Are we saving enough for retirement?

Pension-saving

Hello Dear Reader,

Whilst we’re in the middle of our month long fiscal fast we take the time to re-evaluate our long term finances. As retirement in the UK is at 67 year, then our desires to retire at 60 are effectively hoping to take early retirement. We know we’ll have to revisit those desires nearer the time but our aim is to be financially able to put our feet up sooner than most working people. In the meantime, we carry on as if we might have to work until we’re 67 so we’re not disappointed if we can’t.

Currently, we have made the decision to live on a lot less so we are used to having to do with less money. I’m sure it must be a real shock if people lose their job, get made redundant or retire on a small income if they are not used to budgeting at best or in some cases being frugal to make a small income go a long way. We’ve lived this way since 2009 and always take the cheapest low cost route to what ever we hope to achieve so we can put aside as much as we can into savings and investments. We don’t take the ‘we’ve worked for it, so we deserve it’ attitude and keep reminding ourselves that we can have the money now or when we’ve retired but we can’t have both. Whilst we’re young and fit we can chop wood, dismantle pallets, make the physical time and effort to buy second hand or get what we need for free. We may not have the health for that in our seventies so are making the most of the masses of energy we have now.

So, we live with free TV (no Sky package), get the cheapest energy tariffs, reduce our water and energy consumption, only buy what we really need and then supplement that we freecycle, charity shops and gumtree. We mend everything and always shop in the cheapest supermarkets. Every month, we manage to over pay the mortgage, even if it’s only by £75 off the capital and aim most months to over pay another £100. We aim to pay off our mortgage as soon as we can so we can then direct the money we would have previously put into our mortgage into further topping up our pensions. We also add a proportion of our salaries into savings every month and budget judiciously for every penny we spend.

Pensions always look good at the time but as they are a fixed income well into the future, we know however much we’ll have put aside, it’s probably not going to be enough and we’ll have to spend the rest of our lives economising, making do and being as thrifty as possible. So, there’s no use us getting used to wall to wall central heating, deep hot baths and frequent new clothes as we’ll not be able to afford them when we’re retired.

Also, like a lot of people, we didn’t start paying into pensions early enough. Just the same as a lot of people, we didn’t have decent well paid jobs and there were no pensions attached to our jobs that we could pay in to. Now, all employers have to provide a pension service and everyone should pay in although we all know the reality isn’t that great for everyone. If I was going to give advice it would be, if you have spare money that you would choose to spend on a holiday or new car, then it might be better off going into a pension unless you can afford both a ‘treat based’ life style and a pension. It’s probably likely that most people need to make some tough financial decisions that they may not like if they don’t want to live hand to mouth as a pensioner.

If you can, start early at least earlier that I did at 38! The sooner you start then the sooner you can retire as you’ll have a private pension that you’ll have saved into. I’m not counting how long I have until I retire as I don’t want to wish away my days so I’ll take each one as it comes and just keep saving.

In case you’ve arrived here today for the first time, we are not all dull. We lost a very close relative and took some money we inherited (£25K) and bought a second home with it. We didn’t just put the lot into our mortgage as we wanted a life as well as saving. We also spend £1600 a year on ferries and as little as we can on renovating our second home in our holidays. We’ll then rent out our UK property when we retire and add that income towards our pensions. Frugal I can do, penury I can’t.

On balance, we have a bit of fun, spend a bit of money on ten weeks of holidays a year and balance that out with saving the rest and doing what we do as that ideal of retiring at 60 is still a real dream for us. It’s not all dull, I think we’d curl up with boredom if we saved every possible penny every single month and have trips away to look forward to. I know we’re lucky that we can make these decisions but we could choose to live it up every month, have new clothes every month, live in a bigger house, have the central heating on when ever and eat steak at the weekend but we choose to save for the long term instead of spending in the immediate.

Now over to you, share your retirement stories, your retirement plans. Is anyone living really frugally now in necessary preparation so you can afford to retire at all? We all work so hard in this busy modern world, we’ll all need a break sooner or later and there’s a tiny minority who don’t have to make financial sacrifices to afford that.

I always look forward to hearing from you.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

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Walk around Huelgoat lake

Hello Dear Reader,

I’m writing this whilst sitting in my garden after a day of doing nothing. Our first week was about decompressing, the three middle weeks were about house renovations and the last week is all for us to just enjoy our surroundings.

