Planning for retirement

24 March 2015
Dear friends, I've opened the Simple, Green Frugal Co-op blog again. I started the blog back in 2008 with a group of bloggers I invited to join me. When things got busy, I retired it but now it's back with its unique take on simple life.  Click here to go there.

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I unintentionally fell into retirement when I stopped working because my head was about to explode. When I tried to reorganise my world so I spent less, one thing lead to another, everything started getting better and I never returned to work; I was in my mid-50s. Even though my retirement wasn't planned, it's been the most wonderful time for me with my family. I don't think I really thought about retirement before I realised I'd retired but I have to say, it's the golden treasure at the end of the working rainbow. Hanno planned his retirement and we'd paid of our debts before he retired but after retirement, he was bored so he bought a little shop in Montville and worked another six years.

This isn't where you'll be most of the time.  : - )

Being self-employed all those years, I only had a small superannuation package because there was always something else to spend the money on. Had we not been debt-free, there would have been no way I could have thought about retiring when I did. Now we're both on the pension and because we don't pay rent, have paid off the mortgage and have no other debt, we save a couple of hundred dollars every fortnight. And we live well. Our friends think we should travel but we're content being here and doing what we do. We might go for a trip to Tasmania and Victoria next year after the new book is out but that will be it. There will be no flying holidays and no extravagance.

We taught ourselves to be frugal because we could see that if we cut our living expenses, we would have a good life using our time wisely. I suppose we swapped working for a living for working for a life. We became much more productive at home and made a lot of the things we used to buy, and that made all the difference. That's one of the wonderful things about retirement, you have time. Your time to do as you wish. So if it is your wish to cut expenses, look for bargains and be more productive at home, you'll have the time it takes to do all it. And instead of being one of the people who feel useless in retirement, you can take control of your life and lead it to places unexpected.

There is a trap a lot of us fall into, and I fell too. And that is not taking retirement seriously, not making a retirement plan and not making your own estimate of how much money you'll need. The way we live doesn't fit into the mainstream estimates because a lot of our value and assets is in the work we do. And that's extremely difficult to plan for because you don't know how fit you'll be and how much you'll be able to take on yourself. My only advice is to judge your future in part on how you are today. If you've been healthy most of your life and plan to live the way we do, be optimistic and believe you can do the work. If there's some doubt, be more cautious.

You need to be doing this from when you first start working and although I don't think you need the amount of money our governments tell us we need, you do need enough to cover the kind of lifestyle you wish to live in retirement. So if you want to travel, you'll have to factor that in to your retirement estimate but if you're content to travel locally, then stay at home, you'll need much less. Don't forget, if you are very young now, you might not have the benefit of a pension so this long term planning is vital for you.

So what are the other things that can be planned along the way?
  • Pay down your debt as quickly as you can. Once you've done that, you can start saving or adding more to your retirement fund. Don't put all your eggs in one basket either. I know a couple of people who lost half their retirement savings during the GFC because all their investments were in real estate. Diversify, use your common sense and treat this money like it's your lifeline, because it is.
  • If you think you'll move before you retire, do it well before hand. There are a lot of things you can do in your own home to help you stay fit and healthy long into your old age. Things like fences, solar panels, vegetable gardens, chickens and bee hives. So if you need to move or you want to make those modifications to help you when you've retired, do it beforehand, not afterwards. You'll have the money for it and the energy to do the work yourself.
  • Learn how to cook, sew, mend, recycle, garden, ferment, knit, fish, and as much about the maintenance on your house and car as you possibly can.
  • Make a budget that you can live on and put your savings to work. Then menu plan, stockpile, shop for bargains, bake and do as much for yourself as you can before you retire. If you're using those skills when they're not essential, you'll adjust to retirement more easily.
  • Try to live near your family or connect with your community so you have a support system around you. Stay healthy and fit and in your own home for as long as possible.  Despite the scaremongering, most people live out their lives in their own homes, not in retirement homes. The more you can prepare for a long life at home, the more successful you will be.
  • Remain interested and involved and don't believe that older people can't do much. There isn't much respect for older folk now but don't ever let that stop you doing what you want, when you want to do it. 
  • Make your own rules.
This is a question for all the stay at home mums and dads out there: Do you have a retirement plan that includes savings or insurance? I think most people will say no but it's an important part of our life's planning. The unexpected does happen and you have to be prepared for it. If you are working at home and have made plans for your financial future, please share  how you've done that.

