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How I Found My Red Plastic Chair, Observations on Retirement

How I Found My Red Plastic Chair, Observations on Retirement

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How I Found My Red Plastic Chair, Observations on Retirement

164 pagine
2 ore
Feb 2, 2015


An account of how to engineer a great retirement in Australia along with stories from the road. Some survey responses from people who have retired or are planning to are included as well to provide a range of perspectives. The book includes observations on how to maintain mind, body, relationships and financial health in the context of what could be a third of a lifespan and possibly the best years of a life.

Feb 2, 2015

Informazioni sull'autore

I am married to Aija and we usually live at the Gold Coast in Australia although we are currently travelling around. Our children are Elise and Aleks. Aija and I have lived in the UK and in Germany. I studied arts and law at the University of Adelaide. I have had a number of interesting careers, including being a professional squash player, a fire-fighter, a teacher at Uni, a prosecutor and a senior public servant. I've also worked in a medium sized law firm for a while. I've also worked for a long time in building policy for the Queensland Government and I was proud to serve on the Australian Building Codes Board. Now I am writing and trying to keep fit. I have an ambition to write a novel that people say they can't put down.

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How I Found My Red Plastic Chair, Observations on Retirement - Glen Brumby

How I Found My Red Plastic Chair

Observations on retirement


Glen Brumby


The opinions and information provided in and made available in this book do not constitute financial product, investment or financial advice in any way whatsoever. The opinions and information are of a general nature only and do not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs in any way. They should not be used, relied upon, or treated as a substitute for specific professional advice. The author recommends that you obtain your own independent professional advice before making any decision in relation to your particular financial, investment and product requirements and decisions or in relation to your particular financial circumstances.

The author accepts no responsibility and no liability of any kind for any loss or damage whatsoever and howsoever caused arising from any person’s reliance on opinions or information provided or referenced in this book. Further, the author does not warrant the accuracy, completeness or currency of the opinions and information provided in, referenced and made available in this book. Past performance of any shares or other investments discussed in this book is not in any way whatsoever indicative of future performance.

This book contains references to other third party sources of information including other books and these references have been provided solely for you to obtain further information as you wish and the author makes no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or suitability of such information for your circumstances. You are advised to make your own enquiries in relation to any third party information referenced in this book. The author’s inclusion of any third party content, or a reference to any third party information, is not an endorsement of that content or third party.


* * * * *


Glen Brumby on Smashwords

How I Found My Red Plastic Chair

Copyright © 2015 by Glen Brumby

ISBN 9781310526961

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. Your support and respect for the property of this author is appreciated.


I am grateful to all of my friends who have provided feedback on the various drafts of this book. In particular, thanks to Gerard O’Brien and Andrew Sinclair for encouraging me to write and for their close readings of the drafts as well as Roger F for his detailed feedback. In the same vein, thanks to everyone who shared their stories with me and to the people who responded to my survey. Also, thanks again to Michelle Gonzalez for her work on the cover and to David Caro for contributing his natural irreverence and objectivity as usual. Lastly, thanks again to my wife Aija for reading drafts of this book when there was so much other stuff she could have been reading.

Other books by this author

Confessions of a Grieving Man

aleX gOes To baLi


Chapter one - Introduction

A survey – 1 A plan to retire and live, a plan to keep working

Chapter two – Are you there yet?

A survey – 2 – Working to afford travel and the importance of hobbies/interests

Chapter three – A dream life?

A survey – 3 – Both over the politics and bureaucracy

Chapter four – Costs and life span

A survey – 4 – ‘Seat of the pants’ planning and partners are important

Chapter five – What to do about finances

A survey – 5 – A careful planner and one who prefers less planning

Chapter six – Investing

A survey – 6- Wishing he’d planned earlier but both with plenty to look forward to

Chapter seven – Observations on travelling around so far

Chapter eight - Summing up

Appendix I – Are you there checklist

Appendix II – Survey statistics

Chapter one - Introduction

The cover photo is of a red plastic chair I sit on when we go to Bali. The chair belongs to a young Javanese guy, Josh who has set up a beach business consisting of ten plastic chairs and two big ice boxes. He rents out surf boards, offers lessons and sells beer and water at the standard price. Last time we went, Josh would bring us water and Bintang beer. Then he’d chat to me about his life and dreams. He says he wants to study business and visit his Swedish girlfriend in Stockholm. My wife Aija and I like to drink an ice cold beer in the late afternoon sun talking to guys like Josh after running on the beach. We like watching the planes come in and the sun go down on Kuta Beach. We went there in July last year. We had both retired. What can I say, these are happy times.

After a professional sports career and then working in a law firm, a university, two fire services and in the public service bureaucracy I’m now on the road travelling around Australia in a hard floor camper trailer with my wife Aija and our little white fluffy dog, Puppi. This book contains some observations on how we approached this latest big change in our lives and it is intended for people thinking of selling up, moving on or otherwise changing their lives.

You only get one go at life. A Vietnam War veteran called Gary told me this. That was after he’d looked me in the eye and in a Paul Hogan voice he said That’s not a hammer. Our camper trailer annex was blowing in the wind and we were worried about the zip getting ripped off because they are expensive and difficult to fix. Gary had run across from his camp site to help hold the canvas down. I was banging some tent pegs into the ground to hold the support ropes for the poles. I might as well use his big hammer rather than my own puny one he’d said. In our conversation one thing led to another.