Yesterday, we hosted afternoon tea, nibbles, home made food and a few drinks for guests and had a lovely time. This afternoon, we visited more friends and sat in the very warm garden and chatted and had a catch up. We had a leisurely home cooked supper and then took ourselves out for a walk around the lake.

We do this walk most warm evenings. It’s a bit long for our old dogs so we walk them before supper and walk ourselves afterwards.

It looks bigger than it is. It’s an hour’s walk and with the exception of our house being at the top of a hill; it’s mainly flat.

Back towards the village.

Tonight people were fishing on the lake although I’ve never seen any fish.

On the south side of the lake, up a side street is the abandoned isolation hospital which closed a long time ago. It’s beautifully creepy.

Back out into the golden light as the sun was setting.

The hotel is in front of our house. Look straight above the two right hand chimneys and there’s our house on the hill.

The lakeside.

Golden reflections on a golden evening.

We aim to get out and about and visit places. Of course, I’ll share it with you.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx

Choosing a British run French Gite

Hello Dear Reader,

We’ve rented holiday accommodation in Brittany previously and had a mobile home on a site, a beach side holiday apartment and a rural gite so we’ve rented from the French and the English. When we rented from the English family. The French neighbour who was the key holder, did their cleaning and looked after us….didn’t speak a word of English but she was an utter delight. When we rented the French apartment, every transaction from beginning to end was in French and the camp site owners spoke very good English. We had a great time no matter which language was spoken. The English owned gite however was the owners holiday home and it was rented when they were back in the UK working. Consequently, it was very homely and it was very well equipped. You might have your own reasons for renting a British owned gite: you can ring them and book direct, you can ask them everything about the local area, they can help you with directions over the phone if you get lost getting there.

We will rent out our French home to family and friends when it’s completely renovated, up to ‘code’ and meeting all of the French regulations of which there are many. In the meantime, if you’re looking for somewhere to rent, maybe next year for a holiday or off season if they are open then, here’s a lovely selection. Click on the links below the photograph to go to their websites.

dscf4635_1

http://www.lederan.com/  Southern Brittany.

la maison de maitre

http://www.loire-gite.com/ In the sunny Loire and it’ll sleep up to two families so you could split the cost with friends.

maison halcyon

In the Charente Maritime http://www.maisonhalcyon.com/

dordogne

The heat and Lazy sunshine of the Dordogne http://www.lesgitestrepart.com/

dorgodne #2

Heat, beauty, peace and history then the Dordogne is perfect  http://www.lapetiteaubergegites.com/

eco gite normandy

If you live in the South East and wanted a quick hop over from Dover then Normandy has some stunning locations to visit and in which to stay.

http://www.eco-gites.eu/

Here’s just a selection and all of them beautiful in their own rights. All of which are British owned and you can contact the owners direct. I’m part of a British gite owners group (even mine is still in the renovation stage) and I’ve just shared some of their gites free of charge. I’m already getting enquiries and so far, and we hope to have it ready to rent by autumn 2018.

We’re off to France on Saturday until the end of August and of course, I’ll be sharing our renovation project, the days out and about locally, the markets and supermarkets and our experience of French life.

I hope you click on the links and take a look at their lovely gites and you never know, you just might book one for later in the season or for next year. Who knows, you might rent mine in a couple of years but until then, enjoy these.

See you in Huelgoat,

Love Froogs xxxx

Taking care of ourselves



Hello Dear Reader,

I awoke this morning to hear of Robin Williams death. So often, when we hear of health statistics, we are sometimes spurred into action to do something to improve our health. How often, I wonder are we inspired to improve our mental health and well being? 

We know what to do to stay healthy and yet so many of us choose to not do so. I was one of those people. I would work night after night until bedtime, getting ready for the next day. I thought I was healthy but as my weight increased so did my self loathing and my mood often sank into darkness. I thought that I couldn’t control those emotions and eventually went to my GP. Who, surprise surprise just drugged me! I was also sent for the six sessions of ‘taking therapy’ which truthfully did nothing more than get me to the self realisation that I wasn’t happy. I knew that every morning when I didn’t want to get out of bed and go to work. I also hated it, I loath self pity and didn’t want to be in the same room as anyone miserable so needed to get rid of the behaviour that caused me to be unhappy.


I now put my health and well being at the very top of my ‘to do list’ every day!

Remember here, this is not advice but this is what I do to maintain my own health and well being and it doesn’t cost me anything. So, here’s what I do to maintain my thrifty well being.

