Welcome to Your Retirement Test Drive

Welcome to Your Retirement Test DriveHey everyone, I realize we are all going through a stressful period right now. Some of us are more fortunate and can handle this disruption without too much trouble. But many of us have to deal with illness and/or loss of income. My tone on this post might not be appropriate for some readers so don’t take it too seriously. You should skip this if you’re having a really difficult time with the lockdown.

So, how are you dealing with the COVID-19 lockdown? It’s April 2nd and about 80% of US residents are ordered to shelter in place. A month ago, social distancing would sound like a cruel April fool’s joke. Now, it’s all too real. Kate Brown, Oregon’s governor, ordered Oregonians to shelter at home 9 days ago on March 23rd. Our son’s school shut down on March 13th so we’re a bit early with social distancing. In total, it’s been 20 days of lockdown for us. Well, we didn’t lock down complete that first week. Our son played with a friend and we went grocery shopping a couple of times. But we have been taking social distance really seriously since then.


Lockdown routine

Lockdown means we are mostly at home. Mrs. RB40 is working from home and RB40Jr is out of school. I’m usually home anyway so it’s not a big change for me physically. I go grocery shopping alone once every 10 days or so. RB40Jr and I go out for fresh air almost every day, though. He is a rambunctious boy so we need to get out of the house a bit. We ride our bikes, practice basketball drills in an empty parking lot nearby, work in the garden, or just walk around the neighborhood. We stay 6 feet away from people so it should be okay. Mrs. RB40 hasn’t left our home for about 10 days. She gets fresh air while doing yard work.

Here is Junior on one of our walks around the neighborhood.

We’re dealing with the lockdown pretty well for the most part. Mrs. RB40 has a ton of projects on the back burner so she’s very happy with the extra time at home. She’s also a super introvert, so she doesn’t mind staying away from other people. RB40Jr misses his friends, but he’s ecstatic about not going to school. Our district is moving to online learning for the rest of this year so we’ll have to adapt to homeschooling. Surprisingly, I’m the one that’s having the most trouble adjusting to our new lockdown routine. Everyone is home 24/7 and I don’t have any alone time. I’m also a horrible teacher. I don’t have the patience to deal with a whiny kid. Just do your school work and get it over with already! I can’t wait for things to go back to normal so these two can go back to work/school.

How about you? Are you having a hard time with the lockdown?

Retirement test drive

People, I got bad news. Social distancing is your retirement test drive. This is life in retirement, on hard mode*. If you can’t deal with this, you are not ready for retirement. They aren’t exactly the same, but there are many similarities. Let’s go through some of them.

*hard mode – If you ever played classic video games, you’d know that they were a lot harder back then. Modern video games are really easy unless you play in the hard mode.

Loss of income

The obvious problem with retirement is the loss of income. Even if you retire at 67 and qualify for Social Security Benefits, it is still a reduction of income. This is what many workers are going through right now. Workers who lost their jobs can file for unemployment benefits, but the amount is much smaller than their regular income. (We’ll ignore the extra $600/week from the stimulus. That’s only temporary.) Also, unemployment benefits will run out at some point. I hope COVID-19 will be under control by then.

If you’re really struggling with your finance right now, you probably aren’t ready for retirement. You need to save and invest more so you can live comfortably on your passive income.

Social life reduction

Another big issue with retirement is a big reduction in social connection. These days, we spend so much time at work that it becomes a major social outlet. Once you retire, you will lose touch with most of your coworkers. Even if you have good friends at work, it’s hard to stay in touch. They’re busy with their own things and don’t have time to come hang out with you. It’s a big change. You will have to make friends outside of work.

Of course, social distancing is a harsher sentence because you’re not supposed to socialize with anyone at all. Well, no talking within 6 feet. You could socialize, but you really have to watch yourself. Anyway, we rarely talk to anyone while in lockdown. Retirement isn’t like lockdown every day, but there are many days like this. So if you can’t handle a few weeks of minimal human interaction, retirement might not be for you.

