Today we have a guest post from Erith, who blogs at Cracking Retirement. Erith retired at age 56 after spending more than 30 years working in IT in the financial industry. Erith and her husband lived and invested through several financial collapses but still managed their finances well enough to retire early, before their pensions kicked in.
Erith enjoys writing about living life in retirement to the full, building her money reserves, travelling the world and her hobby of bashing metal. The beautiful photographs in this post, as well as Erith’s website, are her own. She also runs a flickr site containing public photos, mostly from her extensive travels.
Take it away, Erith.
Retirement really has a lot to recommend it. I’ve been retired six years and I haven’t found a downside yet. We are very fortunate—we have enough pension income to live and travel without touching our savings. Our living expenses vary but are in the region of £3,000 a month, including putting away money for trips and house expenses. We budget about £10,000 for holidays, including one month in a European city and one long haul (involving a flight of six hours or more). Our savings form a lovely cushion which we hope never to touch. In addition, we don’t need to rely on the State pension (UK equivalent of Social Security), which at £155 / $200 per week is just enough to live on, but it would be a bit of a struggle to do everything we want to.
We are also fortunate because we are both healthy. So far we have had to make very little use of the free health care we get in the UK, which is a major saving compared to the US. When travelling in the EU, we can also use their health services free until March 2019 when Britain exits Europe (Brexit). The long term worry for us, though, is that nursing home care is not funded. Hence if one of us gets dementia or another serious illness and has to go into a nursing home, all our savings will have to be used for that.
We avoid having a schedule to our day, preferring a flexible approach. If we’ve nothing planned, morning is usually a trip to the gym (husband), a walk (me), followed by a few chores. If the sun is shining we are to be found outside. Otherwise my husband does some work and I do some blogging or metalwork. I’ve just set up a Folksy shop and have restarted my Etsy shop. We meet up with friends and generally just enjoy our freedom. I am a governor on a board of a charity (unpaid!) which takes a couple of days a month. We delight in using our bus passes which come free in Scotland once you reach 60. As a result we rarely use our car.
Europe provides great travel opportunities from the UK. There are 28 countries in the European Union all within one to four hours flying time. Each one offers a very different experience—a different language, often a different currency, and a wide variety of climates. Over the years we have visited lots of them but still have about 12 countries to go.
What we like doing most of all is “living like a local” in a different European city each year. We take a good sized apartment because it allows us to host friends and family for a few days at a time. We use public transport. We shop in local markets, buying fresh local produce and cooking simple food, although we eat out more often than at home. It is good fun. When you have to translate what your food is going to be, you often get a few surprises! Every day is unique and gives us lovely memories. When writing this post I was looking at pictures and kept saying to my husband—Do You Remember?? We don’t watch our costs too much when we are away. (Not very frugal I am afraid!) I aim for an overall day rate for the two of us (including flights, apartment, living expenses, meals and entertainment) of about £130 / $170.
2015 took us to Nice in France for one month. The two bed, two bath apartment cost us €1,300 for four weeks (about $1,500). We used a site called Homeaway. The whole holiday cost us £4,000 (about $5,200) including flights, apartment, and living costs. Each day we would use our travel pass (about $50 for one month) to go somewhere different in Nice and all along the coast from Monaco to Cannes. Monaco was something else—there’s even an office where they will help you design your own plane interior! We were there just before the Monaco Grand Prix, and all the harbours along the coast were stuffed full of very expensive boats.
While in France, we took the opportunity to use the train to take a weekend trip to Genoa, in Italy. It was only a couple of hours away. The food was totally different, as was the language. Genoa old town is really beautiful—full of tiny narrow streets and glorious buildings. My husband had been there on business several time but had no idea the old town existed. He had only been in the industrial area. There are beautiful restaurants tucked away in odd corners. We just loved winding our way through the streets.
In 2016 it was Barcelona, Spain, for 6 weeks. We were really lucky with our apartment which was around the corner from the Cathedral in the old part of town. It was only a short walk from the harbour where there were even more stunning yachts. The apartment was quite a bit more expensive than in Nice (€3,000 / $3,500). We used a site called Friendly Rentals. However, it was a lot cheaper to live in Barcelona than Nice, so it averaged out. A lunch time meal with three courses and a drink was €10-12, rather than the €20 it was in France. We spent just over half of our expected spending money and the remaining Euros are tucked away, waiting to be used this year. We probably spent about €500 a week—but that included everything. We didn’t stint ourselves and we didn’t put anything on our credit cards.
Barcelona really is an amazing city. About a week before I went I decided to learn Spanish. But it was a bit of a wasted effort because all the locals speak Catalan. However, we got friendly with the local baker’s wife and our challenge was to ask for a different loaf each day, say good morning and thank you, count out the correct money, etc. It gave us all a laugh! Again, we got a travel pass and explored not only the city, but the villages round about.
Barcelona is a city dedicated to the architect Gaudi. His designs were totally different for the time. He had a hand in all sorts of fantastic buildings, but one of my favourite places was Colonia Guell, just outside Barcelona. It was deserted the day we went and there was this stunning church (which was never finished). Gaudi used it to prove the building concepts he used later in the Sagrada Familia.
Unfortunately Gaudi died in 1926 while working on the Sagrada Familia (he had been working on it for about 40 years). The work is only now nearing completion. They hope to have it completed by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. Previously, when I was in Barcelona about 2003, there was no roof on the structure. But in 2016 it looked virtually complete. Unbelievable is the best word to use for the building itself. It is a huge tourist attraction, but worth it. The best time to see it is late afternoon because the light coming through the windows bathes the whole inside.
If you’re interested, you can read more about our Barcelona trip here.
This year in September we are off to Madrid, Spain, for five weeks. This time the apartment we’re taking has a lovely sunny patio area. I hope the location is good—we’ll find out soon! It is costing us €2,860 (Friendly Rentals again). I did find another cheaper apartment at €2,300 on Homeaway, but I couldn’t get in contact with the owner which was a pity. The rate of exchange is against us this year but we decided it was still worth going ahead.
I am still learning Spanish, so this trip gives me a great opportunity to practice. Hopefully after a year of hard work with Duolingo it will be easier. I’ve been researching what we can do in Madrid and there are some great parks and loads of art galleries. But I’m intrigued by the massive flea market El Rastro, which is open every Sunday. There was a similar one in Barcelona and we had great fun wandering around it. There was a load of stuff I would have said was rubbish, but people were buying it!
So where will next year’s trip will be? I hope to have a family gathering in Berlin—us, my son and wife from New Zealand, and my son and wife from the UK, all in one place for the first time in five years. It will be my husband’s 70th birthday and our 40th wedding anniversary, so it will be a bit special!
We are not alone in doing a lot of travelling. I was at a retirement party the other night, and in talking with my ex-colleagues who are now also retired, I was amazed by the variety of places everyone goes to—Vietnam, New Zealand, Australia, USA, Hong Kong, China, Cyprus, Turkey, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Galapagos, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Malaysia, Mexico etc. One has a holiday home in Austria, another in Spain, and one in Romania. And no one said—“I wish I was back at full-time work!”
Here’s hoping the rest of our retirement is as great as the first six years have been.