This article is part of a series on personal finance during the coronavirus pandemic. Please check out the Coronavirus and Your Finances Series (link will open in a new window).
A subject for a great poet would be God’s boredom after the seventh day of creation.
When we announced to our investors that I was retiring in 13 months (which, for some, still wasn’t enough time…can’t please everyone), a few of them told me that I’d be bored in a few months and would come back to work.
While the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic effects will certainly impact us just a couple of months into early retirement, we haven’t hit that projected boredom frontier where we sit around all day looking at each other and twiddling our thumbs.
Certainly, the novel coronavirus pandemic and the shelter in place orders that followed have affected both our plans and our lifestyles.
But, that doesn’t mean that we’re bored.
What Was Our FIRE Life Like Before the Coronavirus Pandemic?
The biggest change that we saw was gaining freedom of our time.
Before we retired, we both worked from home. In the last couple of months before retirement, I sat at the built-in desk in our apartment, and my wife had a stand-up desk on the other side of the living room. It worked well enough.
We’d get up at 5:30, walk the dog, and be at work by 7 AM.
After January 1, 2020, our schedules certainly changed.
Most days, we’re now sleeping in until 8:30 or 9 AM. This is unsurprising. According to the National Institutes of Health’s research, the duration of sleep increases and the number of sleep difficulties decrease during retirement. We’re not staying up much later than we used to. We used to go to bed around 9 PM. Now, we’re going to bed at about 10 PM. I don’t know if we’d sleep much later if we didn’t have him, but we have a dog who needs walking.
The second big change is that we’re now walking much longer and farther with our dog. Our dog walks are usually 2 or so hours long and between 3-4 miles. That’s a pretty good hike for a 13 1/2 year old dog.
As a result, he’s gassed by the time we get home!
Generally speaking, our afternoons are taken up with a few different activites.
We’ve started doing a lot more hiking ourselves. It’s nice to go on a midweek, midafternoon hike and encounter very few, if any, people on the trails.
Poetry discovered on steps at the Centennial Park in Addison, Texas
We also like to walk through neighborhoods. Here is a beautiful flower bed in one neighborhood.
I used to not be a flower person. I’m getting there.
We did not tiptoe through these tulips.
This is a cute market and farm in south Dallas, Bonton Farms, right at the beginning of the…
Buckeye Trail, which, unfortunately, hasn’t been kept up very well.
We also have been reading quite a bit. I finished the first five published books of the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown (#aff).
A friend of mine also published an excellent book of poetry, Beautiful, and Full of Monsters by Courtney LeBlanc (#aff).
A little light reading.
We also took a couple of trips to Colorado to go skiing. We hadn’t been skiing in two seasons because work precluded me from traveling (this is the plight of startup owners).
Near record snowfall led to some great ski conditions
…and great snow angel making conditions!
It also gave me an excuse to go to my second favorite brewery in the whole world, Avery Brewing Company.
I cooked quite a bit before we retired, and I continue to do so.
Also, for my birthday, we went to watch the US Women’s National Team beat Japan at the She Believes Cup.
But, then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and we went quickly from life as usual to life under quarantine.
What is Our FIRE Life Like During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
The day before my birthday, the line at Costco should have given me an indication that things were about to change.
Dallas County, Texas, where we live, issued a shelter in place order for all residents.
To be honest, our lives haven’t changed that much.
When we go out walking the dog, we use physical distancing, even to the point of being very awkward as we steer the dog far away from other people, which means, apparently, that we’re doing it right.
However, a few things have definitely changed.
We used to have friends over for Friday evening (or Saturday) happy hours. We’d just started working through the entire collection of Kids in the Hall (#aff) when the shelter in place order took effect. Yes, we could probably stream it using FaceTime or Zoom, but it’s not the same, so we wait.
We didn’t go out to eat very much, but, after a bad experience of having to wait in a common area with several of my new closest (and hopefully coronavirus-free friends) for over a half an hour past when I’d scheduled a meal pickup at Perry’s in Dallas, we’ve stopped even doing pickup orders. We still order boatloads of Chick-Fil-A for our friends who work at hospitals to give to their crews in appreciation of the risks they’re taking during this time, but otherwise, it’s been all home cooking.
