Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Should I go part-time next year?

Even typing that title was a bit confronting! But yes, I’ve started to wonder if life wouldn’t be better if I stopped working 5 days a week and started a part-time teaching load.

This wasn’t something I ever thought I’d be considering yet. I assumed that I’d be working full-time for another 3 years or so. This was already a HUGE step forward.

Before I sold my original property and geoarbitraged 20 kms away, I thought I’d be working full time until I was eligible to receive the Age Pension (in another 11 years.) By moving down to The Best House in Melbourne by the beach, I already shaved around a decade from my working life. So I’m already in a better position.

And yet…

I’m really tired. All the damned time. So tired that I went had had a full bloodwork thing done to make sure I wasn’t low in vitamin B or suffering from a medical condition. (Fear not, frugal friends. I’m in Australia so it was free.)

Turns out I’m as healthy as a horse.

Which is great, but I’m not sure I want to spend the next 3 years running breathlessly towards my FI figure, while not feeling full of vim. I’d like to get more things done around here, instead of squeezing in a nap every weekend. I have a life to live, people!!

I was having a chat to Dee at work a couple of weeks ago. Her kids are the same age as mine and she’s been working part time for a few years now.

“Don’t you get tired?” she said. “Sometimes I think about going back to full time because the money’d be good, especially since we built the new house, but I don’t know if I’d be able to do it.”

I know how she feels. Being a teacher is a high-octane job. I’m lucky this year – I only have 4 classes and 3 of them are lovely. They’re full of kids who want to work and are keen to do well, so it’s easy to get them on task and doing what they should.

My year 8 class? They take a lot of energy. There’s a group of around 7 boys who need constant monitoring. Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. They seem to like me, but I don’t know why because I’m an absolute witch to them.

But even when you’re in front of the good classes you need to be on your game. That’s how it should be – you want your students to have your best – but when it starts leaching energy from other, more important areas of your life, something’s out of balance.

I’ve always said that I don’t live to teach – I teach so that I can do all the things for myself and my family that I want to do. This is why I rarely bring correction home, as I prefer to keep my work and home life separate. Sure, sometimes I go into school on the weekends to work with my year 12’s when we’re doing a play. This year it’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest‘ and I’ll be going in for 2 or 3 days in the Easter school holidays to run rehearsals.

That’s part of the job. I’m ok with that because the kids this year in particular are amazing and are working so hard to bring my favourite play to life.

But do I want to feel like this for the next few years?

If I dropped a day I’d be losing around 20K/year. Is a little more freedom worth that? Will an extra day a week make me that much happier?

My cunning plan was that I’d keep working full time so I could get to my FI number quicker. Then, depending on how I was feeling about life, the universe and everything, I’d THEN go part-time. O maybe I’d resign, or do casual teaching when people were away. I’m a naturally long-term thinker, so it seems sensible to get the hard work out of the way up front, and then once that job’s done and things are as secure as they can be, to then reassess the situation.

But a thought occurred to me today…

What if the “hard work” I was thinking about wasn’t working full-time now? What if it was the 20+ years I was raising the 4 boys on my own AND holding down a full-time job? (AND in the later years, running a Thermomix business as well?) Those years were full of hectic juggling. I worked damned hard.

What if this means that it’d be ok to slow the pace down a little now and have a bit more ‘Frogdancer’ time to do what I want to do in the present?

What if this was the time to start enjoying The Best House in Melbourne, the beach, the dogs and my hobbies a little more?

I won’t deny – the thought is enticing. I think it’s around September when we have to fill in a form stating what time fraction we want for next year and which subjects and classes we’d prefer to teach.

I’ll be mulling it over. I’d like to hear from other people who’ve decided to work part-time, or who made the decision to go the other way. It’s a strange thing to start thinking of abandoning a perfectly good cunning plan when I have only a few short years before I’d be at the finish line…


  1. Dan

    Thanks for the article. I’ll be in a position to go part-time next year, all things going well. I’ve worked full-time for the past 21 years so I don’t know how I’d cope. A long weekend every week does sound appealing.

    • FrogdancerJones

      One of my friends at work, Blogless Liz, has every Wednesday off. She says it breaks up the week really nicely.

  2. Cath

    I will watch the comments on this one with great interest! We’ve been re-organizing all aspects of our lives after one of our children (then 11yo) got desperately ill this year. Put a whole bunch of things in perspective, including how to navigate the whole when-to-slow-down question.

    • FrogdancerJones

      I hope your child’s recovering well.
      Yes, things like that certainly do make you look at life through a different lens.

  3. Samantha Stephens

    Hi, having done the full time and the part time gig teaching I vote do it! There is nothing like walking and and out…but check all your benefits really carefully. Here in NZ we have a 11% ‘loading’ on part time hours to cover non-contacts. At times that does not cover duty, parent teacher interviews and the dreaded meetings you are still to attend!
    I’m a head of department now which is a job I love but one I know I would not be able to do from a part time position. So Frogdancer Jones, I would draw up a list and write the pros and cons. Also too bear in mind that the timetable may have you in every day of the week at odd times and your classes may not be grouped together so that is just awful too.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Hmmm… food for thought.
      A few years ago I worked 4 days a week, but I was attending meetings on the Friday mornings for my Thermomoix team leader position, so I was still working every day. I should have a chat with the part-timers at work. Most women my age are now part-time… but they all have a second wage coming in – they’re all married.

