Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My recipe for early retirement (at age 46): part one

One of my regular and lovely readers, D, asked for my ‘recipe for early retirement’.  I’m always happy to share, so I had a think about it and here’s what I came up with.

I met my husband until I was 32 and he was 31.  Right from the start we lived a thrifty life together, and for me that is the key to being able to do whatever you want in life, including retiring early.  Firstly we were thrifty from necessity – when we started our business we didn’t pay ourselves much at all, but once we started earning more we saw that we could get a house deposit together if we continued on that way instead of having a more expensive lifestyle.  Once we’d bought a house, we realised we could pay it off early if we continued on our thrifty path, and so it went on.

We did everything to make the most of our income whilst we saved – cooked our own meals, hardly went out, enjoyed our own entertainment at home with carpet picnics, box-sets and making our home a comfortable place to be (being at home instead of going out all the time was not a hardship because we are both happy homebodies).  We wore our clothes out (as in ‘worn out’), made do and mended and basically lived an old-fashioned non-spending way of life.

It wasn’t sucky though; we loved it, because we had our eyes on the prize.  Firstly in buying a house, then in paying it off.  After that we wanted to live our dream lifestyle, and no debt or dumb spending is worth giving that up.

Basically we are thrifty, minimalist and happy with the simple things.  I used to love reading inspiration on all these topics through books and blogs to keep me motivated, but I don’t need that now.  Living the life is even better than reading about it.

My book Financially Chic goes into everything we did to get to the point where we are today – which is living our dream life in a beautiful home in the countryside with no financial stress.  I would not be here right now if we still had a big ‘normal’ mortgage to pay off.

So if there is a recipe for early retirement, it goes like this:

One. Work out what your dream life looks like

As yourself how you’d love to live if money was no object.  Where would you live?  What would your lifestyle look like?

To get your other half on board, be the dreamer for both of you – say to them ‘Imagine if…’.  Get them excited too, that you could both live your dream life.  Then, have conversations with them often about your shared vision.

For us, it started at the beginning of 2015.  Our shop lease was up for renewal at the end of the following year which was almost two years away at that time.  We started asking ourselves if we wanted to continue down the same path by renewing our lease.

We’d already had twelve years working together 7-days-a-week in retail and we decided we wanted to do something different.  We also wanted to live in a less populated, slower moving area.  From this we made the decision to sell our business and move to the provincial area where I grew up.

Two. Put your money towards your dream rather than frittering it on stuff

Really, save everything in any way you can and put that money all onto debt or in a savings account for a house deposit if you have paid off all your debt.  To reiterate, pay off debt as fast as you can – get rid of it!  It truly is your money or your life.

When you putter along buying whatever catches your eye, you are tying yourself to a job you don’t like, paying off debt for dumb purchases.  I know because I’ve done that.  If you are worried about keeping up with the Joneses, don’t be (they’re probably in more debt than anyone else).

We could still have moved where we are having a huge mortgage, but it wouldn’t have been as stress-free financially and we would have had to get jobs straight away.  Being debt-free allowed us the luxury of having some time off before and after we moved.

When you have no debt you have so many more choices in life, and you don’t have to stay in a job just to pay the bills.  You have other choices.

Plus it allows me the freedom to be a writer without having in the back of my mind that we have to pay a big mortgage.  Worry and stress is not good for creative thinking!

Part 2 coming up

Join me next week for part 2 of this post (it was way too long for just one post!)  And in the meantime, I want to let you in on an early secret.  I am putting together information on this very subject.  It’s an in-depth step-by-step training on how I have written and self-published my own books.

Many of you have written to and messaged me about what I’ve done and how you can do the same.  I know that writing a book is something that a lot of dream of doing, and I want to tell you that it can be done.  It’s not that hard but you need to get your mindset right, plus know the how-to.  I’ll share exactly how I have created my own successful home-based career.

I have set up a separate email newsletter list which will just be about writing your own books and being an author online.  Join it here and you won’t miss out on anything.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this post (or would like me to expand on a specific point) in the comments section below, and I’ll be happy to answer. 

Otherwise, I’ll see you next week for part 2!


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How to stay youthful

Sunday fun - I bottle-fed Morris the abandoned lamb :)

We have been in our new home and new small-town country lifestyle for a month now.  It seems like much longer than that; indeed the big city seems a lifetime away.

There’s a great saying that says you create your environment, and then your environment creates you.  Two things that have changed for me lately, I don’t know if they would have happened anyway but I have a strong feeling they have changed because I am now in a completely different environment than I was before we moved.  Different house, different town, different lifestyle.

It doesn’t really matter what is true, because I am learning to be more open to change and following along with the flow of how I feel inside.  Learning to trust that what I am feeling is what is right for me to do.

I truly believe that being flexible in the mind is a key aspect of staying youthful.  I am cultivating this flexibility by saying ‘yes’ to new things and trying them out, rather than saying ‘no I don’t do that’.  It’s not going along with other people, it’s going along with myself.  I have this vision of myself becoming more rigid over time and turning into a person who has a very narrow range of movement which doesn’t feel good.  Perhaps it is something that can happen naturally as you get older unless you address it – getting ‘set in your ways.’

