Simple living in retirement

22 April 2010
When you think about it, the only time we working and middle class people get to do exactly what we want everyday is when we retire or when we're on holiday/vacation.  I guess we have a fairly free and easy life in childhood and as a teenager, but then there are people telling us what to do and when to do it.  Retirement, whenever it happens, is all about freedom.  It's the freedom to do exactly what you choose to do each day, the freedom of time, and even though the weekly wage stops, if you've gone through several simple decades, and arrive at retirement's door with no debt, no mortgage, a roof over your head, money in the bank, some investments or a pension, you'll be fine.  There may be a few upheavals and you'll have to get used to a slower pace to your days but life in your 60s and I'm hoping beyond it as well, is wonderful.  I have never been happier than I am now.  

Things are different when you retire.  Many of your expenses  drop, your priorities change and you'll have time to bargain shop and to make a lot of the things you used to pay someone to make for you.  Depending on where you live and what benefits your government gives its seniors, you'll have to look at your budget now and make all the changes necessary.  For instance, in Australia, when you're on an old age pension, you get goverment discounts on your property rates, ambulance, telelphone, pharmacy costs etc.  Hanno and I decided to keep our private health insurance, even though it's very expensive, it gives us peace of mind to know that we can get medical help, choose our own doctors and go to hospital if we need to without having to go on a waiting list.  

Before you sit down to redo your budget, find out exactly what you're entitled to and claim it - it's one of the many reasons you've been paying tax all these long years - now you get a few pay offs.  There are other benefits too - just yesterday I parked my car in a seniors parking spot for the very first time. It was close to the front door of the place I was going to.  I felt like a bit of a fraud to tell you the truth, but the sign said "senior parking" I am a senior so I parked there.  Nice.  Check out the businesses in your area as well because many give seniors' discounts.

In the months before you retire, start thinking about what you'll do on a daily basis.  If you've always gone out to work, you might find it difficult to adjust but if you decide on your activities, whether they be home-based, volunteer-based or out in the community at a club or library, if you have something planned, you won't be sitting there on the first day wondering what to do.  As you all know, Hanno and I are as busy as we want to be.  We decided that we would use our retirement to provide as much for ourselves as we could.  That involves all sorts of home-based tasks like maintenance, gardening, cooking, baking, recycling and mending.  Living like this gives us variety and interest to our days and even though we've been working away here for several years now, it still feels fresh.  We take breaks whenever we want them, we take days off and sometimes we take ourselves out in the car for an outing. It's a peaceful and rewarding life full of the enrichment that comes from being self reliant and independent.

 Wash day for Alice.

Of course we do some voluntary work too.  I am the coordinater of our local neighbourhood centre and Hanno drives the bus there.  He collects food in the bus from the Foodbank in Brisbane and takes our seniors out on shopping trips and excursions.  If you have the chance to do some voluntary work, grab the opportunity with both hands because, in my experience, it has been rewarding and life changing.

Pass on what you know.  I believe it is my duty as an older woman to pass on what I know to those younger.  Older people are our connection to the past and if we don't tap into that, many skills and memories will be lost.  If you still have great grandparents, grandparents or parents living, ask them about YOUR history.  Even if you're not interested now, I guarantee you there will come a day when you will be interested and if your loved ones are gone then, you will never know.   Write down what they tell you so you can pass your family history on to your children.

And speaking of history, get rid of everything in your home that you don't need.  Ask your family if they want that second or third set of dinner ware.  Donate old clothes to charity. Clear out your cupboards so you can let more life in.

Stay active and look after your health because things can come back to bite you in your 60s and 70s.  I have been lucky so far and haven't had any health issues and I am confident that I'll be out in the backyard when I'm in my 80s, yelling out: "Hanno bring me the camera please. There are new birds here!"  Keep cooking from scratch and eating wholesome food.  Even if it's only one of you, it's important that you eat well.

Many people have an unrealistic idea of old age.  They think we oldies are helpless and feeble and not capable of much.  Well, I'm here to tell you that the majority of us are just fine and dandy, thank you.  We may not be able to lift what we once did and we may be taking naps in the afternoon (I am), but we're still waking up every morning eager to get stuck in to our tasks and to get as much from the day as we can.  Don't be scared of aging.  It has many rewards, and retirement, and the freedom that comes with it, is one of  life's golden eggs.

PS.  Go here and read Sonya's excellent post on learning and losing life skills.  I am happy to tell you that Sonya is coming to my home this morning to learn how to knit.  No doubt we'll talk of other matters too.  We all have to do this.  If you know someone who wants to learn something you know how to do, offer to teach.  It's the only way.


