The Reluctant Retiree has too much time on her hands

John of suggested I might reveal how my blog came to be called The Reluctant Retiree. Okay, John, you asked for it.
Looking for a job is hard work. All that tailoring one’s resume to suit the job advertisement – and answering selection criteria? Yuck! You have to prove yourself over and over, and after all that, consider yourself lucky if your application is acknowledged. Getting an actual interview? Rare.
A couple of years after the Global Financial Crisis and I still didn’t have more than a few days clerical work a month. A friend was applying to the University of Wollongong to do a Masters in Strategic Human Resources. I had practical experience, and there seemed to be some job demand in my area, but without a degree I had no chance of landing an interview in that field. So, having left school at sixteen, and with no undergraduate degree, I decided to ‘go for it’. What did I have to lose? In the end, something about his residency status knocked my friend out, but I was accepted on the basis of equity i.e. a fifty-five year old woman has as much right to tertiary education as a school leaver. The study year had already begun and the end of the annual financial cycle was looming when I applied. Unis get a bit of government money to assist certain students, and it’s spend it or lose it. They didn’t tell me that is why I was also granted a student loan, but I’m pretty sure my hunch is right. But the textbooks were expensive. As well as starting in the second semester, I lost another two weeks sourcing them on the second-hand market.
The Uni disregarded my night-school Diploma in Export Management, Marketing Certificate, and workplace Management, Leadership, Supply Chain & Quality Control training. They wanted me to undertake a Graduate Certificate in Commerce, and if my grades were good enough, “articulate” into the Masters. ‘Shoot me now,’ I said when they sent me the subjects. Accountancy, Marketing, Economics and Management again. So … I get the required marks and then … they tell me only one subject counts towards the Human Resources Masters! ‘I’ll play your silly game,’ I thought. In the end I came out with a Masters in Commerce specialising in Electronic Commerce. Along the way I scooped in Supply Chain Management.
That last included a report on ‘Sustainability in the Automotive Industry’. That was interesting. I came to the conclusion that the only difference between an Audi TT Roadster and a VW Cabriole was minor body shape changes and the price tag. And the marketing slogan. Other than that, same same. I had originally intended to look at the little Japanese Suzuki Swift as well, but that would have put me over word count. The reason? All the engines are (or were) made in post-communist Hungary. What an interesting social experiment to take Japanese work-to-death ethic and impose it on a just-fill-the-quota socialist manufacturer. But of course, that analysis belonged back in the Strategic Human Resources degree which I was not studying because … well, I already explained that.
The whole thing took longer than planned and I can’t say I came out knowing a huge amount more than before, but at least I now had a current qualification that demonstrated I knew the theory behind my years of practical work.
And I did get a job, but it meant I had to live in Sydney Monday to Friday, and that job ended in nasty circumstances four months later. Least said, soonest mended.
The experience had its upside. I’d been writing for years in my spare time, and now I buried myself in it. I Belong to No One was published two years later, in June 2015. Meantime, I’d started blogging, and clearly I’d been venting to someone about my failed work experience when I wrote the following post in May 2013. Here it is:

The Reluctant Retiree

I have it on good authority that I should rename my blog ‘The Reluctant Retiree’. After all, that does represent where I am in life right now, and what led me to start blogging. Besides which, some say it is a woman’s perogative to change her mind – and I relish the excuse to see if I can still spell that without assistance.

I failed. There is a pesky little ‘r’ that belongs at the beginning of the word, as in pre-rogative.

So that sent me off to my trusty Macquarie Dictionaryto find out – why is this so? Digressing off topic is one of the things you can do in retirement. Suddenly there are no deadlines or people waiting for your meaningful input. You can let your mind meander in various directions, with only the latent worry that if you let it drift too far, the day may…

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Famous Last Words – “Super’s Doing Well.”

