This week, I’m at a blogger conference where I’ll be schmoozing, presenting, meeting, greeting and beering. Very busy. While I’m away, I thought it would be fun to support some other bloggers. Today, please enjoy Burning Desire For Fire.
Hi everyone! I’ll preface this by saying that I’ve tried to change the spelling in this post to American spelling, even though it does great violence to my feelings to do this. I’m an English teacher and correct spelling is like mother’s milk to us. If, however, a word has slipped in that looks wrong to you wild and crazy Americans, I apologise. Oops. I apologize.
Why did you start your blog?
I found the personal finance blog space maybe 3 or 4 years ago, after being a blogger since 2007. I started reading voraciously, but after a while it became obvious that this corner of the internet is saturated with 20/30-something bloggers, mainly male (though more women are sneaking in), with either no kids or small kids.
What about the people like me, who found out about this stuff later in life? Who was writing from our perspective? And surely there are things we older people have learned along the way that the younger bloggers can learn from? I know that hearing that “you can retire at 30” is pretty de-motivating when you’re already way past that age.
I kept feeling like I should start a blog, but I kept pushing the thought away because life is busy enough. But I think there were one too many whippersnappers telling me how to pay off my mortgage when they hadn’t even managed it themselves, (and I had), or how to attain a 7 figure net worth that they themselves hadn’t yet achieved, (and I had), and that pushed me over the edge. I started “Burning Desire For FI/RE’ on one of the last days of the school year.
What is one post that you’ve written that you wish would have gone viral?
I guess the correct answer would be: “This one?” However, assuming this one is a given, here’s another one.
Very soon after starting the FI/RE blog, Rockstar Finance opened up the first ‘Rockstar Rumble’, a competition for personal finance blog posts. I nearly didn’t enter, because my blog was so new, but I’d written a post about how to educate children/young adults about compound interest that I thought was pretty readable. I entered and ended up winning the competition! I was so proud – not bad for an Australian female elderly blogger! I was hoping Rockstar Finance would feature it so the idea could go out and reach lots of people who could try it out for themselves. That didn’t happen, but I hope people end up finding it and tweaking my idea to suit their circumstances.
Where do you live? Do you love it, hate it or just meh. Do you rent or own? What are your thoughts on home ownership?
I absolutely adore my home! In my blogs, I call it The Best House In Melbourne and it truly is. Home ownership has been the key for me to catch up to everyone else my age after a divorce that flattened me financially, while taking 10 years out of the workforce to raise my 4 sons while they were preschoolers didn’t exactly see the money come rolling in.
When you leave your husband with literally $60 cash, a 100K mortgage you both share and 4 boys under 6 to look after, security becomes extremely important to you. I was adamant that the boys and I needed a secure base to operate from and it needed to be one that no one could take from us. I managed to keep the house by paying out my husband, then I slowly paid it off on my own on a teacher’s salary, (written about in this post), and I held onto it for 21 years. We paid 136K for it in 1996.
In the intervening years, Melbourne experienced one of the biggest property booms in the world. The beauty of being interested in Personal Finance means that you become aware of when opportunity knocks. A year ago, I sold that property, including fully approved plans for what you in the US would call a luxury duplex, for 1.7 million dollars.
After paying out my property developer friend, I was left with enough money to pay for The Best House in Melbourne in cash for 750K, with a sizeable nest egg to put towards retirement. If I hadn’t thought to make that deal, I was on track to have a net worth of around 500K at retirement age, which in Australia is 69, and also be reliant on the Age Pension (shudder). Instead, I’m hoping to retire before 60 with over double that nest egg and be a fully funded retiree.
My paid-off little house in an excellent school zone bought me around 10 years of freedom.
What do you do for a living?
I’m an English and Theatre Studies teacher in a government secondary school. I teach the funnerest subjects!
How old are you and do you have a family?
Well, that’s a personal question! Luckily I’m not vain. I’m 55 and I have 4 sons. I had 4 boys in 5 years, because I’m goal-oriented and I was aiming for a girl. However, I know when I’m beaten, so since then we’ve had female pets to even the balance.
I’ve always been a dog person – I used to breed and show Cavalier King Charles Spaniels before I started breeding humans – and I’ve always had at least 2 Cavaliers around since then. Nowadays, we live with Poppy and Jeff, who are 6-year-old Cavalier littermates, and 2-year-old Scout, who is a miniature wire-haired dachshund. It’s her face I use as the face of Frogdancer Jones.
Is your goal financial independence? If so, where are you on the journey?
It certainly is. I shudder at the thought of having to ask my boys for help paying bills when I’m old and doddery. Old Lady Frogdancer will want to maintain her independence at all costs. At the moment, I’d classify myself as being at Lean FI. I could support myself on my current figures, but Old Lady Frogdancer is sure to be a demanding old soul. I know that she’ll want to travel the globe, so current Frogdancer has to keep working.