There is some excellent information here about retirement for Australians. Even if you're 30, it's essential reading.  Information about getting ready for retirement. And here is a retirement planner, it's an Australian government product so don't worry about investment people harassing you after you fill it in. It's confidential and very helpful. Again, for every age and even if you don't live in Australia, it will give you some good ideas.


  1. It's good to see there are other retirees who like being home, not discovering the world. I've gotten a lot of flack for liking my home and not travel. I love my simple life and that I can decide what I want to do all of the time. I've slowed down a bit, but I still do things I have always done.

  2. So glad you re-opened the Green Frugal Co-op blog!

    And thanks for sharing this subject matter. Me and my partner are both in our 40's and we do save some money for later on. Even though we don't have much money to spend, every penny is worth saving. We don't own a house, we live in an apartment, have no garden, but we do grow some of our own vegetables. Again: every penny saved.. And it works!

    Have a lovely and healthy week!

    Love from Holland

  3. WONDERFUL post ! I've shared it on my Facebook page as I think a LOT of my friends and family would benefit from reading it. We want to down size to a smaller home before we retire as we know there is no way we will be able to maintain the bills associated with this house when we retire. There are a lot of repairs to be made and we are plugging away at them but it is going to take time. Your post got me to thinking we better get this move onto paper where we can management all the projects more easily. Thank You!

  4. Even small steps amount to much larger things over time. As I only work part time out of the home I worry about my super. I now contribute an extra $10 after tax every pay (fortnight). It's a small amount but one I can contribute without noticing and it compounds over time. I also used a Government calculator to determine whether I should contribute pre or post tax and it works out best for me if I contribute after and better for my husband to contribute before. It's worth taking a couple of minutes to figure out what baby-steps you can take and putting them in place straight away. I certainly feel so much happier knowing I've taken some sort of action towards boosting my super.

  5. I retired early due to stress and we try to live frugally partly out of habit from when we had to but also partly to boost savings for future use as well as treating ourselves with a light lunch out on our walking days. I love thinking and living frugally, it is challenging sometimes but we enjoy that as well. Some think we should use our savings on things but we know if my hubby died, I would need those savings to live until my own small pension kicks in. Our son and his wife take note of what we do and are starting to be frugally like minded.

  6. My MIL lives in a beautiful home, wears beautiful clothes, drives a gorgeous car, travels and eats the most delicious food - most assume she is well-heeled.
    The facts are that every single thing in her house is second hand, all her beautiful clothes are from the op shop, she has a handwritten expense journal that she fills in every evening, the savings she makes from her frugality she uses it to travel (her thing). The truth is she also only has the pension and is thriving. I can be done.

  7. I'm 30 and have been out of paid work (but working as a SAHM!) for the past 4.5 years. I was sort of thrown in to it. I had been working part-time in retail, but when my eldest daughter was 18 months old my mother suddenly got very ill and my work wouldn't allow me flexibility within my shifts to help care for her. My husband and I did the sums and with the cost of childcare we calculated we weren't THAT much better off with me working to deal with the crap my employer was giving. So I left.

    I can safely say I have no concrete financial plans for retirement. My husband has worked full time since he was 18, and he is now close to 40, so he would have super built up. I do have a super account, but I doubt there is much in there, as I was always working part-time and studying in some capacity until we started having kids.

    I guess my one security is my father. He is a BIG planner in all aspects of life, and my sister and I are the sole beneficiaries of his estate (my mother passed away 2.5 years ago). He's by no means a millionaire, but as I will one day inherit half of his property and insurances etc, I guess in my head that is my contribution to our retirement fund.

    I am very interested to read of others' more concrete plans.

  8. Being unable to work due to illness does make me concerned for our retirement but we are paying off our mortgage as much as we can and have no other debt. I thank the stars I stumbled across this simple way of life and at least I feel excited and not hot and clammy with anxiety thinking about what will I possibly do to fill in my at least I know that I can quite easily and happily ~ now that is a blessing!
    Warm regards, Jan x

  9. And sometimes these changes happen well before retirement! In my line of work I see many women, of all ages, who are going through the devastation of separation, divorce or becoming an unexpected widow who, on top of the psychological struggles have to deal with financial struggles. Financial literacy, ensuring that we pay attention to actual costs of living and live within our means, and encouraging women to have a say in these issues is so important, and something that in Australia is undervalued.

    Something I am passionate about that can help this in some small way is ensuring that home economics is kept as a subject in schools. Basic sewing, cooking and budgeting skills were taught to me between the ages of 13-16 that I still use today. On reflection I was lucky to have these classes, with many friends of mine not given this opportunity in school!