  1. Retirement is the best thing we ever did for ourselves. And I'm busier (in other ways) than when I was working 12 hours days. I do a little consulting work on the side for pocket money, but we both have a pension income that meets our needs and allows us to keep adding to our savings and investments (for when we "really" get old). After retirement we took a huge step and moved to a different country. We both we born and lived in the States but wanted to live a simpler off the grid life in Canada. That was the second best thing we did for ourselves. - Margy

  2. Rhonda,
    You are amazing!! Thanks so much for sharing. It is so wonderful to read about how wonderful the "senior years" can be with careful planning.


  3. Rhonda I truly LOL when I read about you in your 80s asking Hanno for the camera. Have a wonderful time with Sonya this morning and thanks for the link to her blog.

  4. oh Rhonda how I wish I could bring my knitting to your house this morning to sit and knit with you girls. I could bring my girls too, the younger one is a great knitter but I'm struggling to teach the older one, maybe if she sat with you and Sonya she would be able to learn how as well.
    Have a wonderful morning.

    cheers Kate

  5. I am not retired, but I have not worked in almost 10 years. Not that my hubby makes very much, he doesn't, but we have had several life changes happen. I have taken care of several family members over the years, and I can agree with you. It is a matter of taking care of yourself, and doing what you love. My 92 almost 93 year old grandmother still loves her garden. She really can't do that much anymore, but she is still outside busting up dirt with her cane! To prepare for retirement who knows what will be offered for those my age and a little younger. So much is changing these days. But as you say preparing as best as we are able is a good thing. I always enjoy reading your posts as they truly hit home. Enjoy your retirement days!

  6. Oh yes! Do plan to keep your health as well as possible so when you do get to retirement age you will have the body to enjoy it. If while you are workig you have insurance or the means to get all the physical things taken care of do so! If you need therapy for a bad arm do it and don't let it get worse and need an operation! Keep your self limber and strong and do keep your bones strong with strength exercises and such. You will never regret it. Don't put off what needs doing health wise. Go into retirement as strong as possible. Who wants to use that great time to be at the doctors using up your $ and time when you could be in the garden!! :)

  7. Rhonda, you and Hanno, remind me so much of our next door neighbours. They are both well into their seventy's (and don't look a day over fifty) and are still both very active. They do all their own house and yard work and 'Uncle F' even makes his own bio-diesel. They are a big inspiration to me, just as you both are. And I totally agree with the keeping active once you retire, Dad has done this and is busier then when he farmed. My Grandfather retired, after 50 years in the same job, and then just stopped doing anything. His health went down hill very fast, so I'm all in favour of keeping as active as possible. Enjoy the rest of your week.

    Cheers, Deb

  8. Hi Rhonda,

    I totally agree that it is important to pass on skills to the next generation. I am still in my twenties, but am too aware that older people know a lot of things that books can't teach you. For example, I learn a lot from people at the community gardens, about how to grow and plant certain types of veg, and will take even more time now to learn from them, since one of my neighbours at the gardens has passed away at age 89 and I realise how much knowledge and skills he has taken with him.

    I also learn a lot from you, it is life changing!


  9. Just look at those arms on Hanno! They belong on a 20 something which just goes to show how important it is to stay active in retirement. I think that really is the key to happiness in senior years - you can either stay active and lead a fulfilling life or choose to sit in a chair all day and atrophy.


  10. Dear Rhonda

    I read your blog daily, even if I don't often comment because english is a foreign language for me, but I want to thank you for those posts about simple living along the life. They are great and very useful, thank you !
    Regards from France

  11. Great to read about what I'm working towards. Post note; I found a copy of Nourishing Traditions in the library quite by accident. It’s different to what I was expecting; rather ‘new agey’ and a bit daunting as I haven’t any previous experience with fermented foods. But I'm going to pick a few recipes to start giving it a go. Did you also have this same reaction to begin with, or did you know some recipes already from your time in Germany? Also, I'm glad you took the carpark, that made me laugh :)

  12. Dear Rhonda Jean, I hope you don't mind me leaving a comment here for Sonja but for some reason I was unable to on her blog. Many thanks