Of course it’s good to show a steady way of being and have people feel comfortable around you because you are reliable and un-flaky, however it doesn’t feel good to be to be predictable.

My first big change is that I joined a gym to lift weights and I love it.  I’ve been going almost three weeks now and it feels good.  I am getting fitter and stronger every day and can see myself in a year's time with a completely transformed physique.

An added bonus is that my achy right shoulder and arm from all the computer work and writing I do feels better already. My husband reckons that lifting weights is the fountain of youth and he may be right.  I don't do anything heavy, just enough to feel it, and I do three sessions each week. My goal is to combine strength and elegance.

My second big change is one that I honestly thought I would never see, not that I was dead against it, I just didn’t have the desire.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I stopped drinking alcohol after reading a library book – yes it was some book!  I have written about being a non-drinker here and here.  Well, about two weeks ago I woke up one morning and thought ‘I’d like to try wine again’.  So I did that night, and now I have a few drinks on the weekend.

It was a really strange feeling.  When I didn't drink, I didn't want to.  It would have been too weird to sip wine, I just couldn't do it.  Now that I have made the decision to do it, I feel calm and relaxed about it.

I realized later that part of my decision process was influenced by a book I'd just finished by Paul McKenna called Get Control of Sugar Now.  It's not that long and I ordered it on Kindle from Amazon.  There are many techniques in the book to help you go from a sugar-maniac (my words) to someone who can take or leave it.  I read it within a few days and did each exercise at the end of each chapter, not in a write it down and do it properly way, but in an in-my-head as I go way.  I have not done the 37 days of exercises (repeating them over and over again) but I may do if I need it.

The message of this book is that you go sugar-free then let a small amount into your life.  If it gets out of control again, repeat the above.  The mindset exercises help with this and I really like his message of moderation.

So with Paul McKenna's words in my mind, I felt more confident that I wouldn't be blowing the best thing that had happened to me, and I told my husband I wanted to have a glass of wine - that night!  I believe in striking while the iron is hot; when you get the idea to do something, do it right then because the energy is strongest at that time.

When I say ‘blowing the best thing that had happened to me’, I mean that I loved being a non-drinker.  I felt good all the time, but I also love honouring my feelings and trying out new things.  I am taking it easy, only having one or two small glasses of wine of an evening.

If anything, I think my five-plus years off alcohol has given me a new respect for it.  I don’t particularly like the drunk feeling so if I feel myself going too fast I naturally pull back.  Of course you can’t drink alcohol and not have a relaxed feeling, but it feels good to keep it in the mild range and then come back to normalness, instead of enjoying that feeling and wanting more.

These two changes in my life came about as thoughts and feelings from within, and I truly believe they were divinely guided.  Both have turned out well so far and I am very happy that I was open to letting them in.  It also gives me more confidence to trust my internal guidance system more and not be afraid to make big decisions that could potentially transform my life for the better.

When we are too scared to make changes for fear of consequences (I had to work through that before I tried wine again), it can leave us feeling stuck in a pen and like we cannot move freely.

I think there is a fine line between being so rigid that you feel you can never change anything; that how you are now and what you do now is going to remain the same until the day you die, and being so loose that you are not a cohesive person.  There is a third way to be and I’m loving trying it out!

A third and smaller change, I guess, is that I am going to be putting my weekly blog post out on a Tuesday (Monday for those of you in a different time-zone).  Now that we are more settled in our new home, I am creating myself a little work schedule to do all the things I want to in a week and remain stress-free.  Concentrating most things towards the start of the week feels better than leaving them towards the end of the week, and going into the weekend.  I want to do my blog work, make progress on my current writing projects, do house chores as well as have time for reading and crafting.

Of course, being me it is all on a spreadsheet; I thought it might be fun to print it out each Monday and tick things off as I do them. And I can update that sheet with changes from time to time.  I’ll share my schedule with you one day when I have it a bit more fine-tuned, but for now it’s an excellent and exciting work in progress.

What about you?  Do you accept change into your life easily or do you feel you are a bit more regimented?  Do you listen to your internal/gut feelings and take action on them?  I’m loving this new flexible me; long live staying youthful by being open to change!



PS.  Thank you to everyone who has ever left reviews for my books.  I was thrilled to see that my latest book Thirty Slim Days: Create your slender and healthy life in a fun and enjoyable way has four- and five-star reviews on Amazon (so far anyway!)  This really means a lot to me because it shows you are enjoying the book and finding it really useful.

If you haven’t already read Thirty Slim Days, it's all about making being slim and healthy fun and easy by changing your mindset in lots of little enjoyable ways.  You can find it here, on Kindle for instant delivery or you can be sent a paperback too.

Friday, August 11, 2017

13 ways to simplify your wardrobe

The podcast (below) is epic! I couldn’t stop with the ad-libs :)

Continuing on from my simple life post last week, today I had a think about what a simple wardrobe would consist of.  How can we simplify our wardrobes so that we look forward to choosing an outfit for the day.