  10. Hello Rhonda dear.. Another very informative post.. I agree that the retirement years are wonderful.. Especially when your spouse has common interests and you both work together and enjoy life the way you want to do it.. We are not into travelling, either but some people think that unless you are travelling then you are not enjoying your life.. We are so opposite in that regard.. We love our home and cottage or whatever and just love living our lives the way we do.. Your food and garden look wonderful as always and thanks so much for linking up to me last post.. Wonderful traffic.. smile.. xo

  11. Great, Rhonda. I especially love the 'stay interested' component because too many people think that retirement planning is just about finances. I've noticed that when pending retirees don't think about what will give their life meaning after paid work, they are much more prone to depression and/or relationship conflict. I get quite frustrated listening to folks who plan to move to where they usually holiday, and do what they do on holiday, everyday. There's only so much golf you can play. Retirement isn't 'annual leave but longer' and deserves some serious planning to avoid the 'reason for getting out of bed' gap that afflicts many retirees.

  12. We are around our 50's now and we are only now thinking more about our retirement. I wish we had been told and shown how to be ready for retirement alot earlier in our marriage. We are working hard to get our home paid off and then we will start saving for our next vehicle. I am hoping we will have enough saved by then to continue being debt free.
    We will continue to find simple and frugal ways to stay debt free once we do retire.

  13. Hello Rhonda,
    I love reading your blog and I am making some healthy changes to our lifestyle in retirement. My retirement was planned but came a bit early because of illness and I decided to give up work and concentrate on my health and although I will have to take medication probably for the rest of my life I feel so much better without the stress of work. Our garden is not full of vegetables but I do have a herb garden, lots of flowers, and a lovely native garden with lots of birds. We do like to travel, but not overseas, and are happy that we did some overseas holidays when our children left home, and now we enjoy seeing Australia. Our garden is manageable and I buy fruit and vegetables from local markets and this year have made sauce, chutney, pickled onions and relish from old recipes from my mother's books. I find I am never bored at home but some of our friends say that they will never retire. I think that is because they don't have any interests or hobbies. We were able to pay our mortgage off many years before our retirement and that has definitely helped our financial situation. Many people, including financial advisors, think that you need a lot of money in retirement, but we have found it is not the case as you said, you can actually save some money. Thanks for your blog.

  14. I had to retire unexpectedly over ten years ago. Not much money to go round now and as l am not able to save, there will be even less when l turn 67. Planning for old age is i my mind although some years ahead. My body functions like that of a person decades older and is always full of cramps, spasms and pain. How does one plan ahead? I take a day at a time. A simpler way of life is somewhat of a passion for me, thank goodness. My husband and l see eye to eye on these things, luckily, and enjoy simple pleasures (like canning, even washing up). The environmental aspect of a simpler life is very important to me, l was brought up that way and l would choose that lifestyle regardless of health. Wish we could save a little though, and not just make ends meet. Pam

  15. A strange thing here in Norway, is that noone ever talks about being dept free. It doesn't pay off financially they say, as you miss out on the tax deduction, therefore always have a certain amount of debt. Makes me wonder, sounds consume-related to me. Pam

  16. We retired due to the economy and layoffs, we were able to be debt free and live on the pension, I would really stress having plans for things to keep you busy after you retire as there are so many people who retire, sit down and die! There is a silly amount of worship these days of spontaneity, but retirement requires planning!!

  17. Hi Rhonda,

    I was just reading that the biggest percentage of people living below the poverty line in Australia today are the elderly, and of those elderly over half a million are elderly women - single women are particularly vulnerable.

    This concerns me as a single, late forties woman in the mortgage and kids stage of life, as I have little super due to a combination of self-employment and taking time off to rear kids. I also lived in Sydney during my early working life, and the cost of housing ate up most of my income.

    So your post today was a timely reminder. My current goal is to keep reducing the mortgage as fast as possible, but another reader has inspired me to put a bit more into retirement savings - even if it's tiny. I have hesitated to do this before due to the cost of this stage of life, and the fact that superannuation laws are always changing, and your savings can disappear in a financial crisis, as they did for many during the GFC.

    This is certainly an issue which I lose sleep over, as it seems almost impossible to put aside more money on top of the extra mortgage repayments. We already live a fairly simple life, and I've taken on extra work this year even though it's meant less time in the garden. The financial reality is that the cost of food, housing, health etc...keep rising. I wonder how other women in my position are planning for the future?


