-arbitrage gamble I made paid off and I was debt-free again? Absolutely.

But these things only happened on a handful of days that I’ve lived. If I waited for all of the big things to happen so that I could feel great, I have to tell you that it’d be a long time between drinks!

But little things happen every single day. We just choose to gloss over them while we have our eyes on the bigger prizes.

When you switch your focus to living more in the moment, then your life becomes so much happier. The little things glitter like jewels when you stop to really enjoy them. Things like these:

*The smell of a cup of French Earl Grey tea as you raise it to your lips. It’s a tiny luxury.

*When you come home after a long day at work and someone else has started dinner!!! You sit down on the couch and they bring you a glass of wine. (I had to wait a long time for this to happen. Kids take a long time to grow up.)

*The completely unselfconscious sound of a small child laughing.

*Getting the last car park.

*The gentle weight of a dog’s head lying in your lap as you read a book. So much love and trust.

*The sound of the sea. The smell of the salty air. Seagulls soaring overhead.

*Hearing a bird sing as you’re waking up in the morning.

*The sound of a storm outside, while you’re warm and snug inside. It’s even better if you eat a bowl of icecream while you’re listening to it. So cold outside the house and inside your belly, yet you’re so warm and safe everywhere else.

*Finding out that the next season of a favourite tv show is out on Netflix. Or the next instalment of a series of books you love is being released. Or a sequel to a novel you’ve loved for decades is being written. (Margaret Attwood is releasing a sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ later this year. Pretty darned exciting…)

*Cracking a joke and everyone laughs. Or even better – someone else cracks a joke that you didn’t see coming and YOU laugh.

*Dancing, especially if you know the song so you can make all the moves, baby.

*Trying out a new recipe and that first taste-test when you realise that you nailed it. You feel like the greatest chef ever.

*That lovely feeling after you cut your toenails. So freeing. Or is that just me?

*Teaching somebody something and that look in their eye when they understand it.

*Catching a ball. This has happened very rarely in my life, but I think that even if you’re used to doing it, it must still be very satisfying.

*Still on the subject of balls – throwing a ball for a dog. They’re convinced that it’s the Best Game Ever and they never get sick of it. Such a simple thing.

*A cat’s purr. I think that’s one of the most contented sounds in the world.

*Hearing a song that you haven’t heard for YEARS and you can still sing along to all the lyrics.

*That satisfied feeling of tiredness at the end of a really productive day when you’ve gotten a whole lot of things done.

*Realising that you’re having a good hair day.

*When you silently share a glance with someone and you realise that you’re both on the same wave-length.

*Finding $20 in a pocket that you forgot you put there. It’s like free money!!

*Sunlight on your skin on an autumn day.

*The laughter and chatter of friends sitting around a dinner table.

*When your child actually acts on your advice, or when they compliment you on your taste in music.

That’s a list of 25 small things that I put down completely randomly off the top of my head.

Normally I don’t finish my posts with questions for my readers, but do you have a small thing that brings joy for you? It might be cool if we get a list of small things in the comments. I’ve started the ball rolling – so what little thing brings a smile to your face?

FI = Choice in how you spend your time.

We’re really extremely fortunate to live in the time and places that we do.

Izzy’s leukaemia is very treatable. Twenty years ago it would have been a death sentence, said her specialist. She would have had to undergo bone-marrow transplants and chemo. But now? Assuming that her bone-marrow biopsy doesn’t have any nasty surprises, all she’ll have to do is to take a pill every day for a few short years and then she should be fine.

Amazing news. We’re all very relieved.

This shot is from this morning’s beach walk with the dogs. It was around 9 AM, about an hour before it started to rain. We’re allowed on the beach with our leash-free dogs until 10 AM in the summer, so there were plenty of people with the means or the opportunity to sneak a walk in with their dogs.

Lots of pure-bred dogs, ranging from Labradors, GSDs,  and Greyhounds right down to a pair of Scottie dogs, a couple of Pugs and an irascible Pomeranian, with a sprinkling of mixed-breeds running around. Everyone was in a good mood, and how could we not be? The smell of the sea was in the air, it was warm and the dogs were all having such a good time. Every time we passed people, we’d nod and exchange a few words while the dogs investigated each other, tails wagging.

