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Early Retirement during COVID-19

by Apr 2, 2020Uncategorized

It’s day 14 of our lockdown, here in Spain. Shops and schools are closed, and restrictions are in place so that basically everyone (with a few exceptions) has to stay at home.

This pandemic has taken the world by surprise. It’s an entirely new situation and we had to make quite a few adjustments.

Home Schooling

Schools closed more than two weeks ago, and we transitioned to full-time home schooling. This has been quite a big effort, as we have two kids under the age of 6, who can’t do much by themselves 😅.

We get a document from school every morning, with a list of activities to do during the day (maths, writing, reading exercises, coloring sheets, songs etc…). But then getting the work done is down to us. So we have structured our days around these activities. It’s quite time consuming, but at least now we have a better understanding of what they do at school. It’s also a good way of spending time together, although after a few hours we all need a break!

Being in our early retirement helps massively with home schooling, as we have more time to dedicate to these things. It would be way more complicated if we still had our full time jobs!!

Online shopping only

Supermarkets are still open in Spain. They seem to be doing better than other countries as they still have good supplies …except for toilet paper, of course. What’s going on with people? Maybe they think COVID-19 is a gut-related illness?

Anyway, we tried to avoid going to supermarkets and to shop online instead. Clearly, we weren’t the only ones who wanted to do this! The massive surge in demand made it very difficult to find a delivery slot. We tried several supermarkets which didn’t have any availability…and of course we only discovered this after filling up the trolley!!!

At our fourth attempt we found one which had a 10 days(!) leadtime, and we went for that. The only problem is that by that point due to ‘trolley fatigue’ we bought lots of random things and forgot several essentials! So we had to make another order with another supermarket, with an even longer leadtime. As of today, we still have to receive this second order, and hopefully it will include everything we ordered! With such long delivery times, the risk is the supermarket runs out of some stuff by the time they fulfil our order.

Better inventory management

Getting things delivered has been so difficult we had to reassess our supplies and the way we were consuming them. To make sure food would last, we made a list of everything we had in the house and created a weekly menu that would last until the next delivery. Luckily the delivery arrived on time, as we were about to run out of the new gold (ahem…toilet paper!) 😅. 

We had to consume less of a few things to make them last (eg. Kitchen Roll), and realised we could actually use way less. This was a great realisation, and we will definitely continue like this after the lockdown.

We sleep more

I know some people say you shouldn’t change your routine during lockdown, and they are probably right. However with no school in the morning – and us not having to go to work – we have naturally moved to a more natural sleeping pattern, which in this family appears to be ‘go to bed late, wake up late’. Breakfast has shifted to 10.30am; lunch to 3pm. Never mind. We’ll go back to waking at 7am when school reopens. For now, we are enjoying sleeping until we wake up. 😴

Alternative exercise

Before the lockdown, we used to exercise/play sports 3-4 times a week. We can’t do that now, as we are locked in.

Looking for alternatives, we have downloaded a yoga app and we are now spending around 30 minutes a day doing yoga. I always wanted to do yoga, but I had never considered doing it with an app, but it’s actually surprisingly good! The app we are using is called ‘Down Dog’.

More family time

Spending so much time together at home, as a family, is really great. We basically have the full day to enjoy our kids and do things together. True, on occasion we need a bit of quiet time 🤯 but overall we really like it.

And we are only able to do this because we are ‘free’. We don’t have a conference call to run to as soon as we have half an hour free. Being ‘retired’ means less commitments, and less stress. We can just defer pretty much anything to ‘mañana’.

Financial stress

Markets have plunged since the beginning of the pandemic. Around the end of February we reviewed our portfolio and decided to sell the majority of it. We kept only 25% invested in companies that in our opinion shouldn’t be affected by the pandemic, such as online businesses. This had little effect: in the general panic selling, everything lost value, including these investments.

We are not worried about our long term prospects, as we are reasonably sure things will return to normal in the next 6-12 months. We also have enough cash to cover the next couple of years, so everything should be fine. However, I confess that it’s not easy to see your portfolio lose value at such an alarming pace. This says a lot about the psychology of early retirement, and ties up with the negative things I have said about the ‘4% rule’.

Overall

We look daily at the COVID-19 stats, and they look bad. The number of cases (and unfortunately, deaths) are going up quickly. The lockdown seems to be the only way to contain the contagion, and I think it will be extended by several weeks, maybe even months. I still marvel at the fact some countries are so late in ordering people to stay at home. 

This situation is probably (and hopefully) the closest we will ever get to the miseries of war: queuing for food, running out of supplies, not knowing exactly what’s happening out there. But it’s also important to remember this is NOT war. As someone simplified it: we’ve been asked to stay at home and watch Netflix.

So we are doing our part, staying indoors to avoid catching and spreading COVID-19. With this mindset, we have been able to focus on the good parts of the lockdown. We have learned new things, spent more time with our kids, and are making  the most of the situation.

We are lucky. Being ‘retired’, despite some financial stress, gives us some flexibility and time to cope with this.

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