I put myself first. 

You heard right. I make no excuses for this. We live in a world where we are supposed to conform to the most crippling constraints. I no longer do that. I have chosen to live with less, to buy less, to do less, to have less, to eat less, to experience less. It’s my choice. I have chosen a work life balance which means I earn less but live more. We work for 40 hours a week, we sleep for 56 hours a week and out of a week with 168 hours, that leaves 72 hours where we really should live the way we want to. My simple thrifty life is my choice, I no longer worry about materialism, about trends or what anyone else has. By stripping my life back to needs I have the time and finances to live the way I want to. I put myself first.

I don’t apologise for what I like.

I like quiet. I like Radio 4 and a cup of tea. I like order and peace. I like a notepad next to my computer. I like to sleep with the window open. I like empty places. I like sewing, reading and making things. I like to sit in the garden and listen to the birds. I like riding my bike and walking on clifftops and moorland. I like jumble sales and charity shops and the occasional farmers’ market. I like being home. I’m not going to list the things I don’t like as I don’t want negatives in my head so I focus on what I do like.

I don’t worry about money.

I’ve got this one sewn up! I bought the smallest house I could, with a tiny mortgage, with very low running costs and I live simply. I don’t have to ration or economise here as I can afford to live in it. I ‘get rid’ of money each month by overpaying the mortgage and there’s next to nothing left after that. However, I am very wealthy. I eat every day, I have a roof over my head, I can pay all my bills on time, I can dress myself and I can keep myself clean and warm. In the grand scheme of things, I am very well off and live really well.

I don’t need people to like me.

There are things I like and don’t like, do and don’t do and people are no different. I accept that. My life is no better or worse, or any richer or depleted if you like me or not. No body is responsible for anyone else’s happiness that’s a personal responsibility. It is therefore my responsibility to be happy and not yours which means I’m ok with someone not liking me. I like myself, enjoy my company and think I’m just great.

I accept the impermanence of life.

Everything comes and goes. Nothing lasts forever. Everything has the organic capability of reverting to dust and that includes, stuff, family, friends, relationships, jobs, houses, money and experiences. Nothing lasts forever, not even love. Everything has its expiry date. One day Dearly Beloved, my parents, my children, my pets, my friends and I will die. Everything is temporary. How I feel right now is not how I will feel: in ten minutes, tonight, tomorrow or next year. What I like, how I live, what I do is exactly the same. Nothing remains the same and accepting that gives me a great sense of peace. I don’t worry about when ‘it’ will end and just accept the fact that it will.

I am responsible for my own health.

Everything about my health is vital. We don’t make our own essential fatty acids and need to eat them, nor do we make our own nutrients and need to eat them. Our bodies are designed to be active, to have a percentage of muscle and a healthy weight. When I was over weight (I’m still over weight and constantly working on that one) I was tired, less active and not happy with my appearance. It was my responsibility to change that. We all know that we need to raise our heart rate for at least one hour a day to the point of ‘puffing’ and I make it my challenge to do that. I check my calorie intake and keep it low and make sure my blood sugar levels are stable. I don’t eat between meals, I always eat (although can’t at the moment as the paint is drying on my table) sat at a table, which I laid as I respect myself enough to take time to eat properly. I get to bed early and make sure my evenings are quiet so I can switch my brain off before I go to bed. I limit alcohol and caffiene and make sure my main fluids are water. Sounds like a long list but improving my physical health has given me the greatest improvements in my well being.

I’ll add this again, I don’t suggest you do any of the things that I do, they are my choice and suit me. Your life, behaviour and choices are your own.

Now over to you. Who is going to do their best (which is all any of us can do) to make their own life better today? If you could change one thing that you do, that you know doesn’t do you any good, what would it be? 

RIP Mr Williams and so many thanks for your creative genius. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx



Shut away indoors!

 After a nice quiet weekend, I lost last night to a battle with my innards. I spent most of the night racing backwards and forwards to the porcelain and by the morning I hadn’t yet closed my eyes. I’ve been stuck at home all day and by lunch time, I gave up and went back to bed. I haven’t even managed to get out and walk the dogs today so I’ve encouraged them out into the garden as often as I can. I’ve felt better this evening and I walked them around the garden and looked out across my little Cornish town. It’s a friendly little place, surrounded by farms. I love the way farmers drive their tractors to the chippy, or to the newsagents. If they are cutting silage, or trundling around with trailers full of fleece, or boxes of swede or spuds, it can get really busy with tractors.

