I hope you’re all doing well physically and mentally through this challenging time. Things are pretty surreal here.
In a one week stretch in mid-March we learned of the severity of the pandemic and watched the financial chaos along with the rest of you. On top of that, we experienced a 5.7 earthquake in Magna, UT. It shook us here (literally and figuratively), about 50 miles from the epicenter.
Since then I’ve been adapting to becoming a homeschool parent on the fly, increased uncertainty on all fronts for the foreseeable future, and with random aftershocks thrown in for good measure. I’m frequently finding myself anxious, distracted, and unable to be productive.
Part of my problem is a new routine that includes far too much time on the internet. The one, and maybe only, upside of that is that I found a lot of great material to share this month.
We start with some timely articles. Our selections address financial planning opportunities unique to this time. We also explore challenges faced by landlords and address the sudden practical challenge of getting groceries.
Articles explore reasons for optimism at the pandemic, economic, and personal levels. That’s balanced with a warning against naive optimism that can be harmful.
Finally, in these trying times it’s important to remember that this too shall pass. We need to find light in the darkness. So I wrap up with a couple of fun articles that I hope will leave you with a smile.
A lot has changed in the world in the past couple of weeks. Peter Mallouk addresses how changes in market conditions and new temporary changes in the law create unique financial planning opportunities. He writes 10 Important Financial Planning Moves to Consider Right Now.
Mike Piper addresses a question on a lot of retirees minds with Social Security in a Down Market: Does it Make More Sense to File Early?
One temporary change is that those who would otherwise be required to take required minimum distributions from retirement accounts won’t have to do so in 2020. Jeff Levine explains the process of Fixing Unwanted RMDs Taken Before the Cares Act Waiver.
A topic I’ve never covered in the past, and may never again, is grocery shopping. But in these unique times, this may be the most important and relevant article this month. Teresa Mears writes How to order groceries online: comparing services.
2020 Landlord Challenges
Our current economic situation makes this a challenging time for real estate investors. Many are waiting to see if renters will be able to pay rents each month as the crisis drags on. On top of this is a political movement of rent strikers, who feel that this is an opportunity for tenants to keep their rent.
Scott Trench, CEO of the real estate investor website Bigger Pockets, shared his thoughts on these challenges in a two part interview: Keep Your Rent: A Real Estate Investor’s Perspective (Part 1) and (Part 2)
Reasons for Optimism
Big ERN shares some signs of economic optimism with COVID-19: Some Empirical Observations and Reasons for Optimism.
The Peter Attia Drive Podcast has been in my rotation of podcasts for the past year. Over the past few months, I’ve been religiously following his efforts to learn and share as much as possible about the pandemic. I found his blog post COVID-19: What’s Wrong with the models? interesting and encouraging. I included this article primarily for direct insights into what we know, and still don’t, about this virus. But, it also has indirect implications for all of us planning for retirement. It illustrates the complexity of modeling complex situations with imperfect data. Small changes in inputs can drastically change outputs.
Many of us were shocked when the price of a barrel of oil went negative. Ben Carlson examines The Collapse of the Energy Sector. The article is fascinating on its own. But it also serves to illustrate a larger lesson. Seeing how far this once mighty sector has fallen from its high in the early 1980s should make anyone looking to make an easy buck buying up the most depressed stocks or sectors (cruise lines, airlines, restaurant chains, etc) take pause before being overly optimistic that they’ll ever fully recover. However, seeing how the overall market has continued to grow and prosper despite the massive decline in the once dominant energy sector gives me optimism. It shows the potential of a simple strategy of investing in the broad markets without trying to pick winners and losers.
Optimism vs. Wishful Thinking
Doug Nordman retired about 18 years ago. He’s been retired through the dot.com bubble bursting and the financial crisis in 2008-2009. Doug is optimistic about coming through this crisis as well. He writes Fear and Despair in the Time of Bear Markets.
Chad Carson is an optimist as well. However, he warns against The Danger of Wishful Thinking During Challenging Times (aka the Stockdale Paradox).
What’s Next (For the World)?
Whether you are optimistic or pessimistic about the future, it would be unreasonable to think that the future is going to look like the past. The next two articles provide interesting insight on where we go from here.
Morgan Housel asks a question that’s on many of our minds amidst unprecedented government spending, Who Pays For This?
Kevin Sneader and Shubham Singhal write The future is not what it used to be: Thoughts on the shape of the next normal.
What’s Next (For You)?
We ultimately can’t control what is next for the economy and society in general. We can control what is next for us individually. That can be even scarier and harder to deal with.
Ryan Holliday asks and answers the question many of us have to wrestle with after becoming financially independent. He writes How Does It Feel To Get Everything You Ever Wanted?
James Hollis shared experiences from decades of counseling people who have struggled with major life transitions: Journeying From the First to the Second Half of Life.
Fun with FIRE Friends
Last month, at a very dark time I felt the need to end the March collection of articles with something light and funny. I was nervous to hit publish fearing it would miss the mark and come across as insensitive.
Instead, that humorous article was one of the most clicked of the collection. It garnered a few complimentary comments and emails for being exactly what people needed.
So I’ll try again by sharing some fun stories from blogging friends within the FIRE community who got some major exposure outside of the FIRE, and even personal finance, community.
Jim, who writes at Route to Retire, left his career late in 2018. His family moved to Boquete, Panama last summer. Their story was featured on HGTV’s Househunters International. You can read all about it in Jim’s blog post House Hunters International (Panama) – Jim, Lisa & Faith. Check out their episode if you have a chance. My wife and I had fun watching and debating if Jim is the ultimate stereotypical FIRE person (His two repeated lines were: “How much is it?” and “That’s more than our budget.”) or if there was some creative editing to build a story arc.
Dave, who writes at Accidental FIRE, also likes to dabble in graphic arts. Last month he created a humorous meme titled “Relative Importance In 2020, So Far.” Many of you may have already seen it. It’s been shared on the internet countless times around the globe. Dave describes the experience of having his creation go viral (no attempt to be funny there!) writing It’s Okay To Laugh.
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[Chris Mamula used principles of traditional retirement planning, combined with creative lifestyle design, to retire from a career as a physical therapist at age 41. After poor experiences with the financial industry early in his professional life, he educated himself on investing and tax planning. Now he draws on his experience to write about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? Chris has been featured on MarketWatch, Morningstar, U.S. News & World Report, and Business Insider. He is also the primary author of the book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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