Lots of retired people, with a few people on holidays such as my good self, with some kids enjoying the freedom of the summer holidays.

Soon, alas, I’ll be in a classroom at 9AM every Friday. By then, I will have called the roll, let them check their emails and then we’d be just starting the 10-minute silent reading or writing that I start the classes off with each period. Probably by 9:10 AM, just as Poppy, Jeff, Scout and I were setting foot on the sand, I’d be getting the kids to put their books away and we’d be starting the lesson.

It’s little things like this that keep nudging me on the road to FI/RE. There’s no real pleasure in reflecting that this will be me in a fortnight:

Working towards FI? You’re really working towards being able to choose how you spend your time.

Me?

At 9 AM every Friday, I’d rather be looking at this:

When the rug gets pulled out from under you.

When I’m working, I get up before the sun. I leave at around 7AM and drive for 50 minutes or so, walking into the staff room just as the place is starting to get that “buzz” as people arrive. There’s always banter between people, but when the locker bell rings we know that the countdown has begun. At 8:50 AM the bell for period 1 rings and the day ticks inexorably onwards until the final bell at 3:10 PM.

There’s always the sound of children. In class, of course, but during recess and lunchtime there’s no escaping that noise. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a happy noise of kids talking, laughing, calling out to each other – but it’s constant. Kids are right outside the staff room windows, so sometimes we put the blinds down if we see them peering in.

The school I teach at has around 2,300 kids. That’s a lot of noise, buzz and activity.

Whereas right now, the only thing I hear is the sound of the keys on my keyboard and the air conditioner softly going. Ryan24 has just walked down the hall to talk about something with me. My phone rang and Tom26 and I had a quick chat, because he was at work.

This morning we found out that David25’s girlfriend has leukaemia.

It’s funny how when bad news hits you just want to touch base with family. As soon as David25 left to be with Izzy, I rang my sister and my best friend. When Tom26 heard, he talked to his Mum.

Ryan24 came to tell me that apparently her style of the disease has an 80% success rate and they think they’ve caught it early.

She’s only 21.

I’m here, with the sound of the keys on the laptop, the gentle sound of the air conditioner and the warmth of Jeff snuggled up beside me even though the day is too hot for him to be doing it. With news like this, I’m glad I’m home. It’s pure chance that it wasn’t a normal Tuesday, where I’d be surrounded by thousands of people and their concerns. I don’t have to put my game-face on and pretend that the only thing on my mind is teaching the proper essay techniques they need to know to get a good mark.

I can take the time to sit and think of her and my son. They’ve been going out for around 18 months. They met at uni when they were doing the same music course. He absolutely adores her. Her family is one of the closest-knit families I’ve ever seen and there’s no doubt they’ll rally around her with all the love and support that you could wish for.

It’s such a shock.

This isn’t a ‘proper’ FI post.

I guess it’s just a reminder to cherish the people you’re going through life with. Expectations and all the plans in the world can be derailed without the slightest warning.

Anyway, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading.

Go and hug a friend.

 

What has my second-gen FIRE child learned about frugality?

Right from when they were very small, my children have watched me buy in bulk when non-perishables have been on sale, then helped me lug them home and store them in towering piles in the pantry or watched me decant into smaller, more user-friendly containers.

When I was in San Gimignano in Italy in 2015, one of the souvenirs I bought was this olive oil tin. I knew I’d use it and I love it still. I buy 4L tins of olive oil from Aldi and simply decant into my olive oil ‘watering can’ when it runs dry. It’s a similar idea to the non-stick spatula* I bought last year in North Korea. A useful souvenir is a good souvenir!

So what has my 24-year-old son done?

 

Ryan24 is half-way through his Remedial Massage course at RMIT. When massage oil was on the book list for this year, he bought in bulk. He’s bought smaller bottles to decant the oil into for when he goes to classes. Of course, as any second-gen FIRE frugal person would do, he made sure that the unit price for the bulk oil was far cheaper than for 1L bottles.

I’m very proud.

I just hope I don’t ever mistake it for a wine cask one dark night!

(This last photo has nothing to do with the post. I simply thought that some people might want to see the spatula of choice for people in North Korea.)