Do you tell others of your FIRE plans or are you in the closet?
Everyone knows. There’s a couple of people at work who are getting interested in retirement and investing, and one of our proudest moments was when we persuaded a couple of ‘spendy’ people in the staffroom to start salary sacrificing into their retirement accounts. All they were doing was just letting the 9% that employers in Australia have to pay into our superannuation, go in without topping it up with any of their own money. All that’s changed now!
My sister thinks I’m mad, and that I’m sacrificing current pleasures for a future that may never come. “What do you think you’ll DO all day?” Still, she says that she’s resigned to the fact that she’ll be working till the day she dies, which doesn’t sound like an enticing plan to me. So I’ll keep on throwing my money at investments.
What is the best thing you ever bought? The worst?
Apart from The Best House in Melbourne, my best purchase would have to be my 9 week trip to the UK and Europe. I planned that trip when I was 15 and I finally went on it when I was 51. Poverty stopped me from going earlier, when I was bringing up the boys, but I had a long-term goal of waiting until my youngest finished secondary school, then handing the boys the house keys and taking long service leave the year after.
(LSL is the fully-funded time that you accrue once you work for the same employer for ( I think) 10 years. I had 10 weeks off on full pay. Now THAT’S a sweet deal!)
That trip cost me around 30K. I’ve never once regretted it.
Now I wish I could say the same thing about the timeshare I have. It’s a noose around my neck. What a potato I was to have bought it!
Do you track your spending? If so, how?
I blogged about it here, but basically, I just have a chart where I put down every dollar I spend. I color in any days that I don’t spend anything and reward myself with an extra silver square when I spend money in 3 days or less a week. It’s simple and it works.
What is your worst money mistake?
Marrying the wrong person. Without a doubt. I liked being married – I just didn’t like being married to him. Divorce is costly, but so is struggling financially when the two of you aren’t on the same page. After I pulled the pin, I gritted my teeth and made sure that the kids and I ended up ok, but it wasn’t easy at times.
Choose your partners sensibly, people!
What is your splurge? Don’t be shy. Mine set me back $45,000.
I’ve just shelled out 40K to get my entire backyard paved with old bricks and I’ve had wicking veggie beds added. I’ve yet to pay for a roof to go over some of that paving to make a verandah, so my ‘splurge’ is set to continue. I don’t look on it as a splurge – I prefer to think that it’s an investment in Old Lady Frogdancer’s wellbeing in retirement. The old hag will need something to do, after all. My sister told me so.
What did your parents do to raise you to be financially smart?
I owe my parents a lot. They were never huge investors, but they were excellent savers and managed their money well. As a child growing up, I thought that my Dad was the biggest skinflint alive. I HATED his attitude to saving the pennies and I vowed that I’d never be like him. But you know what?
It was excellent training to fall back on when I was dealing with a mortgage, bills, and an ex-husband who actively avoided paying child support for years. I knew how to squeeze a dollar and to make things last. I knew which foods were nutritious, tasty and cheap. I knew that the boys and I would make it through ok, with or without child support. (It was nice when it finally starting coming in, though!)
What is something you read that changed your life?
I can vividly remember going up to spend the Christmas holidays with our Grandparents when I was 16. They lived on the Gold Coast, so we went to the beach every day. I saw a slim volume on my grandfather’s bookshelf and I took it to read down on the sand.
It was ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I’ll never forget lying on a beach towel, baking in the sun, reading about life in a Soviet Gulag in the middle of winter. It was horrifying and it’s stayed with me forever. This book is DEFINITELY worth the read. The author spent 8 years in Soviet gulags, so the authenticity of the writing is undeniable.
What was the worst or best phase of your life?
Worst? In primary school where I was bullied mercilessly for years.
Best? Right now. Every decade just gets better and better.
Beer? Yuck! The only beer I have ever liked was a beer I tasted in a bar in Pyongyang, North Korea. It was a beer made with rice, so it didn’t have that disgusting yeasty after-taste that beer generally has. The trouble is, I’m not likely to go back any time soon to taste it again. Going to North Korea isn’t something you can do on a whim.
I’m a red wine drinker – primarily Shiraz. Now you’re talkin’!
What is the best movie you’ve seen recently?
Haven’t been to the movies for a while, but the best series I’ve seen lately has been ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, both series 1 and 2. I’m also watching and enjoying ‘Mr Mercedes’ at the moment, too. ‘Outlander’ is a MUST-SEE, while ‘Versailles’ is also a good watch.
Anyway, that’s about it from me. I hope you’ve enjoyed the read, and anytime you’re visiting Australia, let me know and we can take the dogs down for a walk on the beach.
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