Sometimes, you plan for retirement and sometimes retirement happens earlier than you planned. In my latest interview, meet Deb. Find out what she did with an unexpected retirement after she was made redundant at work.
Can you please introduce yourself; tell us what you do and where you do it?
Hello everyone, my name is Debbie and I am a young retiree living in Tumbarumba, a small rural town, in NSW Australia. When I was 55, I was made redundant from my 22 years teaching career in a minimum security correctional centre for men. This hurt me deeply personally and professionally. I have a personal blog called Deb’s World, where I share stories and photos. As well as a creative outlet it gives me a great deal of joy to meet and engage with bloggers from all around the world. I love traveling visiting my daughters, reading, being active by walking, cycling and running and serving the community with Rotary International. I belong to a book club, a women’s discussion group, movie club and have a strong social network.
For twenty years you managed the delivery of Educational programs in a minimum security correctional center. Was this type of work something that you always wanted to do?
No, I don’t think teaching in a prison is something anybody grows up wanting to do! I always wanted to be a teacher though and the opportunity came along when I was in my mid-30s and I took it on. I studied by distance education for 3 years while working a few part-time jobs and bringing up my three teenage daughters (with my husband) and was proud to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Adult Vocational Education at age 40. This allowed me to continue in my career and became the Manager of the Education section within the centre, with a staff of 7 teachers. It was a rewarding and very interesting career, I have many stories I could tell that probably won’t ever see the light of day.
In my blog, I write a lot about trying new things and people who start over. For you, a change was thrust upon you when you were laid off. How did you process this information? What made you decide to embrace retirement instead of searching for a new job?
I was angry, bitter, hurt and saddened by the way my 20+ year career ended. It was an awful time and I made myself sick over the whole situation. It was a long drawn out battle as we tried everything to fight to retain our jobs. It was harrowing and I really didn’t handle it very well. I knew at the time life would never be the same again and I was grieving for myself and my colleagues.
I decided to take some time after it was all over (23 December 2016) and give myself a year to see what it would be like to live a different life. I found I enjoyed it all so much that I decided not to look for work and to settle into early retirement. We’re fortunate to be able to afford to do this. We are still young, fit, healthy and active and we look forward to traveling together for some time. We both look forward to becoming grandparents one day and being able to spend time with our daughters and our parents. We are a part of the local community in many volunteer roles and feel we have a lot to offer still without the need for taking on paid employment.
What do you love most about your retirement and what do you miss about your old career?
I love the freedom, time to do things, or nothing at all if I feel like it. I love the lack of urgency, the drama, dealing with toxic people and the associated stress. I miss the daily interaction with like-minded people (my staff), the in-depth discussions, the social side of things and the feeling of doing a valuable job and being respected for my efforts. I also miss dressing up, buying clothes and shoes and making an effort to look nice, so I ensure I have days where I make an effort for no apparent reason. I also miss the sense of accomplishment and being productive, that working gave me.
You blog now, is that something you were doing before retirement or something that you started afterward?
I had started my blog much earlier, before my retirement, really as a form of therapy. My job required me to be so buttoned-down, professional, hiding my real personality to some extent (due to security issues) and so I started blogging as a form of creativity. I love writing, telling stories, photography, and mingling with other creative types so it worked as a great outlet for me. I never wrote about my work on my blog before but once they decided to get rid of education in state gaols (jails), I decided the gloves were off. I was interviewed by Buzz Feed on the situation, wrote many articles about our plight and was the face of our campaign on local and national TV. Since retiring I have enjoyed far more time to blog and have really enjoyed discovering others in similar situations.
Blogging appears to be a family thing. You have a daughter who is a travel blogger. Who started blogging first and is there ever any Stat envy?
Great question! Yes, my eldest daughter has a travel and expat blog but I think I started blogging first. She was always writing stories and articles and taking photos so it was a natural progression for her. We don’t have stat envy but we do discuss various blogging topics, she suggests groups for me and we share each other’s posts and blogs quite a lot. We also share tips we learn from various sources. As she lives in the UK and I’m in Australia, we tend to use FaceTime and often our calls end up as a blogging chat session, to which my husband rolls his eyes and goes off and does something else, leaving us to it.
We are both looking forward to attending the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards in London in May and meeting other bloggers in real life. It’s great having her as a fellow blogger. My sister and her husband also blog and they are very talented photographers and writers. I’m much more lightweight and shallow.
Your husband retired last year. How has that changed your lifestyle? Are you both still making adjustments or was that settled early on?
It’s been great having him retired as well. He always thought he’d have a few years before I finished work, due to the 3 years age difference but it turned out we basically retired together. He has his own daily structure and I have mine, but we tend to come together for morning tea and lunch. We can travel together, make spontaneous decisions and we can enjoy riding or walking together whenever we want to now. We’ve had to make minimal changes to our lifestyle so it’s been quite easy to adapt.
You cover lots of different things on your blog, including a weekly photo contest, your travels, and your running. Is there a favorite thing that you like to blog about? And what do you least like about blogging?
I do cover lots of different things on my blog. I don’t really fit into any ‘one’ niche, but I’m tending towards midlife, travel sort of topics lately. My more personal posts on the family have probably been the most popular over the time I’ve been blogging but my honest heartfelt posts are my favourites. I’m often just writing for me so I get surprised that others not only read my posts but enjoy and comment on them too. I’m an honest, down to earth person who tells it like it is – I don’t think I sugar coat anything and I don’t follow any one way of doing things. I’ll try lots of different things on my blog and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.
My least favourite part of blogging is the publicizing and pushing my work onto others. As a result, I tend to not do it very well. Platforms like Pinterest still baffle me and the constant follow/unfollow of Instagram annoys me. I have a strong core of readers and I love them all.
But, I have a love/hate relationship with learning new things and keeping up to date with all things blogging – I like it for how it extends me but hate that it’s necessary to constantly keep on top of things. And, I hate with a passion blogs that push the money-making side of things – I don’t mind the odd affiliate post – but those that try to bait you with stupid titles really annoy me. I have a draft post written, just sitting there in relation to this topic, but I’m too scared to post it in case I upset people!
Did you get any advice or help from others while embarking on early retirement? What is the best advice or assistance that you got along the way?
I had lots of advice given to me but I didn’t want to hear it at the time. I was too angry and pissed off at the system for ending my career. I remember, towards the end, reading other retirement bloggers and thinking that maybe I could make it work. They all seemed to talk about the many different stages of retirement and this made sense to me, especially as I got further into it.
And what advice do you have for someone else who is in the position of forced early retirement?
Don’t beat yourself up – it’s the job that’s being made redundant not you. You are still a much-loved, important, powerful and precious mother, husband, father, wife, person. All the best to you and thanks for the interview Jennifer
And thank you, Deb. It was so fun having you on the blog today, especially since your situation most closely resembles my own. Friday was the one-year anniversary of my own “unexpected” early retirement.
Below are the links for Deb. I encourage you to follow her and her travels.