  4. Bev

    There are 3 things I’d be thinking about if I was your age and knowing what I know now. They’re all systemic things…things which are going to have serious effects on the system we live in and which are unfolding now. 1) financial collapse. 2) net energy decline. 3) climate change. All 3 are going to mean a future very different from what we’ve been used to. BAU (business as usual) is over. Your talk about FIRE and skulling around the world having a good time, makes me think you’re not considering any of these (I may be wrong!)

    I think I may have said this before….that I was very surprised when you moved from the old house into the exact same situation, i.e. small suburban block. I thought you might have (with an eye to the future that was coming) have looked for a larger property which you could set up as a completely self-sufficient (permaculture) enterprise, with a view to housing you and the boys and their families when the wheels start to really fall off civilisation. You often joke about the ‘zombie apocalypse’, which makes me think you haven’t any idea of what’s in store. It’s not a joke, it’s bloody frightening. Make sure you get all your overseas travelling done before a) airfares go over the moon because of fuel limitations, b) there’s no fuel left to fly planes anyway and c) social unrest makes other countries too dangerous to be in.

    Just my 2 cents worth!

    • FrogdancerJones

      That reminds me, I have those black cherry tomato seeds you wanted. Shoot me an email with your address and I’ll post them to you.

      • Bev

        Will do. Thanks. And I’ll send you some Jaune Flamme which I grew for the first time this season. Very prolific and ripen to a beautiful orange.

  5. Lise

    Not sure if you (a) live near a university and (b) have a spare bedroom, but students pay around $250-$300 for a room plus breakfast/dinner every day and lunch weekends. It seems you are in a similar situation to me in that you still have some kids at home, so it’s not that much extra effort to feed an extra mouth 😉
    I’m planning to host international students as my boys launch out of the nest, as a second income stream.

    • FrogdancerJones

      One of my friends at work is thinking about doing this.
      Another woman I know has been doing this for years. She has a two-bedroom granny flat over their garage, so her family retains a bit of privacy.

  6. bethh

    I vote heck yeah! If you can truly get it to a four-day workweek, just think of the energy you’ll save – mental, physical, fuel. If you were going to work 4 more years full-time, wouldn’t that translate to 5 more years at 80%? With those 5 years having a much better quality of life? Definitely sounds worth exploring to me.

    Side note: thanks to your comment a few weeks ago about your dad’s wisdom around weeds (we move faster than they do) I finally got off my duff and did a bit of weeding this weekend. Imagine my dismay that something I’ve been putting off for WEEKS only took 25 minutes. (I did not do ALL the weeding, just what is visible from my home office window.)

    • FrogdancerJones

      Those weeds that you see every day are the most important! Doing weeding that you’ve been putting off is very satisfying – you can see where you’ve been and it makes a definite difference to how the place looks.

      As regards the energy saved, that’s not a bad point…

  7. Snoskred

    For me, working part time is the better option because of my Aspergers. I did not understand why, when growing up, that every so often I would just not be able to get out of bed in the morning. Now after being diagnosed and working very hard with my psychologist we worked out why (my cup of human interaction was full) and figured out how to configure my life so that situation rarely happens to me.

    I find it is very important to have balance – I need to have my work time, my home chill out time, my exercise time, my cooking time, my hobbies time.. Part time work allows me to have that balance.

    I can do full time, I did five weeks worth of it at Christmas. I thought I would miss it and be bored when I switched back to part time, but I wasn’t.

    I wonder though, I have no idea if this is a possibility but I’ll throw it out there just in case, might there be an option of moving to a closer school and staying full time? Might there be an option of getting a one day a week non-teaching gig (maybe a barista or something cool and chilled out that you could have more fun with?) close to home? Might you be able to do some tutoring with local kids and pick up extra cash that way?

    Four months ago I would have sworn I’d be staying in this job I’m in now for years. I’m now actively job searching, long before I planned. It isn’t because I hate the job I LOVE MY JOB no shiznit, it is the best thing ever.. but management there simply sucks and I’m over it.

    I wonder if being open to pretty much anything might be the best way to chart a new path through this as a surprise to yourself?

    • FrogdancerJones

      So much to think about in your comment!
      I’m pretty much staying at my current school because once I’m finally there each day, the kids are a delight to teach. Schools closer to me have a reputation, (which may or may not be valid), but I figure having a fun time in the classroom is a good thing. Plus the kids love me – it’s rare that I walk anywhere in the school without having at least 3 or 4 kids sing out to me. (I like that.)
      I like the idea of being open to anything though…

      • Snoskred

        If I were in your position I think the first thing I would try to do is find some teachers who work at nearby schools and see if that reputation is real or not.