With Bill working on for another two weeks, I arrived in Wollongong at the beginning of August 2008, just as the full force of the banking collapse in the US hit Australia. My expectation of a senior role in logistics and supply chain at the nearby steel mill collapsed with it. Those who had head-hunted me were made redundant themselves. A fifty-three year old female without a Uni degree whose background was in male-dominated industries, now living in a city with a fraction of the population of Sydney, had no place in what remained of a job-market. In fact, there was no job market left for anyone.
We’d planned to live on Bill’s super (because he was old enough to claim it), but we hadn’t planned to depend on it. Since writing the following re-blogged post, I’ve picked up many international followers. So I’ll try to explain Australia’s retirement income system in broad-brush.
Since 1992 – and in Bill’s case, 1974 – working employees forgo a percentage of their wage before tax. Currently that’s 9.5%. This money is owned by the individual, who invests it with their choice of superannuation fund. It pays to understand their performance and your capacity for risk when making that decision. It’s taxed going into the fund, but at a much lower rate than regular income tax. You cannot access it before age 55 and only then if you are no longer working. Barring embezzlement, mismanagement, fee gouging and economic downturns (all of which I’ve experienced), that regular saving grows due to the magic of compound interest. You can also add additional money if you can spare it. I used to recommend to my young clerical colleagues to forgo one store-bought coffee a day. $1000 a year over thirty years can be a nice little earner in super. By the way, combined across all the funds, Australian superannuation assets totalled A$3.0 trillion at the end of the December 2020 quarter.
As a back-up we have the Aged Pension paid from Government coffers. This money comes into consolidated revenue from the taxpayer, but is not earmarked for the individual and has no relationship to how much tax one paid in their working life. It doesn’t cut in until you reach a certain age, and it is subject to an asset and income test, although thanks to pork barrelling by a previous government, one can have significant assets and still earn a part aged pension. It’s a not-very-generous fixed amount, depending on whether you are married or single, home-owner or renting. Not every Australian qualifies for an aged pension, but for those who are totally reliant on it, life can get very tough, especially if you are in the rental market. Our fastest growing homeless sector is single women over sixty. Casualisation of the workforce, low wages, time out of the paid workforce, ill health and family breakdown are some of the causes.
Lots of variations on these themes, but that’s the umbrella explanation. Hope that puts this next little piece into context …

The Reluctant Retiree

If anything is certain, it is that change is certain.

The world we are planning for today will not exist in this form tomorrow.

Phil Crosby, American Businessman

When Bill and I decided to buy into Wollongong I was working for a global shipping line, a world leader in the movement of cars and containers. It was a responsible position heading up the front-line customer service for import, export and equipment handling Australia wide.

The company had decided to migrate its computer systems onto the intranet, and integrate shipping and cargo data into real-time world-wide. It was a massive project, with Australia as the first area to go-live. It was the type of software implementation that is quoted in “how-to” manuals – under the section labelled “What can go wrong when ……….”

The U.S. team who were leading the project had joked to me that they decided to throw…

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The Catalyst for Retirement

It’s hard to believe it is eight years since I took up blogging. These days, I have plenty of ideas but not so much time. The blog began as a way of documenting an upcoming European Holiday, and was first called “55 Days with Gwen” the reason for which will become obvious in the next few posts.
I was scrolling through those a few days ago, and it occurred to me, that while we all have a wings clipped for the time being, why not revisit a virtual holiday? Some followers have been with me since the beginning of this blogging experience – thank you – but for others, the stories will be new.
First of all, the background to how I became, ‘The Reluctant Retiree’.

The Reluctant Retiree

Dad cropped for blog Noisy, circa 1943

Bill’s father was an unskilled labourer. Like thousands of his generation he served in WWII, in his case as a Sapper in the 23rd Australian Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers.

When he returned, he got a job in a factory, fathered two sons and went on with his life, never speaking about his war experiences. Nicknamed “Noisy” by his mates, he was a quiet man who led a simple life, never travelling or straying too far from his home base at Coogee. He never bought a house, never owned a car. The beach, the pub, the club and family were his main interests. He got a start on the waterfront in the days before mechanisation, loading and unloading cargo by hand and hoist on the various wharves around Sydney. Casual shift work that he reached by public transport. He was still working in 1974, when an observant…

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