  18. Hi Rhonda
    I have been thinking about retiring a lot recently so I have found this post very interesting. I have just turned 50 so will be working for a few more years yet. I wish I had thought about it more seriously 10 years ago - it all seemed so far away then! However I am not worried about it. I figure you make do with what you have and I know we certainly don't need a million in super as some commentators suggest!! I'd like to think we will be working part time within ten years time (maybe earlier) and I am really looking forward to having more time to do the things I love. I figure the next few years are about saving and developing more skills - we are doing a feta workshop this weekend! I love being able to cook frugal meals and so much easier when you have more time to grow more of the ingredients. I think where you live is so important too - your home needs to work for you - whether it be providing food or giving you space to cook and sew. I've thought about the possibility of taking in short term borders if we need extra money in retirement as our house lends itself to dual living - sort of. So if having a border for 8 weeks pays the rates or insurance I would do that. We like to travel and camping is a really cheap way to see Australia. I love the ideas I get from your blog and books - my retirement and pre retirement will definitely include soap making!

  19. Is there a way to get updates from the reopened blog via email?

    1. Just go there Sandy and sign up for the email.

  20. It's funny how things work out. When I set up my 403B back in the early 90's I told my financial advisor that I wanted to retire at age 55. Time passed. I continued my work as a Critical Care Nurse and Nursing Supervisor, feeling the stress and burnout and longing to join my husband on our farm but afraid to let go. Then on the morning of August 12, 2013 I awoke at 330 in the morning unable to move my left side! I had a stroke! 3 months of rehab constantly pushing my way forward and finally in November my Doctor approved for me to go back to work part time and advance to full time as able. The hospital where I had worked for 26 years would not take me back with those restrictions and replaced me! I was shattered but in the end this was a blessing in disguise! Because I was 55 I could draw off my 403 B with out penalty so I took part of the money and invested in rental properties so I would have a steady retirement income and now I am able to do what I always have longed to do - help my husband on our farm. We raise steers and grown corn for silage to sell as well as local produce for sell. I am in a state of contentment which comes from taking control of my own household and working outside and listening to birdsong as I go. Is it easy?, No, not always.{our cattle got out yesterday and went running down the highway so we had to round them up}. Is it fulfilling? yes. There is no substitute for a well ordered, well run household and setting food on the table that came from what you produced.yourself.
    Also, at this point in my life a don't have any great desire to travel either. I live in the mountains of western NC and there is so much beauty here and if I want culture, the city of Asheville is near by and has a lot to offer\
    Oh, I also forgot to mention that we have no debt to speak of. We paid off our house along time ago and have managed to keep debt minimal for farm equipment etc. That makes a huge difference.
    By the way, I love reading this blog! It is very inspirational!

    1. Well hello neighbor! I live down the mountain and about 17 miles into SC! You have no need to travel since you live where so many long to go. We are blessed to be able to run up there on the weekends and enjoy your beautiful area. My in-laws lived in Balsam Grove for many years and we had such wonderful visits to their home. Do you have a farm stand that we might pass in our travels when we visit up there?

  21. I retired as soon as I was allowed by my state pension with 25 years of service. We had saved carefully and the last two years I worked we lived off the amount of money we knew we would have after I retired just to make sure we could do it. The amazing thing is our expenses have gone down because we don't need to "treat" ourselves as much to compensate for the job stress. I love your phrase: working for a living or working for a life. Thanks for all the time and energy you put into the blog.

  22. One of the things that I have very much appreciated about your blog is that you think about retirement in a very broad way. Many people only think about the money that they'll need to retire, but you also talk about the very important things like home maintenance and setting up a home that will require less physical work as you age. This is so, so important! So are the concepts of developing habits and skills that you can take with you into retirement to help you both enjoy life and live independently. Thank you for including those things in this very important conversation.

  23. This is really a wonderful post.

  24. I am so glad that I found your blog when I was younger. I didn't expect to need to have both hips replaced at age 50. What a shock! That changed everything with my work and income. However, since I had been living this lifestyle for so long, things fell into place. I had a year's living expenses in savings, which I needed. My cottage was set up well for recuperating. I am now back into growing food, housekeeping, taking care of the animals, and blogging. I feel like your blog posts set me up for my future. (especially paying off the home and getting out of debt.) It also gave me the courage to finally make soap, and now that is a side business for me. You never know what the future holds. It is so important to be prepared.

  25. I just wanted to thank you for the posts on retirement. I have printed a few off for my dad who is planning to retire in a year or so and has no idea what to do then. These have really helped him, he is now talking about getting solar to reduce his bills and doing work around the house to prepare for later in life.



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