* I bought this spatula when we were allowed to wander around the supermarket in Pyongyang, North Korea, for 45 minutes on our own, surrounded by ordinary people doing their daily shopping. I saw these spatulas, thought, ‘Hey, I need one of these,’ and brought it home with me. 

Every time I make pancakes I remember my trip. 🙂

A totally scientific experiment. Or metaphor. Or something.

Earlier this week I wrote a post about The Single Advantage, where I wrote about the path to FI as a single person.

Yesterday, on my daily walk with Poppy, Jeff and Scout, it occurred to me that this was the perfect time to do a totally scientific experiment to see if my post was accurate.

You see, Poppy and Jeff have been partners since they were in the womb together and they always go for walks on a brace lead. This is simply a leash for 2 dogs which is in a ‘Y’ shape, so I only have to hang on to one loop.

Scout, being the baby sister of the pack, came along later so she has her own lead.

Which lead is the most efficient? The ‘couple’ lead, or the ‘single’ lead? WHAT a metaphor for life! How could anyone possibly say that this is unrealistic?

Ok. My hypothesis is that the two different leads accurately depict two different pathways to FI – one as a couple and one as a single. For the purposes of this experiment, we’ll assume that both the couple and the single are starting from the same position, (a wild enthusiasm to get to FI as quickly as possible), and they have the same goal in mind, (to have a fully-paid-off kennel and to never need to fetch tennis balls again, unless they choose to.)

I had the materials needed. The dogs were raring to go, my phone was in my hand and I was filled with the thirst for scientific endeavour. Off we set around the block to make financial research history!

It was clear right from the start that when Poppy and Jeff were in synch, they were unstoppable. Shoulder to shoulder, facing the same way, they forged ahead of Scout. They make a great team. The fully-paid-off kennel of their dreams is well within reach.

“It’s not fair! There’s 2 of them and I have very little legs. They’re getting ahead of me and it’s not fair! They’re sharing the work, they have 2 food bowls and THEIR LEGS ARE LONGER.”

But hang on…

What starts to happen around every tempting aroma?

Scout takes the opportunity to nip past them as Jeff lifts his leg on investigates every conceivable thing on our path, thus slowing Poppy down and delaying their path to FI. In the interests of decorum, I won’t show you exactly what he was doing. This is a family-friendly blog, after all.

Oh no! While Poppy was waiting for Jeff to get back on task, she sees a bird! She goes out of shot to try and get closer, yanking him off-balance.

They’re completely off task now…

Meanwhile, Scout, her heart filled with joy at not having her dreams of FI and a fully-paid-for kennel delayed by a distracted partner, skips ahead with glee, her eyes on the prize. As for not needing to fetch tennis balls? She’s a modern independent woman and she LOVES her side-hustle of bringing back anything that’s thrown.

This is an action shot; joy requires movement and flopping ears. Please excuse any fuzzy edges in this shot. Science requires sacrifices from all of us to get to the truth.

 However, once Poppy and Jeff have some counselling and get their goals back into realignment, we all set off together.

The Cavaliers have been partners since birth – they’re not going to let anyone stop them! Whereas Scout is as stubborn as dachshunds normally are and she’ll get to her goals with or without a partner. “A man is not a financial plan” is her mantra.

Well, considering I call my place a glorified kennel, the result was never in doubt, was it? Here they all are, enjoying the fruits of their labour. No matter how tempting the scents, the birds and the possum poo along the way, they all got there in the end.

Scout’s route was by far the most focussed and direct, but Poppy and Jeff, when they decided to stop getting distracted on their individual interests and they started working together, were a force.

I know you want to know the results.

Amazingly, both leads ended up at our destination of FI and a fully-paid-off kennel at the same time. I know – I’m as surprised as you!!

What does this totally scientific and non-rigged experiment show?

We can all get to our goals, regardless of our relationship status.

Scout’s little legs meant that she had to take more steps than the others to get there, but she made it in the end. Poppy and Jeff were sometimes pulled off-course by their partner, but they got back on track and also got to their destination.

And now everyone’s sleeping on the couch, safe and happy.

Come to think of it, that’s not a bad result for any of us!

 

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