Preparing for the Tsunami: How Our Pursuit of FIRE has Helped Us During the Pandemic

We’ve spent a lot of time over the past several months preparing for the dreaded “second wave” of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to hit, and it appears that time has arrived. New cases are at record levels in the U.S. and around the world, the number of deaths are climbing steadily, and shutdowns and restrictions are increasing. With the Northern Hemisphere just weeks away from winter, it’s looking like many of us are in store for a long, lonely and scary holiday season.

It has been a difficult year, spent mostly isolated from family, friends, colleagues and neighbors. We saw my family once over the summer, and we haven’t seen Mrs. ROMT’s family in almost a year. If anything, the next several months may be more challenging than the last eight months have been. Upcoming celebrations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are going to be different. Our state has recently increased restrictions on out-of-state visitors and banned gatherings of more than one household. While enforcement of these measures doesn’t appear stringent right now, we have no interest in pushing the envelope. Hopefully by next summer we’ll be through the worst of the pandemic, and, God willing, will be healthy and able to catch up on lost time in person with family and friends.

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Q3 20 Financial Scorecard: Heading Towards the New Normal

Another quarter of pandemic life is behind us, but life’s certainly not back to normal. New cases of COVID-19 are climbing around the country, and it seems like the dreaded “second wave” could emerge over the coming months. We’re also just weeks away from the U.S. presidential election. Regardless of whether President Donald Trump or Joe Biden wins, the result will ultimately have an impact on our personal finances and pursuit of FIRE.

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Q2 2020 Financial Scorecard: Time For a Change in Plans

My employer recently went through a round of layoffs. While my job was safe, many of my colleagues, and millions of Americans, have lost their jobs over the past several months. COVID-19 cases continue climbing in many parts of the country, massive social changes are taking place, and what seems like one of the most important presidential elections of my lifetime is just four months away.

The world has changed a lot in 2020, which has caused us to rethink our plans around our pursuit of early retirement and financial independence.

Part of me has been tempted to use the massive uncertainty as the impetus to walk away and focus on what’s most important to us.

But the more rational part of me thinks it would be crazy to abandon a good paycheck until we have a much better idea what life in the United States might look like in 2021, 2022, and beyond.

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Q1 2020 Financial Scorecard: A Whole New World

It seems frivolous to be writing our latest financial scorecard in the midst of everything that’s going on in the world today. The first quarter of 2020 will go down in history as one of the most eventful for the American economy, global financial markets, and society at large, as the COVID-19 coronavirus reached pandemic levels, impacting life around the world.

The coronavirus is closing in on two million confirmed cases, and has already killed over 100,000 people in what will likely become the most significant global pandemic since the outbreak of the Spanish Flu a century ago. In addition to the grim human toll, the coronavirus contributed to the worst first quarter performance in the history of the S&P 500 Index, which plunged 20% as fear of what the future holds ended the longest bull market in American history, triggering record jobless claims and a likely recession.

The result on our personal finances was, predictably, quite negative. While the ROMT family may have reached financial independence in late 2019, that’s no longer the case. But right now our family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues are all safe and healthy, which more than makes up for some smaller numbers in our financial spreadsheets!

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Our 2019 FIRE Prowess Score

Three years ago, The Green Swan blog introduced a metric called the FIRE Prowess Score.

“FIRE Prowess” went viral among those seeking financial independence and early retirement in 2017. Many financial bloggers, including yours truly, wrote about our FIRE Prowess Scores back then.

Since I’m close to finishing up our taxes, I’ve pulled together the information needed to determine our score for 2019. I’ve been keeping thorough financial records for years, and enjoy tracking how our “FIRE Prowess” has changed over time. Thanks largely to last year’s great stock market returns, our FIRE Prowess improved significantly over the past twelve months!

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If You’re FI, Why Haven’t You RE?

question-mark-4785077_1920I recently wrote about how the strong U.S. stock market enabled the ROMT family to achieve our long-term net worth goal earlier than expected.

That achievement naturally could lead readers to wonder:

“So ROMT, if you think you’re financially independent, why haven’t you retired early?”

It’s a great question, and one I’ve been thinking about a lot lately!

There are several reasons why I haven’t pursued early retirement, even though our net worth says it might be possible:

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Q4 2019 Financial Scorecard: Kinda Sorta Financially Independent!

stock-market-2616931_1920The U.S. stock market finished the decade on a strong note, with returns of 8.5% for the S&P 500 during the fourth quarter of 2019. For the full year, the S&P 500 climbed 29%, its best performance since 2013!

Those great returns helped our financial situation improve more than expected over the last three months of the year. As a result, the ROMT family achieved one of the three financial goals we set on our path towards financial independence and early retirement!

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Smart Financial Decisions: We Finally Cut the Cord!

scissor-1794088_1920A couple years ago, I wrote about how much money we saved by making a few simple phone calls.

One of those calls was to our cable company, which offered me a discounted rate for two years when I threatened to cut the cord.

Unfortunately, two years have now come and gone, and our monthly cable bill recently climbed when our discounted rate expired. Continue Reading

Q3 2019 Financial Scorecard: Slow But Steady Progress Towards Our Goals

amphibian-1850190_1920After a great first half of the year financially, the third quarter of 2019 was less eventful for the ROMT family.

The S&P 500 climbed 1.2% during Q3, which helped offset our spending being a bit higher than normal, as we took a few trips over the summer. Although our progress slowed from the pace we set earlier in the year, we continued to move closer to each of the three goals we are tracking on our path towards early retirement and financial independence Рnet worth, 529 account funding, and passive income.

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Should I Coast to Early Retirement or Run Hard To The Finish Line?

sport-1201014_1920As I noted in our latest Quarterly Financial Scorecard, we’re getting close to making financial independence a reality.

We’re now two years away from my target early retirement date. And barring a major downturn in the stock market, we should hit our net worth goal early next year.

But even in a best case scenario, that means we still have another 24 months of long commutes, late nights, countless meetings, office politics, and stressful deadlines ahead.

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