When you love looking after your clothes, organising them and spending time with them, you will be less tempted to go out shopping unless you really need something.  I have found that much more satisfaction is gained from staying at home and working on an area to fix it, rather than ignoring it and going out instead.  On the times when I have done this I’ve bought something dumb, and my wardrobe (or whatever area) is still in a mess!

To avoid an unhappy shopping trip, please join me for my thirteen favourite ways to simplify – and love – your wardrobe.

One. Choose your favourite colours and focus on those, instead of having tons of different colours.  You can create interest with varying shades of those colours, and textures.  If you want variation, add scarves.

Two. Make sure everything is in good order.  My wardrobe always seems more appealing and it’s simpler to get dressed when I have taken the time to shave my jerseys with my pilling gadget.  Pulling tiny snags in knits through to the back with a tiny crochet hook works wonders too.

Three. Hang everything for the current season.  This tip is in a chapter in my book Thirty Chic Days called ‘Day 12. Curate your wardrobe like it is your own bijou boutique’.  By hanging everything, even tee-shirts in the summer or knit jerseys in the winter (items I would normally keep in my dresser drawers), it means you can easily see everything you have for the season.  Fold off-season items and put them in your drawers instead.

Four. Come up with a handful of essence words to describe your ideal style.  You can keep them in mind when dressing or shopping; they will assist in the curation of your stylish closet.  Some of mine are casual, elegant, simple, neutral, feminine and sensual.

Five. Change the way you store things.  By this I mean if you currently hang items wherever, put them in groups of colours, or like items.  Your eye gets used to how an area looks; by having a rummage and moving hangers, you get reacquainted (and re-excited) about your clothes.

Six. If something doesn’t excite you, get rid of it!  Don’t keep anything that makes you feel frumpy, reminds you of a bad experience, has holes in it or looks tired.  Even if you haven’t actually gotten rid of these clothes yet, just having them out of your closet brings a sense of peace and calm to it.

Seven. Hone in on the silhouettes that work best for you.  For me, it’s skinny legs and a more voluminous top.  When I wear my wide-leg pants I don’t feel as good.  Knowing this stops me when I am tempted by wide-leg pants because I love the Diane Keaton look.

Eight. Have a bra and undie cleanout.  If there are undies that cut in because they’re too small, or look stretched out of shape, bin them.  If you have uncomfortable bras, go get a fitting for a new one.  I currently only have a sports bra and two nice bras, because I had a big cleanout.  If they are still in good nick, just a bad buy, donate them so someone else can use it.

Nine. Separate your scarves into summer and winter.  I wasn’t wearing my scarves as much and it wasn’t until I put all the lightweight and silky scarves into one container, and woolly scarves into another that I found them more appealing.  I wasn’t digging through my summer scarves to find a warm one that went with my outfit that day.

Ten. Have items where you can see them as much as possible.  I have noticed this hugely with our new walk-in wardrobe: it’s so much easier to get dressed when I can see everything!  It means I don’t reach for the same bag or pair of shoes either.  If I still had my old reach-in wardrobe, I would have my current season clothes, shoes and accessories front and centre, with less used items such as a dress to wear to a wedding, pushed to the side.

Eleven. Ask yourself, if I had to pack a bag to go away for a week, what would I take?  This focuses the mind and you will find yourself curating a small and perfectly formed wardrobe.  You will also see what gaps there are which could vastly improve the mix-and-matchability of your capsule collection.

Twelve. Daydream with unlimited possibility.  The more I think about what I want to wear as I go about day to day life as my ideal French girl Sabine, pottering in my chic and tiny Paris apartment, the more I come back to the classic and the basic.

The perfect white cotton shirt
The perfect pair of jeans
The most flattering of sheer red, and beigy-pink lipsticks
Pearl studs, diamond studs
One great watch (very plain) to wear with everything
Items I will keep for years, updating slightly when replacing
Wearing navy, red, white, black, grey, camel and beige

These thoughts inspire me to be happy with a modestly-sized wardrobe and cures any thoughts of shopping out of boredom.  I have found from experience that it is so much more satisfying when you actually have a need, versus shopping for leisure.

Thirteen. Think back to what inspired you as a young woman.  What looks were you drawn to as a teen or when in your twenties?  I love to think about this and get that happy, sparkling feeling inside that I had back then.  My teen years were the 1980s, and I remember making my own clothes with lace, linen, paisley and tartan back then (not all at once, or maybe I did!).

I was op-shopping with my mother and aunty last week, and found a red tartan Scottish 100% lambswool fringed scarf for $4 in perfect new-looking condition.  It made me so happy looking at it that I bought it.  After a gentle wool wash and being dried on the clothesline outside, I wore it with an all-black outfit and felt great.

If you have a tip to simplify your wardrobe, please do share it in the comments below, or maybe you’d like to tell us about something (like my tartan) that brings back good memories from your younger days that you love to incorporate into your look now.


PS.  Have you seen my ‘shop’?  I have ebooks/information products available, and will be adding more in the coming months.  I have almost finished the audio book version of Thirty Chic Days and that will be up soon too.  I started recording it in Auckland and now am finishing it up in Hawke’s Bay!

Please let me know if there is anything you’d love to see in my shop.  You can leave a comment on this post or email me: fiona (at) how to be chic (dot) com.
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