Dinner brought to you by the Ninja Foodi air fryer and SodaStream!
I’ve also taken up trying to cook the recipes around the world from Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Chef (#aff). I don’t think Guy Fieri is quaking in his boots.
This is supposed to be cevapi from Serbia. Cevapi and cevapcici were my favorite dishes to eat at Bosnian and Serbo-Croatian restaurants when I was stationed in Germany. The dishes I ordered at the restaurant looked a whole lot better than this. My effort isn’t bad, but it’s slow-carb, meaning that it’s missing some of the tastier, but less healthy ingredients.
Since our gym has closed, we’re forced to go back to bodyweight exercises to keep fit.
We also broke out our 10 year old Wii to do the exercises there.
This brings back memories of plebe and then Intramural boxing from West Point. At least I probably won’t break my nose doing this one.
Another big change was in our travel plans.
We’d planned on going to Poland at the end of March. However, Poland shut down much earlier than the United States did due to the coronavirus.
We’re currently, because of the restricted nature of ticket change policies at American Airlines, scheduled to go in May; however, we think there’s an almost 0% chance that we’ll wind up going then. We’re hoping we can get a refund or vouchers if we’re unable to go. Even Donald Trump pushing back Easter to July 15 probably won’t help our causes there.
We were also planning on doing to Machu Picchu with a friend to hike up to the ruins. I’d been working on building up my climbing strength and endurance to account for the nearly 8,000 feet of altitude at the peak of Machu Picchu. Since our gym has closed, it’s much tougher to do that. Furthermore, we’re really uncertain about international travel, even that far into the future.
Finally, we’re currently scheduled to go on a UTO Vacation China tour. We were able to snag this at $299 ($449 once you include mandatory tips) per person. It seems too good to be true, but the price was just too hard to pass up. It sounds like a 10 day glorified timeshare presentation, but we’re old hands at that, and know how to say no. That said, we’re also uncertain of our ability to travel to China any time in the near future. The travel agency providing the tour has allowed some people to delay their tours, but not as far out as our tour is currently scheduled.
As a result, all of our travel is in limbo.
Fortunately for us, we were pretty content doing things at home. For now, we’re still able to get out a couple of hours a day to walk the dog, and we still have a long line of Netflix and Amazon Video to keep us occupied. I still have a ton of books I want to read. Our apartment has hosted a virtual happy hour so that we can see our friends, and there’s a very active text group that sends messages back and forth every day.
I’ve restarted my stop/start Duolingo language exercises. I may be able to order a beer in a restaurant without having the server bring me a mop bucket by the time I’m done!
We got our spring cleaning done early and rearranged our apartment to get it into the post-work configuration that we wanted.
So, we aren’t really having to change our lifestyles that much as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Outside of our apartment rent, travel is the biggest line item in our budget. Given that COVID-19 is causing a lot of uncertainty for new early retirees, including us, not traveling and keeping more dry powder is probably a good thing.
We have tried to cut down on some other expenses, such as moving from AT&T to Google Fi, which should save us about $100 a month. Since we’re only eating at home, we’re saving a couple to a few hundred a month on restaurants. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is a longer-term trend. Also, since friends aren’t coming over, we’re drinking less, which also saves money. I have had one glass of wine since March 14, and that was for the apartment virtual happy hour that I showed above. We didn’t live a particularly extravagant lifestyle as it was, so, unless we decide to break our lease to move to a much cheaper cost of living location, there’s not a ton of fat left for us to cut, although we already have our contingency plans to keep us from running out of money in retirement.
At some point, we may reach the boredom frontier of early retirement, particularly if we have to remain in lockdown for several months rather than several weeks, and our ability to travel continues to be significantly curtailed. There are certainly things on the agenda that I’d like to learn if I do get bored, so I don’t envision that happening.
How has your early retirement lifestyle changed as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown? Are you bored yet? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!