Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
Hazel-is-ok
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2019 6:30 am
Location: UK

Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by Hazel-is-ok »

Well I've started a journal. I'm 54, living in northern England, married to DH who is 55. I have 2 sons from my previous marriage, in their 20s and moved out.

My aims in keeping this journal include: clarifying what we are doing, making contact with other people who are also living ERE-style, and being open to receiving useful feedback and advice.

I hesitated to start a journal here, as I felt I might not qualify, since I'm not young, and have left it too late to build up a big portfolio. But after reading through various posts and journals, I see there's a range of people and lifestyles, so hopefully I won't be disqualified!

It seems useful to write a little life history. Apologies, I've tried to keep it short, but failed: I'm an introvert. Growing up, my only ambition was to get married and have children. I was always interested in science at school, and did well, so was encouraged to train as a doctor. I almost studied biochemistry instead, as I could see myself working quietly in a lab, but eventually opted for medicine, partly in the hope that it would cure my shyness! I struggled with the course but finished it, to keep my options open. Once qualified, I forgot about the other options, got married, got a mortgage and bought a house, hated my job as a junior hospital doctor, because I constantly worried and dreamed about making a mistake and the risk of accidentally killing a patient.

After working for 3 years, my mental health was suffering, and after a mini breakdown, I resigned and left medicine altogether. My husband supported me and I loved bringing up our children. I worked part time summarising patient records. When my children were 1 and 5 the marriage broke up. We seperated fairly amicably, and each walked away with a lump sum which meant that my mortgage when I bought my own house was small. My ex stayed involved in our boys' upbringing and contributed financially.

I continued to work part time. I was into retail for a few years, selling children's clothes first at parties, and then from a shop. It didn't make much profit, so I closed it and became employed at a doctors' practice. I was earning far less than I did as a doctor, but it was worth it for a less stressful life. At first I was summarising patient records, then over the years I took on an administrative role. Eventually I had more responsibilities, and had to be more involved in the endless meetings and bureaucratic craziness of the NHS. It got increasingly stressful. I wanted to leave, but needed to earn money and couldn't see any good alternatives.

Financially I thought I was in reasonable shape. I have always avoided getting into debt, and I was lucky that I studied at a time when tuituon fees were subsidised by the government, so had no student debt. I didn't earn a lot, but managed to saved a little, largely due to the generosity of my parents, who paid off my mortgage when I was hospitalised briefly and diagnosed with bipolar type 1. I'm embarrassed to admit that they still give me money at birthdays and Christmas, which makes a large contribution to my savings.

I met my DH in 2012. It is a very good supportive relationship. He works at a carpet manufacturing company. He moved in with me a year later, which meant that he was reliant on me for a lift to work (12 miles away) every morning, because he doesn't drive, is a nervous cyclist, and his shifts are too early for there to be a bus service. This was intended to be a temporary arrangement. Three years later, he was still reluctant to look for more local work, we didn't really want to relocate, and I was feeling a lot of resentment about the situation.

By this point I had got heavily into the search for enlightenment, and did a lot of meditating. I now realise that the type of enlightenment I hoped for probably doesn't exist: perpetual peace and happiness. But I was going for it. I was willing to risk just about everything for it. I was less interested in my work, which was now unbearably stressful. I wanted to leave my job, but was afraid that a decision to resign would be seen a a sign of mental illness, and result in me being hospitalised again.

Things came to a head when one day I found myself telling my DH that I would no longer drive him to work. He had to get up very early to run the 12 miles there, and get a bus home in the afternoon. I was in a bad state mentally, with lots of fear and guilt, little concentration, a poor memory and frequent crying episodes. I told my boss I needed to take sick leave. I ended up fleeing to a christian retreat centre on top of a hill nearby. (I'm not a christian) I felt safe there, like nobody could find me and lock me up. I kept my phone on silent and emailed in my resignation letter.

We ended up renting a cottage near the retreat centre for six months. It gave me space to recover. I started driving DH to work again most days. I redecorated our old house, and we sold it and bought a house closer to DH's work. That was three years ago. The plan was that I would find a different part time job. I did get offered a job as a support worker, then the offer was withdrawn when my reference was checked, because of all the sick leave I had taken.

