Some people have prepared their whole life for an event like the current lockdown. Living in splendid isolation at home, watching their money grow and living off basic rations. This lifestyle has played straight into the arms of FI/RE enthusiasts. Yet for me it isn’t right.
Staying at home, not spending much money and watching the ravenous hordes scratching at the door to get out and spend all their money should be satisfying, but for me at least, it is not. There is something yanking on the pleasant harp strings of bliss.
Maybe it’s that we are still working full time in a distraction filled environment, typing away for most hours of the day, trying to clear the decks as the hours all blend together. Or maybe it’s because almost 7 weeks have passed and that is more than long enough to form new negative habits we have adopted to help us deal with the above.
We’ve been thrust into this situation, whereas FI/RE as a concept is built organically, with a specific interest in mind, namely to be free from most of the risks of job loss and financial uncertainty.
This is far from my otium inspired dream of active leisure. Instead it feels like I’m working harder than ever towards financial independence. Apart from the money, I have all the ingredients and the right environment for it right now, but I’m just too busy to follow the recipe. I’m probably not the only one. Financial independence lifestyle bloggers have long lauded the idea that retirement from work is not really the end goal. Instead the goal is to have the time to take more fulfilling work once money is no longer a problem. But the current lockdown does not lend itself kindly to this.
I’ve heard the term ‘these are unprecedented times’ more often than I can count. It’s an example of a media trope designed to make you feel like you are doing everything you can; in other, harsher, words, it’s an excuse. What it’s an excuse for is subject to opinion, but I suspect that whenever someone regurgitates that phrase, they are either trying to comfort you or excuse their own actions.
In fact the phrase ‘unprecedented times’ is itself unprecedented, as the Google Trends data below shows. It didn’t even exist in common vocabulary until March this year.
My point here is not that these aren’t unprecedented times. It’s more that we’ve always lived in unprecedented times. And through war, famine and disease we’ve always come through. Furthermore these hardships almost always lead to new innovations and ideas, and those who work hard in times of hardship to develop these ideas and themselves usually come out on top.
For some, this is an opportunity
It would be wrong of me to say this is an opportunity for everyone. There are people out there who have lose their relatives and some who have lost their livelihoods.
It’s human nature to yearn for freedom. For some, this is an opportunity to escape from commutes and long working days. Freedom to a lot of people is having the time to watch Netflix, ordering things off Amazon and closing their eyes and hoping this will pass. There is nothing wrong with this.
For those interested in personal finance however, this is an opportunity to save more money (providing your outgoings have dropped), assess your current situation and to think about what you want your financial future to look like. But there’s only so far this can take you, and once you’ve run the numbers a few times there’s little more you can do.
Now is the ideal time to bring more money in. I don’t have the answers to what a profitable business venture would look like in these (ahem) unprecedented times, but it’s a great time to start the path to a new supplementary income source, whether that’s an evening job in a supermarket, running a blog or something like matched betting.
To me, the modern connotations to the word ‘entertainment’ brings forth an idea of humdrum spectatorship. Sometimes I enjoy this when I need to unwind, but on the most part I prefer to spend my time working towards building a brighter future for my family or in active entertainment.
By active entertainment I mean playing or dancing with your family, learning to play music, reading new ideas or books that challenge your thinking. Although challenging, all of these can be done in this lockdown environment. I don’t simply want to be entertained, but I want to be a participant rather than a spectator.
I think most FI/RE enthusiasts probably fall into this category, but for me this period does not represent an opportunity to experience a FI/RE lifestyle. Maybe for others it will, but I think most would prefer it to be on their own terms.
I’m not sure I’m engaging in as much active entertainment as I would like at the moment, but I’m working hard so I can start to experience this leisure time without the distraction of a job, rather than the wolf in sheep’s clothing this lockdown period presents.