With 2020 over halfway through, and a pandemic being the focus of the majority of it, here are some of my thoughts on Coronavirus and early retirement, how it’s impacted us, and how the system we’ve built is working out.
For some background on our early retirement philosophy, our original introduction to the concept was through the Early Retirement Extreme blog back in 2011. For those unfamiliar, that system is centered very much on building self-reliance skills, stoicism, minimalism, environmentalism, and seeking out freedom through reducing dependence on society and consumerism overall. Interestingly, saving massive amounts of money and being able to retire early is almost just a side benefit, as the focus isn’t actually on money, but developing skills and cutting consumption, and you just happen to get wildly rich in the meantime. This philosophy absolutely formed the basis of our own system, with minor differences. Indeed, saving 60-70% of our income has always been more of a natural result of our beliefs and lifestyle choices, versus something we had to struggle for.
The layers of self-reliance built into our systems from day 1 have been a godsend throughout 2020. Some examples of this:
I work in a pretty recession-proof industry (bankruptcy), and have actually prioritized that ever since 2008 when everyone around me was losing their jobs, but I happened to be working in something stable by chance (collections). Cel is self-employed, but has literally global clientele, and broad enough skills that he can adapt by taking on different types of projects than he normally would if needed. As a result, our income has not been affected at all throughout the process.
My self-reliance skills have been incredibly useful throughout this time, and have kept everything running smoothly. In the early days of the pandemic the grocery stores were getting cleaned out regularly, but I’m versatile and can generally make pretty good meals out of anything. We didn’t ever need to put ourselves at risk of exposure by doing things like ordering takeout, because I have everything I need to cook and bake anything myself. I had the supplies and knowledge to sew us good reusable masks at a time when they were also sold out everywhere. We are just generally very well stocked and well supplied, and able to go full-lockdown without any trouble, if needed.
We have always prioritized maintaining good health, including lots of exercise, a vegan diet with all home cooked, healthy food, never having a car, avoiding all substance use, and maintaining healthy weights. While this is no guarantee, it puts us at much lower risk for dying from Coronavirus. We have a pretty good setup for home fitness as well, including a fair bit of equipment and fitness video games.
The end result of the above is that not only have we not been harmed financially so far, we’re actually doing really well – our net worth has increased by about $30,000 so far this year, and we could be looking at crossing the $500,000 barrier very soon.
Of course, it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses. Here are our gripes so far.
We’re pretty sure Cel had Coronavirus in March though we don’t know for sure since they weren’t testing people at the time. He was horribly sick with something respiratory that took about six weeks to clear up, and had him bedridden for a huge chunk of that time. That was really bad, but we made it through.
Our grocery spending has increased dramatically, because a lot of the stuff we would normally do is not an option anymore. We try to avoid going to multiple stores and taking public transit, and for a good chunk of the year our usual cheap grocery store was closed while they renovated to be social-distancing-friendly. We’ve also been going to the expensive store across the street a lot more in order to stay closer to home. And we decided not to renew our Costco membership, as we were unable to use it at all for several months due to hours-long lineups to get in, followed by them not allowing us to bring our stroller anymore, which would make it impossible to get our purchases home without hiring a taxi. Our grocery spending seems to be sitting at about $350/month right now.
Travel is normally a huge part of our lives, and has been completely curtailed, obviously. While it’s saving us a fortune this year, it just really sucks and we’re getting cabin fever. On a positive note, I’ve been focusing the efforts I used to put into trip planning into researching local hikes and bike routes, and we have discovered a surprising amount of new paths over the last few months.
Unfortunately our categorization has gone to shit this year. We used to be very careful about keeping everything in the right columns – for example, if we were at London Drugs and bought both shampoo and allergy medicine, we would do it in two transactions since one would be personal care and the other would be health. Now we’re just lumping them in together and sticking the whole thing in whatever category the majority of it fell into, so we can be out of the store sooner and touch less. So while our total spending is still accurate, the exact breakdown into categories is… not great this year.
Overall, we’re holding out well. While we want this thing to be over as much as anybody, we’re ready and able to hold out as long as we need to, and have not had our early retirement plans affected at all so far.