We then realised that with DH walking to work, and a fairly simple lifestyle, we were managing comfortably with just his income. My mental health is much better without me going to work, and he is happy enough to be the provider. Since I'm at home I'm able to spend some time learning to grow vegetables, baking bread, and finding more ways to be frugal. We don't have an expensive lifestyle. We don't take holidays, we don't buy a lot of new things, and very rarely eat out.

I love my lifestyle now. I thought I would need to earn money again at some point, but now that doesn't look to be the case. I could get used to the idea of being retired. Some days I don't do much. Other times I get involved in a project and am very busy. I am coming to the end of a year long photography course, A Year With My Camera. I did a woodwork course, and have built planters and a couple of basic pieces of furniture. I spent a while being obsessed with geodesic domes. Eventually I built a geodesic arbour in our garden. It's a great place to sit out, read, watch or photograph birds, whatever the weather.

For me, the freedom to do whatever I like with my time is priceless. DH has the same outlook. He wants to retire, or change to part time work, as soon as possible. We would both rather live very frugally in retirement than work to fund a more luxurious lifestyle.

I'm no longer on a spiritual path looking for enlightenment. I was lucky enough to meet someone who showed me who I really am. (For anyone interested, Salvadore Poe's inquiries and experiments are all in his book Liberation Is: The End of The Spiritual Path.) I'm not the story of my life, thankfully. Knowing that I'm just aware here, now, has brought a lot of peace. I don't feel bad about the past and I don't worry about the future.

Looking back on the retreat/cottage time, it was financially costly, but useful. Apart from the difficulty of DH getting to work, we loved living there. It's only a mile from the village we had lived in, but very quiet with panoramic views over open countryside. Great for walking, relaxing, reflecting, and for DH's running. We want to move back there when he retires, and downsize.

I look after our finances, and have been tracking our spending for some time. We have very modest amounts saved and invested, no mortgage and no debts. We will be due to collect our state pensions from age 67, as things stand. My small NHS pension is payable from age 60, and DH's pension will provide a small lump sum whenever he retires, as he is already 55. In 2023 I'm due a payment from an endowment policy which was originally taken out to pay off my mortgage.

I had worked out that DH could retire in about 5 years. But since reading the ERE book I have revised the timing to less than 2 years. For the last 4 months we've been "paying ourselves first" putting money into a savings acount, and are managing well spending less. I have done a spreadsheet, and calculate we can live on £10 000 per year. Or $12 900. We have decided to give it a trial run from January, for 3-6 months. If we can live on this amount, DH can stop work in July 2021 and we will have enough money to live on until our state pensions start. We can then live on them (total around £14 500) plus a small amount of NHS pension.

I'm a little nervous at the idea of taking the plunge. Because there are no guarantees. The state pension age is planned to go up, though it's unlikely to affect us now. State pensions could pay less. We could have large unexpected bills. How will it be to have DH around all day every day? Also my figures might be deluded!

I think this is the right thing for us though. DH is open to working part time anyway, and I will probably run through the figures with an independent financial advisor. If you've read this far, thank you :-) Any input is welcome.

frihet
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by frihet »

Welcome to the forum Hazel! Wow sounds like you had an intense spiritual quest there for a while. These matters can easily become all consuming.....

Sounds like you have a plan, regarding have to bridge the gap to your pensions. I hope you will get the guidance you need here and if there are specific questions don’t be afraid to bump an old thread about the topic or if such a thread can’t be found start a new one. Here are a lot of analytical smart people here.

Good Luck!

rube
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by rube »

Welcome. Sounds like this can be an interesting journal for many others.

Frita
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by Frita »

Welcome, Hazel! I am 51 years old with a spouse of the same age and a 15 year old son. There are older people here too. Wink.

It sounds like you’ve been on an epic journey. I am interested in learning more about your now focus, shedding the ego, and developing profound self-acceptance. Rooting for you!

Earlybath
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by Earlybath »

Hi Hazel, Thats a pretty turbulent first half. I'm glad you've found some peace and stability.