Keeping busy

It seems a lot of people are going stir crazy after a week in lockdown. They spend a lot of time in front of screens and they are bored out of their mind. Mrs. RB40 isn’t like that. She is busy trying to catch up with all her projects.

  • Origami
  • Gardening
  • Rearranging the house
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Reading
  • Baking
  • Keeping the peace at homeschool
  • Etc…

Easter got canceled so Mrs. RB40 used the eggs to start some seeds instead.

Easter eggs

She loves having more time to do all these things and she doesn’t understand what people are complaining about. This is your chance to catch up on all the stuff you don’t have time to do.

I think this lockdown is a great predictor of how enjoyable your retirement will be. If you’re bored out of your mind, you will have a difficult transition. On the other hand, retirement should be smooth if you’re enjoying this extra time at home.

Cooking at home

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced restaurants to shut down or change to take-out only. Many workers are used to eating out, but now they have to cook at home. This is good practice anyway. Cooking at home is healthier and more affordable. Life didn’t change for us because we eat most of our meals at home already. We usually go out just a few times per month. For now, we’ll cook our meals at home until the lockdown is over. I got a few take-out orders earlier to support local restaurants, but I’m really paranoid now. Mrs. RB40 has a preexisting condition so we’re taking extra precautions to avoid any unnecessary contact.

Anyway, this is a good time to learn how to cook. There are tons of recipe videos on YouTube. You can see some of our videos on YouTube – Eat by 40. Enjoy!

Family 24/7

I always suspected that being at home 24/7 with Mrs. RB40 and Junior would drive me nuts. This lockdown proved it. I need some space and alone time. This is the first time I wish we have a bigger house. However, this problem is mainly due to work and homeschooling. Mrs. RB40 brings home the bacon so I don’t want to disturb her work. She’s on Zoom pretty often so we have to watch ourselves. Also, RB40Jr is very resistant to school work. It’s been quite difficult to get him to focus and do just a little bit of learning every day. I’m sure most parents are having the same problem. (Homeschooling is hell. I have no idea why anyone would do this willingly.)

If this was a real retirement, Mrs. RB40 wouldn’t be working, so the home life should be a lot smoother. Also, Junior will go to college at some point. That should make retirement life easier too. 😉

Keep healthy

Lastly, it isn’t easy to stay healthy in retirement. I know we’re all living like a germaphobic hermit, so that’s helpful for keeping sickness out, but I doubt many of us are getting regular exercise these days. We also keep snacking when we shouldn’t! Everything is within easy reach.

When I was working full-time, I used to go workout during lunchtime. That was a great routine. I could decompress a bit and exercise got my heart pumping. After early retirement, I went to the gym for a while and then transitioned to working out at home. In lockdown, I get my exercise by dragging our son outside to get some fresh air.

Are you getting some exercise? You could go for a bike ride or just walk around the neighborhood. As long as you keep your distance while you’re outside, it should be fine.

How’s your retirement test drive?

Actually, early retirement is way easier than being in lockdown. There are some similarities, though. If you like your coworkers and enjoy your job, then you probably should keep working. Retirement can wait. On the other hand, if you don’t mind the lockdown lifestyle, you should shoot for the FIRE lifestyle. Early retirement is not for everybody, but it’s really great for some of us.

What do you think? Do you still want to retire after reading this post? Or will you keep working and avoid retirement for as long as you can? 

Keep your distance and stay healthy.

One good thing to come out of this lockdown is I’ll never have to buy kimchi again. My DIY kimchi is awesome!


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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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42 thoughts on “Welcome to Your Retirement Test Drive”

  1. I really think this lockdown would be 70-80% EASIER without kids.

    With a baby and a 3 year old, we have our hands full. However, I have to imagine having older children may be more difficult since they are suffering from isolation and bored.

    A baby doesn’t know much, so I think the best time to be having a newborn is now!

    It just bums me out about all the parks being closed and stuff for my son.

    I need the freedom and to play sports multiple times a week with friends. This is not freedom or the retirement I want.


