Everyone has experiences that have made them who they are today. Everyone has made life choices to get them to where they are. Everyone has a story and if we just take the time to listen, you’ll learn so much.
I couldn’t help my radio interview style of just wanting to be a sponge and learn.
It was also really interesting to keep comparing her lifestyle then at my age to now. I included my insights and comparisons to see whether I’m on track for a wonderful retirement too.
Bailey: How has your lifestyle changed since being retired?
Sarah: Primarily it’s changed in terms of being flexible, how I structure my day, week or month. Alternatively it’s not being structured at all, so that if something comes along, I have much more freedom.
Being retired means that there is an overwhelming variety of new pursuits and interests or developing a previous hobby further.
Hiking became a lifestyle and a good hike a year is factored into each year.
A stand out trip: The Annapurna circuit in Nepal.
Locally: The whale trail. It was a 5-day highlight, combining the best of western cape coastal, fynbos and whales.
I also do cycling and the cycle touring has opened up a different kind of travel, which was wonderful.
Bailey: You’re far more active than I am and it’s so impressive. Have you always been fit?
Sarah: Yes, I suppose I have. In my Matric year, my mom had an accident on the tennis court and the hospital was 4km away from the house. We lived in Constantia, which was pretty rural back then and there wasn’t any proper transport. I had to cycle each day to see my mom in hospital and I’ve been active ever since.
When I lived in Durban (after my children were born) I took up running and did the Spar 10-15km runs.
In Winter I do gym to keep my strength up.
Retirement opened up golf for me. It opened up an intense desire to learn. It’s not logical or a game like tennis where you soon learn the motion. Golf is a mental challenge as well as a physical discipline.
I tried taking golf up during my working years but it just didn’t happen.
I love hiking and I love cycling too, it’s just a part of my lifestyle.
Bailey: This makes me feel so bad because I’m nowhere near as fit as she is and I’m in my early thirties. It’s something I really want in my life and I feel like I’ve turned my health around in the past 3 years, so I’m on the right track for sure, but I do wish I had started earlier and made it a lifestyle. I also want to be active and doing fun adventures when I am retired. I’ve never thought of that before… I’ve never thought of being active and fit and maintaining that as I get older and older so that I keep my body young.
Have you had to downscale your lifestyle?
Sarah: I’ve actually downscaled and up scaled. I downscaled from running a house and a garden to living in an apartment with no garden and no major maintenance. I feel that I have up scaled in having the best views and being walking distance to the sea. I suppose I’ve done the retirement dream of moving from a suburban house and garden to an apartment by the sea.
When I moved into my husbands apartment, I had to sell all my Victorian antique furniture that had been collected with passion and interest.
Bailey: Oh gosh! How did you feel about that?
Sarah: I actually prepared for it the week before we got married. I just saw it as a watershed. It was a way of leaving everything of my old life and starting fresh. I did take my bookcase and chaise lounge with me.
Bailey: I’ve always imagined retiring in a beach home too, somewhere in Cape Town or even the Mediterranean! From my perspective, her downscale would be an upscale for me – especially with the ocean views she has… It’s inspiring.
What was your first car?
Sarah: A Renault 5 – convertible top. It folded down. If it rained it took so long to put up so you’d be stuck in the rain. 1982. The equivalent of a mini convertible today.
Bailey: What do you drive now?
I had to sell my Mercedes Convertible because of my eyes and now I drive a Mercedes A Class. It can fit my golf clubs, my bike and even a chest of drawers. It’s a great utility vehicle with children.
Bruce, my husband has also downscaled from the X5 to a sporty Audi A5! We’ve swopped – he has the sporty car now and I have the utility car. Even if I look at my retired friends, most of them have gone from having 2 doors to 4 doors for grandchildren’s car seats.
Bailey: When did you start saving?
Sarah: I started saving from my very first job babysitting. I was 13 years old.
Bailey: Oh my goodness. What amazing insight to have started saving from such an early age. I’ve saved sporadically over the years and it’s only now since the age of 30, 31 that I’ve started being more responsible and I’m building up my savings. It makes me wonder if I have left it too late and if I will have a wonderful, comfortable retirement.
What are your prized possessions?
Sarah: My painting, which I saw on a misty day in a shop in Wynberg. It’s called the Luminous Sunset and it has quite a story to it. I thought it would be a nice engagement present for Bruce. When I went back it was gone. I called the art owner and after some effort in tracking it down, he discovered he had put it in the back of another store. It was delivered to our home and it just makes me really happy!
I also treasure the tiny Chinese demitasse coffee cups that used to belong to my mom. She would open the Welsh dresser cupboard and allow me to play with them when I was little. On my 40th birthday she gave them to me as a gift. When I am home, I have my second coffee of the day in them every day.
Bailey: What do you treasure most?
Sarah: On the Metaphysical side: my relationship with my family and my children.
I also love my jewellery but what stands out is my wedding ring. It is a trinity band and it says everything about marriage. It’s solid, it’s understated and when I look at it – it reminds me of how happy I am in this stage of my life.
Bailey: What are you grateful for that your younger self did?
Sarah: I preserved a level of independence in my 30s. I owned a home and I never moved in with someone or had someone look after me, if you know what I mean. People weren’t quite as independent back then as they are now. I ran my own home and I didn’t lose financial independence. I’m also glad that I went back to work, even though it was difficult being a single mom at 33. I learned that keeping fit is important. It was never in excess, but keeping a level of fitness kept me upbeat. Being a single mom had challenges, so going for a run or going to gym put me in a better frame of mind. I feel I was better prepared for challenges that came along and I could bounce back quicker.
I’m grateful that I took on further education in my 30s and went to Technikon where I got my Post Grad Diploma in travel and tourism. It also made me computer literate. I really believe it’s so important to up skill.
Bailey: I really relate to Sarah in terms of preserving a level of independence. When I was younger, I was more naïve and trusting. I was in a long-term relationship for 6 years where I used my savings to help pay my then boyfriends bond. We kept meaning to draw up something that said I had invested, but we never did especially since I naively thought it would be “forever.” I learned a very expensive lesson in losing all that I had “invested” and vowed that from that day on I would always stay financially independent.
When I moved to Cape Town, my boyfriend (now fiancé) and I had been in a long distance relationship for a year. I moved into my own apartment first before moving in with him, to ensure that I made my own life here in Cape Town. I’ve always been financially independent and even when I get married in 2016, I hope to keep a healthy level of independence financially too. I just hope that I will also be financially sound when it comes to retiring.
I also believe it’s important to up skill. I went back to university when I moved to Cape Town to do a course to add to my existing career and degree. Just 2 weekends ago, I did an intensive weekend course of up skilling some of my abilities. We have so much in common here.
It’s like a Gwyneth Paltrow “Sliding Doors” movie moment of wondering “what if” but I am big believer that everything happens as it should and you are exactly where you are meant to be.
I just hope the decisions and choices I’m making in my life are setting me up for a great retirement too.
Everyone has a story, it’s just about listening and learning.
On our walk back, we had to have some photos with the big glasses on the Promenade – especially since I shared this story with you.
Part 4 (Week 3) is coming up next week.