I don't think your figures are deluded, try working your numbers through this guide compiled from real life spending as a sanity check.
https://www.which.co.uk/money/pensions- ... u0z9k0lw3p

I find their aggregate spending really quite high. The lifestyle you're describing sounds like their "essential lifestyle". Using these catagories our real (not very optimised, family of 4) spending is about £11K. Our actual life style base level is £14k, but I've opened the spending taps (mostly for the kids) so we're running at £18K (With imputed rent, this is close to the mean UK household income). At which level we're living some elements of their "luxurious life style".
I don't think £10K for a couple is much of stretch, especially if you've a lump sum to call on for peace of mind, time for optimisation and the option of some paid work. If you havent seen it Jacob's ERE Wheaton scale is a useful overview of lifestyles which may suggest some avenues of research.
viewtopic.php?f=7&t=8103&start=40#p126053

Hazel-is-ok
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Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2019 6:30 am
Location: UK

Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by Hazel-is-ok »

Thanks for the welcomes @frihet, @rube, @frita and @earlybath

@earlybath. Yes, I saw that Which article and was shocked at how much some people expected to spend in retirement. It was reassuring to see your own figures. We had been living on about £18K, and it's now down to £14.5K. I think a drop down to £10K is achievable.
The ERE Wheaton scale is interesting. The levels seem to reflect different mindsets and values. The "chop wood, carry water" outcome made me smile.

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Bankai
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by Bankai »

Hi Hazel. £10k with a paid-off house is doable, although not easy. Our bills & food (excl. mortgage) are about £550/m so that would leave £3,5k per year on a £10k budget. I'd aim to live on this much going forward. If you can do this until your DH's target retirement age, you will be confident you can continue doing it until state pensions kick in. A few months trial is insufficient IMO as what works on a short time frame might not necessarily work on a long one. As for state pensions, I'm of the unpopular opinion that you should not worry - you are both close enough to likely avoid any drastic cuts and if it will be means-tested in future, low assets are actually an advantage. However, you mentioned that you expect £14.5k - full state pension is £8.5k so £17k for both of you - do you have any gaps in NI contributions? I suggest registering on the HMRC website and checking your records online - it will give you expected amount, years of full/partial contributions and whether you can still make payments for the missed years.

Hazel-is-ok
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by Hazel-is-ok »

@Bankai,
Thanks for the input. I think you have a good point that a short trial of living on £10K would not be as useful as trying it longer term.
State pensions: we both have missed years of NI contributions. I have the option to make up for 2 missed years by paying £1530, which would increase my state pension by about £500 pa. I don't plan to pay, since I'm unlikely to be completely reliant on state pension anyway, as I'm very likely to inherit from my parents before then.

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Bankai
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by Bankai »

That's 32% guaranteed* annual return! If you'll be taking state pension for, say, 20 years, that £1.5k will pay over £10k.

*assuming state pension won't change drastically, this is as close to a guaranteed return as one can get.

Noedig
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by Noedig »

Interesting read Hazel. My wife was also a doctor, left because of mental stress but also because she got cancer. She is now enjoying just making stuff and concentrating on happiness - her and her large collection of self help books that I perhaps slightly perjoratively term the "Misery Library"! I FIREd this year to join her, we are both mid-50s, and it is looking sustainable: we have a somewhat higher burn rate than you though.

I admire your having made specific plans to get to where you want to be, FIREd. Also for pragmatism in giving it a trial and being aware you might have to tweak the approach.

I would urge you to somehow, save or make money to buy the missing Pension Contribution years - they really are a no brainer. Doing so would also give you some room for manoeuvre on your future budgeting. To make that recommendation is the reason I am commenting. In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger - "Do it! Do it Nauggghhhh!" (actually you have several years to do it, but you can decide to do it, now)

Best wishes with your peaceful and quiet life.

Hazel-is-ok
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Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2019 6:30 am
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by Hazel-is-ok »

Thanks @Bankai and @Noedig for the advice. When you put it like that, it makes a lot of sense. I've discussed it with DH and we're planning to buy some extra years' contributions.

