If you asked me last year what I expected to be doing during the spring of my first year of FIRE, “hunkering down at home for an indefinite period in order to ride out a global viral pandemic” would not have been anywhere near the top of my list. And yet, here we are.
As of last week our governor ordered everyone to stay home as much as possible. “Essential” businesses may stay open and their employees can go to work as usual. The definition of “essential” is a bit broad for my taste (is take-out sushi really a necessity?), but it’s not too outrageous. Most people seem to be doing a pretty good job of complying with the orders.
This has been a wild time in so many ways. Schools are closed. Kids are home. So are most office workers. Nobody can buy hand sanitizer. Toilet paper and flour are precious commodities. Normally-vibrant business districts near my home are a virtual ghost town. Many of the restaurants have signs in the window proclaiming “YES WE ARE OPEN BUT ONLY FOR TAKEOUT,” but many (most?) retail businesses have gone dark.
Pretty much everything I do on a regular schedule has been cancelled. This includes three different volunteering gigs and a few recurring social engagements. In their place are the occasional video chat with friends and family, near and far.
The bus system is still running. In order to protect the drivers they stopped charging fares, blocked off the front section of the bus, and everyone is required to board through the back door unless they need to use the wheelchair ramp in front. I haven’t been on a bus in weeks though. From the nearly-empty buses I see going through the neighborhood it seems that most people are staying off if they can for the safety of themselves and others.
Residents are encouraged to go outside for walks or runs, but everyone must maintain a six-foot distance from anyone outside their household. Sometimes this is hard to do. I enjoy walks but find myself crisscrossing the street pretty often if someone is approaching from the opposite direction. If there’s someone walking in the opposite direction on the opposite sidewalk too, I just walk down the middle of the street for a bit. Vehicle traffic has slowed to a trickle of its usual volume so this is pretty safe to do.
The personal finance side of things has been interesting. Our net worth has gone down rather significantly, of course, but I’ve been pretty calm about it. I took a couple of opportunities to rebalance from bonds into stocks on the way down to maintain our predetermined asset allocation. Having a plan in advance really helps!
I’m thankful that our problems are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. We haven’t lost an essential source of income. We’re at low risk for the disease in our house. We’ll get through this just fine. Not everyone will be so lucky. Let’s all do what we can to protect and enhance our communities during this time.