Extract Junk, Inject Living
We obsessed over our savings and investments to insure we'd have enough money to be comfortable. We sold our home and most of our possessions to give us the freedom to travel. We eschewed new car purchases and wardrobe additions to concentrate our resources on experiences rather than possessions, and we developed financial contingencies to mitigate pretty much every conceivable world event. But, alas, we certainly didn't plan for life in a COVID world!
It's not that anything that is going on has affected us financially...if anything we're riding a high in that regard. We're healthy at this point, and despite complicated health histories that drive a certain level of COVID caution we fully expect to have years of high quality living ahead of us. The problem for us is that it has become increasingly apparent that the world is going to be dealing with COVID—and the restrictions, limitations, closures, and inconveniences it brings—possibly for years. When your stated objective is to focus your life on enjoying experiences (restaurants, attractions, events, and gatherings, in particular), rather than possessions, a COVID world seems incompatible.
We have choices, of course. We could fold our retirement tent, so to speak—curling into a ball and crying in the flickering light of Jeopardy re-runs. We could sell the RV, move back into sticks and bricks, and cross our fingers that a vaccine eventually makes it safe to venture into public again. Or, we could sit tight and use this time to put away more money for lavish spending (fancier cars, cruises, world travel?) later in life. But, giving up is not really our style, going backwards would be depressing, and delayed gratification isn't something either one of us is good at (not to mention the sobering lessons we've learned from the experiences of family and friends who waited on retirement only to have illness or death rob them of the time to enjoy it).
So what have we planned for our future? Well, we're going to continue to keep our backs turned on consumerism—keeping the same motorhome, cars, wardrobes and personal electronics we currently have for as long as they remain serviceable. We're going to continue structuring our finances in a way that our assets should continue to grow, while making strategic investments that will contribute to our comfort and the enjoyment of daily life. And, most importantly, we're going to focus a great deal of energy on searching for experiences that don't really increase the risk of COVID exposure.
Examples? Well we already purchased a motorhome lot in Florida, for starters. First, it should be a good investment as there appears to be a solid upward pressure on pricing of lots in resorts of the type we've bought into. But beyond the financial considerations behind this step, just being able to spend six to eight months a year isolating ourselves in a beautiful resort with pools, spas, golf, and other accoutrements is a net gain in the quality of life category. Eventually, as the COVID situation improves, we might also consider purchasing a condo or townhouse in a downtown area of some small community that has a vibrant bar and restaurant environment within walking distance, since we have truly enjoyed living in that kind of lifestyle in the past.
Other examples? We're eating and drinking better. Not that we've ever starved, of course, but we have begun to step it up a bit when it comes to searching out quality meats, seafood, and other ingredients. If we can't go to restaurants, we can at least have extremely flaverful meals (helped by the fact that Margaret is an excellent cook, and I went to cooking school more years ago than I care to admit or remember). Though we haven't done it yet, we may even seek out sources for exotic items like caviar, lobster, duck breasts, or foie gras in the future. Why not? No one who loves things like that ever lies on their deathbed wishing they'd passed on an opportunity to consume more of them, right?
And did I mention drinking? I believe I did. If you've read our treatise on alcohol consumption (elsewhere on this blog site), you know that Margaret and I have both developed a taste for good booze. Some might say, to a fault, but they would just be mean people. Really mean people. But honestly, neither one of us has been inclined to settle for poor quality wine (Margaret's preference) or spirts (mine) for quite some time. What's changing now, is though there's still a decent boxed wine on the premises and a moderately-priced Bourbon bottle (or two or three) within reach as daily drinkers, we're also allowing ourselves the occasional purchase of something more distinctive. For our anniversary, we each got a bottle of something really special to celebrate the occasion with. Even with that extravagance, along with the ingredients for a great home-cooked meal, the evening still was less costly than going to an upscale restaurant.
Beyond that? Frankly, I don't know. But I have ideas.... We love cruises, but that ain't gonna happen any time soon. So I've seriously thought about looking into chartering a crewed sailboat someday. We love classical music, but certainly aren't going to a concert until this blows over. Perhaps we'll find some like-minded individuals in Florida this winter and we'll hire a string quartet for the evening to play for a small (socially-distanced) tiki party. We could do the same sort of thing with fellow foodies—hiring a chef and server for an intimate outdoor dinner party. We could also rent a specialty car (a Corvette convertible, perhaps?) and take a scenic drive to a secluded airbnb cottage for a long weekend. Maybe we can find a local artist to give us a private lesson creating something like a pottery piece, a carving, or some other decorator item for our tiki or motorhome.
Will it be the same as evenings in bustling bars and restaurants or venues and theme parks? No. But we know those times will return eventually. In the meantime, we're determined to create new opportunities for memories and experiences. There's no way we're going to allow ourselves to look back on this period with regret or bitterness that our retirement was ruined or our vitality was squandered.