Congratulations @Noedig on achieving FI this year. I'm happy to hear that your wife is enjoying her retirement. I think I probably read the whole Misery Library a few years ago!

Edit: I spoke to a financial advisor the other day. His opinion was that living mortgage-free on £10k per year was "tight, but possible." Interestingly, he said he didn't plan to retire himself, because he's seen too many people retire without planning how to spend their time, and either "go doolally" or spend all their time in the pub and become alcoholics! So he advised planning not just our finances, but our lifestyle too. Good advice.

Hazel-is-ok
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by Hazel-is-ok »

Time for an update, a year on. A couple of unexpected things happened since I started this journal last November. Soon after, DH went on a pay strike, which lasted for 12 weeks. Then C-19 came along, and he was at home again for another 4 months.

Happily, our financial plan to build up enough money to live on till we get state pension, is still on track, thanks to support from DH's union during the strike, and from the UK government's furlough scheme, which provided 80% of his usual pay. It also gave us a taster of how it might be to both be at home full time. We got on ok after a period of readjustment.

We have increased our savings rate, following a suggestion @Bankai, and have cut our spending budget from £14.5K to £11.5K, as a trial run for living on £10K in retirement. We have found it surprisingly easy, and I don't know how we used to spend £18.5K each year previously! We seem to adapt quite quickly to having less to spend. Ideally we would live on £10K now, but there are some things we don't want to cut back on yet.

We are making more savings now that DH is making additional voluntary contributions (AVC) to his pension, giving him extra tax relief, and surprisingly his employers have increased their contributions too.

In addition I have a new hobby: matched betting, which has made me over £4000 tax-free profit in the last year. It is unlikely to be sustainable long term, but will probably be profitable for at least another year. I enjoy the mental challenge.

Food-wise, we will have spent much less on vegetables this year, as we got an allotment in the spring, 5 minutes walk from home. We had been on the waiting list for 3 years. It was rather daunting at the beginning, as there are 300 square metres, and we hadn't had much growing experience before. But we have had an abundant supply of potatoes, tomatoes and beetroot, and a good amount of salad stuff and other vegetables, and some pears.

As well as the food benefits, it's turned out to be a fun thing to learn and do together, great exercise, and an excellent distraction when DH was very stressed over C-19, and then grieving the death of his best friend. It's tucked away in a corner, and my home-made bench is a peaceful spot to sit and just enjoy nature, if you're not working.

So we're still planning for DH to retire in July 2021 at age 57. He doesn't enjoy his job, and now he also worries that he'll catch C-19 there and die. (He's not at high risk.) Many of his co-workers live pay-cheque to pay-cheque, and have a lot of money worries. We feel very fortunate to be in the financial position we are, no rent or mortgage, and almost ready to pull the plug.

We will probably down-size to a smaller house at some point. Originally we planned to move back to the village where we rented a cottage previously, but we have found an even better location now. A little hilltop village a few miles away, which has few people, great walks and wonderful open countryside views, but has more facilities, including several shops, a library and a couple of pubs. House prices are good there too.

Hazel-is-ok
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by Hazel-is-ok »

We did it! DH and I are now both retired. He took voluntary redundancy at Christmas, when his job was being re-located.

There has been plenty of celebrating :-)

Alphaville
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by Alphaville »

Congrats & happy new year!

ertyu
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by ertyu »

Congratulations!!!! Let us all know how it's going and what changes you're noticing

fingeek
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by fingeek »

Woohoo congratulations! Enjoy and keep us updated :)

sky
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by sky »

Congratulations! You made it! Welcome to the other side!

Western Red Cedar
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

That is such great news! I love to see these posts. Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy future.

Frita
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by Frita »

I am so happy for you and your spouse. Things came together quicker than planned. Very cool!

frihet
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Re: Hazel-is-ok's Freedom Journal

Post by frihet »

Congratulations! Wishing you a happy and long retirement. Fun that you mentioned matched betting as a new hobby. I also did it some years ago. Remember people saying then that it wasn’t sustainable long term. Nice to see that it’s still possible.

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