Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Using the 4% Rule to estimate future costs is depressing.

This house is clean, says housekeeper.

Today I’m having a few friends over for lunch. My dear friend Scott, who used to be my work husband before he and his real-life husband moved to the UK 10 years ago, is back for a visit. He’s such a good friend and it’s so much better to talk away with him in person, rather than over Skype. I’ve invited a few other people over for lunch and then he’ll hang around for dinner.

He’ll see the Backyard Beach, the dogs and, of course, The Best House in Melbourne. Which means, of course, I want it to look its best.

Every now and then it’s good to invite people over. I’ve learned that it makes me do a deep clean of the house and then I can relax for a while and just keep tidying as I go. There are many things ahead of cleaning on my ‘What do I want to do for fun?’ list.

One of my goals when I retire is to have a cleaner come in, maybe once a fortnight. At the moment I do the cleaning myself, or better yet, I nag the boys to do it. They’re responsible for their bathroom and toilet and their own rooms, which works out pretty well.

It’s amazing the difference having a girlfriend makes! David 25 keeps his room vacuumed, dusted and neat… “Izzy’s coming over!” he’ll say as he drags the vacuum cleaner out of the cupboard. Ryan24, on the other hand? Let’s just say he really needs to get out more and meet a nice, sensible gamer girl – his room’s a mess.

As an organised, responsible financial blogger, I decided to see how much I would have to put away in an account to pay for a cleaner in perpetuity, using the 4% Rule. The result was depressing.

(For those not sure about what the 4% Rule is, I blogged about it here in ‘The 4% Rule For People Who Are Scared of Maths.’)

Maids make housecleaning way more fun.

Assuming a cleaner costs around $30/hour, which appears to be the going rate here, if I hired someone to toddle over once a fortnight for a couple of hours to wave a mop and duster around, it would cost $1,560/year. Let’s round that up to $1,600 because it’ll make it easier.

$1,600 X 25 = 40K. Yikes!

As I look at that total, it really brings home how every single cost we have is amplified when we’re looking to save for retirement. $60/fortnight doesn’t seem like a really big thing, yet if it’s included as part of the annual running costs of living, then over time it becomes significant.

Of course, the question then becomes… how much do I really hate cleaning? Do I hate cleaning 40K’s worth? I’m frugal, but in my spending I’m a Value-ist. I don’t mind laying out the big bucks if I feel something significantly adds value to my life.

The answer will almost certainly be that while I still have boys living with me that are big enough and ugly enough to wield a broom, a lawn mower and a toilet brush, I’ll probably hold off on getting a cleaner. But once I’m on my own… hmmm…

The house won’t get nearly as messy. I’ll still loathe having to mop and dust. It’d probably be worth it to get someone to come in. Just as a little reward to myself.

I love a clean and tidy house. I just hate having to do it because it never stays that way. I wouldn’t mind doing a perfect job of cleaning if I only had to do it once and then it would stay that way for years. Because it doesn’t, it seems like a waste of effort, doesn’t it?

Anyway, it’s 8AM and that lasagne won’t make itself! I’ll go and make what I can for lunch early, mop the floor, dust my room and, if I’m lucky, get out into the veggie garden and sweep all the bougainvillia flowers off the paving. I know there are some visitors who’ll want to see how it looks.

You know, the more I think about it, a cleaner would be a valuable time-saving resource… imagine all the other, more creative and interesting things I could be doing with my life instead of mopping and dusting? It’s dawning on me that it’d almost be irresponsible NOT to hire a cleaner… how much is Future Frogdancer’s time worth, anyway?

Probably much more than $30/hour…

See you after lunch!


  1. Bev

    It amazes me how you can think 4% will always be the going interest rate in the future. How much risk do you have to take on to get that rate at present? Which Bank is offering half that for term deposits at the moment and even the major banks can’t be guaranteed not to go belly-up in future. Are you factoring financial collapse into your retirement, not to mention energy decline and the rising costs associated with that? Fuel costs are going to make airline costs skyrocket in the future (there goes your overseas holiday) and eventually there will be no powered flight at all. Growth is over, but governments are still dropping interest rates to zero and below (i.e you pay the bank to use your money) to try and stimulate it without success.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Bev, have you read about the 4% Rule? It’s not talking about savings, but about investments. Look up the Trinity Study – that’s what the 4% rule is based off.

      • Bev

        But…you earn money from your investments and the amount you earn depends on the rate of interest the investment is invested at. I read it all when you first told me about it and there were some doubters that it would work in what I read. I’ll read it again.
        On another subject, my TM’s beeps have become so low as to be only just audible. Is this a known problem?

        • FrogdancerJones

          Most people would call that lucky! Call the company.