        The second thing I would do is, on the next school holidays, see if there is a Barista course I could do, and then see if any local cafes need someone to cover in the school holidays after that. You may very well find a local cafe thrilled about that idea because they often have staff who want to take time off at that time and they can’t usually find the staff to cover it.

        The third thing I would do is check in with any local shops that you love, just to see if maybe they could use someone part time in the holidays. But (in my opinion) it has to be a shop you love and enjoy being in.

        In your case perhaps garden nurseries might be worth a check in too.

        All of this sounds like more work to begin with and of course it would be, but it may lead to less work next year AKA part time, or even slightly more work in the holiday times but something different, closer to home, and creating relationships with local businesses that might be handy when it is time to stop teaching. 😉

  8. freddy smidlap

    i didn’t go part time but 2 years ago took at least a 20k pay cut for normal hours and a normal life. i used to work odd shifts and lots of lucrative overtime but let it go for similar reasons. even if that means a work an extra year or two this present life is worth it.

    i think it’s worth strong consideration in your case too.

    • FrogdancerJones

      I’ll agree it’s tempting. But as I said to you on Twitter, it occurred to me that working another year full time would give me an ‘extra’ 20K that I could renovate the ensuite with and get rid of the shower over the bath scenario I currently have.
      Old Lady Frogdancer might break a hip in that thing, a couple of decades down the track!
      I have a few months to weigh up my options.

  9. Tom Hooper

    This topic truly resonates with me as I have also been pondering the last 6 months this very thought. Interesting reading other people’s comments.
    After doing the sums, I’m definitely locking in this work/life balance from the start of next year ( the year of the Big 50). The wife is happy with the idea as she has great flexibility in her work role ( 3 days in office, 1 day at home for work).
    3 out 4 boys working full time, great careers and building their futures.
    It all adds up to living on my terms now and not waiting another 10 years or so.
    Well written article!

    • FrogdancerJones

      It sounds like you’re living the dream!!!

  10. Snoskred

    When making decisions like this I also often think of my chickens. They are here for a good time, not a long time. 🙂 I want to make their time the best it can be.

    I just got offered a new job today so I am super happy about that, but it would never have happened if I wasn’t open to all possibilities. It is not a field I have worked in before – well part of it is, the other part is not – and I heard about it on Facebook because I happen to be a customer there and liked them on the FB.

    The world is your oyster, you just gotta shuck it. 😉

  11. latestarterfire

    I’m thinking of exactly the same thing. My plan was work full time another 7 years till 55 then go part time … but … I’m so tired of dealing with people who don’t give a s..t …
    So, I’m very tempted to go part time to 4 days soon and use long service leave for the 5th day. Will be very interested in your eventual decision. FYI – I am voting for part time 😉

    • FrogdancerJones

      There’s someone at work doing exactly the same thing. She’s in her last year of work and she’s using up her Long Service Leave one day a week. So, essentially working part time but on a full time wage.
      I got so excited when she told me what she was doing. It had never occurred to me. It makes sense though – once you’re retired you can go on holidays whenever you want, so you might as well use up the LSL while you can.

  12. J.D

    There’s the saying you can have everything you want just not all at the same time.

    I am in the go part time camp. You can look back and be glad you managed to enjoy your time doing all those other things!

    • FrogdancerJones

      I don’t think anyone has commented yet in the Stay Full-Time camp!


    If you have the financial opportunity to work part-time, then you should try to do it and decide whether this mode of operation suits you and makes you happier.

  14. Valerie

    A good friend of mine worked on Pensions for the UK Government and they did quite a lot of work a few years ago on understanding what people said they wanted from retirement (before they retired) and what they actually wanted once they had. Turns out that people didn’t really want a Lamborghini and a villa in the south of France, what they really wanted was to keep what they already had. No one wanted to have less (ie don’t retire into poverty), but most people found that maintaining their current lifestyle with the added bonus of not having to go to work made for a happy retirement. I retired 4 years ago as soon as I was confident I could make the numbers work for a very modest retirement (4 different spreadsheets!) and I have found that I have tons more money than I thought I would have. Your teaching qualification is a great boon to early retirement as there are often opportunities to do casual and part time work to provide extra padding if you need it. As for whether you should go part time now, before the numbers work for the “perfect retirement”, I think there’s only one major question to answer and that is ‘Have you paid off your mortgage?’ If so then you can manage the rest according to what’s best for your health and happiness.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Yes, my mortgage is well and truly paid off, though there are a few renovations I want to do to get the house ‘retirement ready.’ I’d like to get a roof over the paved area at the back, then put couches and a table there; a new ensuite – at the moment I have a shower over a bath which I hate, and sundry other things like painting and different bits and bobs.
      I could probably retire now and be ok, but I think I’d be a lot more comfortable with these jobs out of the way when I pull the pin. I’d rather save retirement income for travel!

  15. Haider Jamal

    saying you can have everything you want just not all at the same time.

    I am in the go part time camp.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Yes, I’ve listened to the majority and I’m going down to 3 days/week next year. (Can’t wait!!)

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