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.

A lot of our preparation for the second wave is similar to things we have been doing as we pursue financial independence. Some key themes associated with the FIRE community – investing for the future, planning for the worst case scenario, and delaying gratification – have hopefully prepared us to remain healthy during the pandemic.

We tried to invest in a chest freezer last winter, but local stores and online retailers were sold out by the time we started seriously shopping. Even though the COVID-19 situation had improved materially by the spring, I was concerned enough about the potential second wave that I kept looking. Eventually I was able to purchase a freezer on back order, which was delivered to us by mid-summer. It’s an investment I’m happy we made now.

Even before we purchased the freezer, we were planning for the worst. We have been building up our pantry since the pandemic started, and now have several months of food, personal care items, and household products stored in our basement. Our new freezer is full of healthy foods, and our shelves are loaded with cans, jars, boxes, and bags of shelf-stable products to help us through the winter. Hopefully our “prepping” will prevent us from having to go shopping as often as the weather gets worse and infection levels increase. In a worst-case scenario, where a broader shutdown disrupts the supply chain and results in shortages, we’ll have a cushion to tide us over until things get back on track. We even have a few extra cases of toilet paper in case we see another round of panic buying!

A willingness to delay gratification has also helped keep our family safe during the pandemic. While 2020 will mark the first time since our kids were very young we didn’t make a trip to the ocean, staying in a hotel surrounded by people from who knows where who have been doing who knows what was never a serious consideration. Instead of their usual in person activities this fall, our children have been taking online art and music lessons. Our kids were invited to a large Halloween party last month, which we all agreed they should not attend. We’ll never know whether we would have gotten sick if we had engaged in any of these activities, but we’re certainly not less healthy because we decided to forego some things that would have been fun.

Despite our preparation and conservatism, nobody knows what the coming months will hold. But I think the principles we have followed on our path towards early retirement and financial independence give us the best chance to emerge from the current pandemic happy and healthy – whenever it ends. Stay safe!

Have you done anything differently to prepare for the second wave of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic?

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