  2. Gentleman's Family Finances

    Cleaning is something we all have to do and not many people like it.
    It’s one of the things about building, buying and living in every bigger houses – you just have more space/things to (first of all buy) clean/dust/hoover/wash.
    Our house is about 170m2/2000ft2 and by US standards that’s average/small but big for the UK.
    Do I like cleaning it? No
    Do I wish it was smaller? Probably
    Will I pay a cleaner to clean it? No – I don’t think it’s worth the money and cleaning is actually a good form of FREE exercise.
    Why pay for a gmy membership and pay for a cleaning when you can do it yourself!

    • FrogdancerJones

      It’s so hard, isn’t it? My logical brain agrees with every one of your reasons not to out-source help… but who knows how I’ll eventually jump?

      • Gentleman's Family Finances

        Housework might actuay be very good for you.
        I find that the process of looking at every surface in the house is a good way to check for maintnenance issues or at least pick up lego pieces and bits of food.

        That’s a saving in itself.

        • FrogdancerJones

          Well, the dogs pick up pieces of food, so I’ve got that covered.
          Hmmm… you’ve raised the stakes. Do I want to be free of housework and be happy, but have an elderly brain? Or unhappily running behind a mop with the brain of a toddler?
          Decisions, decisions.

          • Chris

            It’s a slippery slope: pay for cleaning and before you know it you’re paying for gardening, eating out and chauffeur-driven stretch limos. Just put housework in the necessary evil category… with alcohol.

  3. latestarterfire

    I hate cleaning! But do like a clean house. After many years of resenting having to clean on weekends, I finally succumbed and got a cleaner – 2 hours a fortnight -$60 – floor, kitchen and bathroom – BEST money ever spent. I will stop once I stop working full time … that’s what I tell myself, anyway ?

    • FrogdancerJones

      Haha! I used to have one when I was working full time and having Thermomix team meetings in my home. I loved coming home each Monday and the house was clean.
      I’ll get another one… one day…

  4. Jamie

    I’ve probably let it go for far too long, but recently I’ve started getting our three kids to do more and more of the housework. Especially the washing up, which is my least favourite (we have a dishwasher, but there are always those things that don’t go in…and we wash all of our recycling).

    They’ve always done things like take out the garbage, but I’ve decided the time has come that I need to put in the effort to teach them all the household things. And I tell myself that although it is more effort on my part to begin with, I should get a few good years of house trained kids before they all move out! Then (hopefully) the house will stay cleaner!

    • FrogdancerJones

      I did the same with mine. For many years they were really good, but as they got into late high school/uni and were out of the house a lot more, they slackened off a bit.
      Mine will do the work if I ask, but even in their 20’s they rarely seem to notice that the work needs doing and do it off their own bat. That tends to be a bit annoying… after all, they’re meant to be adults…!

  5. Bethany D

    I have three young kids at home and one of my favorite self-care acts is that every few months I hire a teenager to come be a “Mother’s Helper” for an hour or two. It is truly magical how GOOD it feels to have someone else sweep, vacuum, wash some dishes, and help the kids fold their laundry – with nary a word of complaint nor request for assistance. And usually I’m so enthusiastic that I’m eager to jump right into scrubbing the bathroom and running extra laundry while she’s here so that even more gets done! I can’t afford a full cleaning service but a little break now and then is SO worth it.

  6. Abigail @ipickuppennies

    My mom (who’s a frugal maven) keeps saying that now that money is looser, I should consider having a maid service come in once a month for a deep cleaning. But the fact is that, as much as I hate cleaning, I don’t hate it $150ish worth, which is probably what it’d cost for a monthly service. Besides, now that it’s just me, I’m better able to keep up on cleaning by just wiping down the shower stall (now that I’ve scrubbed it clean — it was disgusting before), wiping down the bathroom sink and counter and a light dusting in a few places. Plus running the Roomba a few times a week. (I don’t bother with mopping the tile, which probably WOULD be the breaking point for me.)

    Anyway, none of this is to say that you shouldn’t get a cleaner. If that adds value to your life, then by all means… I mainly just think it’s funny that my frugal mom is so anxious for me to take what’s really a very light load off my shoulders. (Though maybe that speaks more to my level of “clean” now that I think about it.)

    • FrogdancerJones

      Haha! Maybe that’s right! One man’s clean is another man’s squalor!!
      Though I get your point. When the kids were little my house always looked like a bomb had hit it. Now that there are only adults living here, (and 2 of them have moved out) things are always neat and tidy. Much easier to keep clean.
      It’ll be the same with you.

  7. Aussie HIFIRE

    I occasionally think about getting a cleaner but so far with my wife at home looking after the kids she manages to find enough time to do the cleaning and vacuuming and I try to help out with the dishes and sorting out the kitchen. When she goes back to work though getting a cleaner will almost certainly happen given we’re both likely to be busy and being able to spend time with my young kids is far more important to me than the money saved on cleaning ourselves.

    One other consideration is that when you do retire you will likely have a lot more time to clean (and potentially less kids around the house) at which point it may make sense to stop paying money for a cleaner unless you hate cleaning.

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