Gary retired at 50. He had a painting business. Driving to work one day he told me he’d burst out crying and at that moment he realized he just couldn’t do it anymore. He stopped that day and never went back. Now he is 67 and I asked him how he’s going and whether he had any regrets. I’ll tell you what he said later.

Even before I met Gary I did wonder a bit about the fact that if we all know we only get one go at life, why do people get trapped in lives they don’t like? Over the past few years I’ve been talking to a lot of people across Australia about this. Plenty of them want to change their lives but find it very hard to imagine how. Obviously, there are material constraints. But still there are choices and some people do make it. This book will tell a few of their stories.

Recently, a long-time friend of mine responded to my travel blog by telling me he had four years, eight months and two days to retirement. His words were superficially cheery. But really he disclosed a despondency which didn’t emerge spontaneously. Clearly he’d fallen out of love with his current life. He spent his work days dreaming of changing it. I realized I’d been listening to all sorts of people over many years, mainly at work, who were constantly expressing strong desires, to be living radically different lives than they currently were. Some people professed to really hate their lives and maybe some of the stories recounted here will help them feel less trapped.

I fondly remember working with this guy. Guy (I’ve changed all the names of people I refer to) and some of his older colleagues would often muse about when they could retire and what they’d do when they did. At the time I didn’t really get it. I liked work and it certainly didn’t feel like a burden turning up every day. I’d go into work every morning in Brisbane’s George Street (the center of Government in Queensland) quite early. I thought it set a nice hardworking example. Often, he would already be there. He’d say, Still here Mr Brumby, still here. Then he would offer up a sad smile and we’d laugh. It wasn’t so bad. But clearly, for Guy it was just a job and not a life. I could see it in his eyes, he wanted a life and he was wondering when he’d get it.

Well recently I caught Guy’s infection. Now I’ve radically changed my life. With my wife and our dog we are now living without work constraints. I’m happy to call it retirement although I know the word sets people off on emotional tangents sometimes. So maybe I should just say I’m free now. Sort of out of jail. That metaphor seems to fit because going to work for a long time when you don’t want to can feel a bit like being incarcerated. Now we’ve engineered a life maximizing our choices so we don’t feel like we have anyone looking over our shoulder.

When I was contemplating stopping work I talked to as many retirees about their experiences as I could and I spoke to all sorts of people about their plans if they hadn’t retired. Very few people were prepared to offer up specifics about how they were going. Virtually no-one wanted to talk about how their finances turned out in any useful detail or indeed what the new pressures in their lives really were. Yes, people will talk a bit about the shock of power bills and steps they plan to take to insulate themselves from rising costs. But it is hard to get a sense of how it’s all going for them. Certainly, I see people as being reluctant to complain and they may well consider they have few more real choices to alter their circumstances, now they’d actually given up work. But I think it would be better if there was more practical and accessible information available for people in the planning phase. But be warned. This is not a book which aims to offer financial or investment advice. It isn’t a book about making money at all. It’s just about how we approached retirement with some personal stories from other people as well.

Observationally, from what we’ve seen on the road so far, we’ve certainly picked up on the fact there are all sorts of retirement plans and all manner of outcomes. Some of them are a blend of retirement and work and this is partly to do with the hangover from the global financial crisis (GFC) but also because plenty of people, mainly women I’ve observed so far, choose to ease their way out of work. People who were planning retirement but haven’t yet done so have mentioned, obliquely, how the GFC had dented or even killed off their plans.

Maybe some of the most depressing stories were the ones fairly well off people told me about their abandoned plans. We lived in a relatively upmarket new unit building on Scarborough Beach in Perth. A sensational place but sadly the values had fallen dramatically from when the project was being marketed and completed around the time of the GFC. People who bought then with borrowed money off the plan saw a big portion of their capital wiped out. Now they are facing the sunk cost dilemma. Naturally they can only think about recovering the lost value. Yet even with record low interest rates they remain a long way underwater and the prospect of prices recovering to the pre GFC highs anytime soon seem quite remote. What it meant for some was long deferred retirement while others put their unit on the market at a hopeful price and that is where it probably still sits, on the market. Markets can be cruel.

I have no doubt the GFC ruined a few plans based on the stock market as well. People have gotten caught out by all sorts of markets at regular intervals. I remember one guy I knew in the fire brigade, Daniel, a guy who had worked hard to become a manager but over a few years he grew vocally disenchanted. He quit at early age, leaving a very good job on the basis of the high interest rates then prevailing at the time in Australia. I understand pretty soon afterwards he ended up becoming a fruit picker because rates fell quickly back to lower levels. He just didn’t have enough capital to fund his lifestyle.

So I started doing some research hoping to get some practical help in deciding whether we could or should do it and how to analyze our chances of success. I didn’t find anything practically useful which explored and then stepped through the dimensions of the problems one needs to solve. In fact on some of the issues, there is a plethora of mildly contradictory advice out there from organizations and professionals one would regard as both reputable and credible.

I’m going to try and summarize and hopefully demystify the issues a little. Essentially, this is a life engineering book. To make a new life you’ll have to build it out of unfamiliar materials in an uncertain context. Because if you succeed, obviously, it will be a quite a different life to the one you are living now. Reading about what others have done might just provide a useful starting point for your design.

The various reactions I got from friends when I told them what we were planning surprised me. This reinforced my resolve to write about it because it was clear everyone has thought about their post-work world but nearly everyone sees it as something which is going to be hard to do.

Most of my friends saw pitfalls and said I’d be bored. They were mainly people who think of the manic me as being too driven to chill out for very long. But quite a

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