Dearly Beloved, who grew up in a city centre, still loves the tractors! He took the photo below of a traffic jam in Liskeard!

When it snowed, anyone with a tractor was really useful. Bewildered farmers were found lost and wandering around the Co-op with a shopping list as they’d been sent to ‘town’ to get some supplies.

It’s not a bad place to be holed up for the day. It’s a pity I’ve felt so rough though and I’m ready to get back to bed now. There’s nothing worse that losing a night’s sleep.

What is that makes your home town or village fun or special? Any farmers and tractors in your Co-op car park?

Love Froogs xxx

What is happiness?

  I was reminded of the government commission by the National Audit Office, whilst I lay in the bath tonight, something, which by the way, always makes me happy and listened to a Radio 4 Moral Maze debate on happiness. Happiness is going to be measured. As yet, I’m not sure why………I must have drifted off whilst they talked about the why.

I consider myself to be mostly happy with the daily struggle and tussle with life and know that working really hard for something is dreadful at the time, but incredibly satisfying at the end. I know that the more I struggle and the more I fight for something, then it’s so appreciated at the end. I don’t strive to be happy and I don’t go looking for it and although, it may make me sound rather dour, I really enjoy the challenges of daily life. Of course, it’s all relative. I don’t have to walk miles for water, five of my children didn’t die of starvation, nor will I die a painful death from malaria, but we all have our struggles in one way or another. I sometimes think that happiness can be over rated and people start worrying if they are not happy. Some one on the radio said, words to the effect, if you are well, have friends, do something meaningful, then why would you not consider yourself happy?

Today, I arrived at work and watched the sun rise over St. Austell bay, and I drove home watching the moon rise over Bodmin moor. Now I could dwell on the fact that I spent dawn till dusk at work but I could also celebrate the most beautifully crisp winter day, filled with bright cloudless sunshine and a clear star filled night. I’m going to celebrate the latter along with the fact that I had a job to go to and a home to come home to.

I’m content in the knowledge, that in my struggle, that I’m doing the right thing. I’m content in knowing that the moments of happiness come and go, sometimes like a visitor that can’t stay long and like a dear friend, we miss it when it’s gone.

The most precious things ARE free!

I’ve had a good day! Work was good, the kids are great and the people I work with are wonderful. Everything I do is of my own choice and my own making. I don’t agree with everything that happens in this world, I don’t like the way my country is run sometimes, but I can vote and exercise my rights and freedoms. I live where I like. I do the job I choose. I speak to anyone, about anything and I often call, who ever is running my country a berk! I have the right to do that! I live in freedom and democracy and I’ve never known anything different.

If we don’t like the way our country is run, we can use our vote to change it. I can’t imagine having no one to vote for but the people I am told I am to vote for?

Like all of you, I watched the news tonight and was reminded of June 4th 1989. I was a passionate 24 year old, who stood and wept as I watched the BBC that night as unarmed protesters were shot in Tiananmen square. ‘Radical’ young people in China wanted democracy, to form political organisations and to have a choice of who they voted for. All those years ago, my first husband and I were running a pub and we revoked our ‘No TV in our pub!’ rule and plonked the TV on the end of the bar, and dumb founded we watched, whilst surrounded by regulars of our small Cornish village local, as students and activists were rounded up and shot for wanting the simple freedoms we took for granted. There were local farmers and workers from Fowey and Par docks in there that night, who stood and watched the ITV news, almost in tears at what they saw. As the ten o’clock news came to an end, a silence fell in that pub. Dominoes, a juke box, euchre and a few pints of Tinners just wouldn’t do it that night! For a pub, it was a sobering moment!


I was reminded of that night because Liu Xiaobo has been awarded the Nobel Peace prize, which is no comfort to someone imprisoned in China for wanting ‘multi-party democracy’ and he himself was a key leader in the Tiananmen square protest. He is currently serving an eleven year sentence for ‘subverting state power’ including his vocalisation of the treatment of Chinese Tibetans.

Everything I do, I do of my own choosing. Everywhere I go, everyone I know and anything I want is of my own choosing. I am totally free. I might worry about the financial constraints of my life but nothing truly constrains my life in any way. The most precious thing I have is my freedom; it cost me nothing but today I was reminded how valuable and precious it is.