    Sonja you sound like my type of woman.
    I was born at eh end of the 60's was a teen in the 80's stumbled through the 90's and in the new millennium it dawned on me that time was racing and my skills bank was lacking. I could do a few basics but nothing like my late aunt who was a married woman during the war years could. I then found myself crying, feeling sorry for myself as she had gone and all that knowledge and passion she had was gone. Betty was the type of woman you could give lard and sand to and she would produce a grand 3 course chicken dinner with extras. I then realised that I was the youngest of a large but now woefully depleted family(my grand father being born in 1895) and I would have to teach myself . When I looked around there wasn't anyone I could ask and those of my generation as you have said were ripped off. Even though the core of me always was and remains so a home maker I had to think hard about what I remembered learning from an aunt and a grandmother and trying to apply it to what I was able to do and slowly things have borne fruit. Sadly there are no female children to pass this one two and the nephews I have are from the tec generation and are not interested.
    But still Will do my best to keep my corner of things going.
    Great great post you made me think all over again.
    Thank you for that

  13. There are days when I am seriously looking forward to retirement. I have one week off work at the beginning of May and my list of what I want to do around my home is growing.

    I love puttering around my home.

  14. I love your comment about passing on what you know. I chose to attend a bible study at church that was primarily women with grandchildren, even though I'm a young married with no kids yet. I want to learn from them, listen to them, and draw from their experience. Its an odd thing, here in the States, but I think its is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. I wish I knew more older-than-me women, so I had more sources of learning!

  15. Thank you for the encouragement Rhonda! I am teaching knitting to my 3 kids and have been trying to teach my neice, too. Some things you just can't learn from a book. I love that you do not pass on a spirit of fear of aging but a wonderful anticipation of life to come. We need that in our culture.

  16. I will be returning to this particular post time and time again (as well as looking at the related ones suggested at the end of it).

    Meanwhile, this ONE line will guide me in the immediate future! "Clear out your cupboards so you can let more life in."

  17. What a genuine blessing this whole series has been. At 51, I only wish I would have had access to the whole series at 21! :-) We have been living pro-actively in our health & life-style choices for at least the past 4 yrs, & ESPECIALLY NOW w/it looking like the gov't will SADLY take over our health care. So, so very sad. We, & most ppl we know, are trying to do all we can to live as long as we can w/o it, since we won't be able to depend upon it anymore.

    Blessings from Ohio/USA, Kim<><

  18. Sheila, North Wales. UKApril 24, 2010 8:13 am

    Whilst we are a good 15 years off retirement yet, I am a full-time Mum and I love being at home and am grateful to have been able to do so whilst our 2 children are growing up. But I have noticed that I have been lazy over most of this time,(though believe me this is now changing slowly but surely!) lazy in as much as relying on ready-made meals, and getting people in to do certain jobs. After reading both your blog & Sonya's too, I thought back to when I was living alone on very little income and actually taught myself to knit & sew (tho' my eldest sister had taught me the basics of sewing, bless her) and made many things to wear. But I haven't carried this through to my time as a Mother, perhaps I should think about re-kindling the interest?
    What suprised me recently was how much I had learned from my own Mother from her fantastic baking days because although I hadn't baked in many, many years, we as a family baked a sponge cake and choc/fudge cake together recently and they were superb! But as we were doing this, I kept remembering little bit n' bobs that came to mind that my Mum did and had obviously taught me and had remained with me. In this world that we live in, full of convenience and no "spare-time" in our treadmill lives, these sort of skills are being lost, I think its sad but I am determined now that both my daughter AND son are going to learn them.
    Thank you to both Rhonda & Sonya for their posts today! :-)

  19. Rhonda
    I have absolutely loved reading your Simple living through the different decades series. They have been insightful and so creative. I am a stay-at-home mom in my thirties and I gain so much from your articles. You remind me of my Grandmother, who passed on several years ago. Everytime I read your articles, its like getting a little taste of the life she loved and how I wished I had been able to sit and have her teach me to knit, and garden, and bake bread. Thank you for putting this site on the internet, it really blesses me and encourages me in the life I want to lead.

  20. Retirement is one of those mixed bags of worms that I never know exactly how I feel about it. I have always felt that I would rather continue to work throughout my life (albeit maybe 3-4 days a week rather than 5) and I have never truly understood the concept of retirement as our society deems it. Shouldn't we work at jobs that we love and/or are well skilled at but with enough hours that we fill satisfied but still have time to enjoy our other passions too and continue to do this throughout our entire lifetime? I find this a great option in comparison to working too hard for 35-45 years and then stopping work and entering retirement. I have also always toyed with the idea of working full time for two to three consecutive years, then taking a year off to travel or explore a new passion living off of savings, and then entering back into the workforce after another year or two. Might be different ways of approaching the concept but interesting all the same I think?


Comments with links or email addresses won't be published. All spam and business advertising will be deleted.

Children read my blog so I always make sure the information here is family-friendly. I don't publish comments containing links or email addresses now because I don't have time to check them.

All comments in English, please. Thank you.