Published: April 13, 2020 at 3:57 p.m. ET
The coronavirus has forced many of us to stay at home, but there’s more to retirement than stopping work
Shelter-in-place orders have urged most Americans to stay home, freeing hours of time otherwise spent commuting or working at an office. They’re also getting creative about how they use this time, including running around the neighborhood, learning a new language, taking long walks with their dogs and cooking more.
Some Reddit users say if this is what early retirement is like, they’re ready.
“I sleep in and wake up on my own every day. I watch some news/TV, take my dog to the park, work on a household chore or project, make dinner, watch some TV, go to bed. Rinse repeat,” one Reddit user posted on the site. “This is the life I want. This is what retiring early will be for me.” She is still earning 100% of her salary and is working less than 10 hours a week. The only thing she’s missing, she said, is traveling.
The original post is from one of many people pursuing FIRE, short for “financial independence, retire early.” She is 17 years away from “chubbyFIRE,” which means she intends to save more than she may need.
A few fellow Reddit users said they could relate. “This isn’t a full test case for FIRE because obviously I’m still working, but it’s a test for an incremental step I could take between full-time 9-5 office work and full-time FIRE,” one person said. “So far I really like it.”
But others argued this isn’t the retirement they would envision for themselves. One user said she and her husband were feeling guilty the other day for wasting this “taste of retirement,” until she realized the real problem. “My dream for retirement is spending my time in the world with people. The exact opposite of what we can do right now,” she said. “This isn’t retirement. It is a world event.”
Others reminded the original user that this is a global pandemic. “First off, this was forced on us in a relatively short amount of time, uprooting routine, social interaction, etc. Couple that with the legitimate fear for the well-being of friends and family, the bombardment of negativity in the news and society as a whole, and the lack of any sort of travel (one of my absolute favorite things to do), and a fairly significant loss of identity and I would say this has been a net negative.”
Even people who have been using this time to expand on their hobbies aren’t sold on this as an introduction to early retirement.
“This situation right now is definitely not the life I want,” said another user, who has been learning French, exercising and playing games with a significant other. “All of these things (while fun) are starting to get old without other stuff outside the neighborhood mixed in.”
Some even said they were no longer interested in retiring early at all. “I have always liked my job but this situation has made me realize how much I like going to work and contributing,” one person said. “I no longer have a desire to retire early and plan to up my spending significantly and start working on my bucket list now instead of planning to do it in 15 years.”
Actual retirees also responded, saying this isn’t quite what retirement should be like. “I honestly thought it wouldn’t be much of a change from my normal routines since I live a pretty simple life,” one person said. “But I guess I underestimated how much time I normally spend out and about or visiting or hosting or eating out.”
The FIRE movement has been in the crosshairs during this health crisis, as many people pursuing this goal rely heavily on the stock market, which has become volatile in the past month. But a recession wouldn’t end the movement — it would change it, argued Tanja Hester, an early retiree. “If anything, we should expect to see more people interested in securing their financial security permanently, most especially workers who are too young to have been scarred by the Great Recession in 2008-2009,” she wrote. People won’t cut corners when analyzing their financial needs in the future, and they’ll rethink investment and spending strategies more carefully, she said.
Financial advisers typically counsel near-retirees to think not only about the financial aspects of retirement, but the lifestyle choices, too. There’s a lot more time to spend in retirement, and people typically find they’re unhappy — or even become unhealthy — when they don’t know what to do with it. “This makes me realize that I can’t be retiring before finding some other purpose in life,” one Reddit user said. “I’d go absolutely INSANE if I don’t have a reason to wake up in the morning.”