  2. I’ve thought about this a lot from a corporate employee’s perspective. I wonder how many employees will want to retire or insist on working from home more/flexible hours when this is all over and it’s time to go back to commuting and dressing up every day and a strict 9-5 For 8-6) schedule. A lot of younger parents were already gunning for part time or work from home arrangements, and it’ll be harder for HR to say no and claim it wouldn’t work after we all are proving it works for months on end. Plus, many managers and older folks at my workplace are financially independent or could retire or even have retired before (I work in financial services). My boss is holed up at his newly purchased retirement home in Santa Fe, where he plans to move always “one one or two more years” when he retires. I’ve joked – but seriously – that there is no way he’ll want to come back to “normal” after a month or so of living out his retirement lifestyle, albeit with several hours of work and zoom meetings per day. Transitioning TO a semi-retired lifestyle has been tough for many – but just wait till they try to make us all transition back to frenzied worker bee schedule after we’ve adjusted to more family time, me-time, etc.

  3. Great to hear you are going well Joe! The Kimchi looks great. I finally made Panang Salmon Curry that I have been meaning to try for months. The quarantine has been easy for us, and it’s at these times I really appreciate the real estate moves me made over the last decade. We have a big front and back yard with garden, and a roof deck – so the space has made it easier for our entire family We are still working because we are both in healthcare, but overall things have been easy. I feel bad for the entire world, because this whole thing has exacerbated income inequality. But for us, we are an introverted family and other than worrying about a good chunk of people dying – we are good. It helped that we finished our trust and wills. Having kids and having all your financial ducks in order is a big stress reliever. Best of luck and wishing you and your family good health.

  4. I jumped off in the deep end. I FIREd after giving 7 months notice on March 1. We signed up for Obamacare in February and were pleased with that. While we’d planned on a financial meltdown I didn’t know it would be on day 2 of retirement. We’d planned on months of travel and did get three weeks in a tent in Death Valley, which was therapeutic and certainly social distanced. But the world intruded on our travel plans so we drove back home, fearing state borders may close. Financially we held much more cash than the financial guy wanted. Thankfully listening to our gut was the right thing to do. We sold some real estate last summer, very fortuitous. So we’re fine financially. It’s just not the vacation life we’d planned so far. Glad your family is ok. Y’all stay healthy.

  5. As a recent early retiree (and in week 3 of our lockdown), I can confirm that the lockdown has been much more bearable EXACTLY BECAUSE we don’t have to work. The flexibility we have means it’s way easier to cope with two young kids doing home learning ?.
    Having said that, I can’t wait for things to normalise, because this is definitely way more problematic than a standard retirement!!

  6. We’re fine and enjoying it mostly like our usual retirement routine. I don’t like not being allowed outside, our restrictions mean no walking, jogging, cycling or dog walking. You’re only allowed outside if you’re on your way to work as essential worker or getting groceries. Also no take outs or food delivery allowed. But otherwise its going well, nice gardening and cooking, except for our dogs going a bit crazy with no walks.

    • Your lockdown is pretty strict. We can go outside to get some fresh air as long as we keep our distances.
      We can order food, but we’re cutting way back on that. It’s not worthed if you have an at-risk person at home.
      Hang in there and stay healthy!

  7. I flip-flop daily on this lockdown. It’s really nice to have a slower pace and fewer deadlines. I don’t have to rush the kids to school, or Boy Scouts, or soccer. Coronavirus is an excuse to essentially do nothing, which is kind of my brand.

    Unfortunately, homeschooling two kids in two different curricula in two separate rooms is difficult. I take their education extremely seriously, so it’s very stressful. My wife is on Zoom every day and she’s in public health, so it’s important that she’s focuses on those meetings.

    This wouldn’t be anyone’s definition of retirement. So, as you can see, I’m flip-flopping on this all the time.

    • Homeschooling is hell. I don’t know why people willingly put themselves through this.
      Our son is so whiny. I get mad because he can’t focus. Just get it done so we can move on already.
      How do the teachers deal with these kids?

      • Ha, as a teacher myself, it seems kids act one way with parents and one way with teachers (and their peers). Routine, routine, routine!

  8. Hey Joe, this is exactly why I’m a big proponent of the “retire to something, not just retire from something”. It could ‘retiring” to a job you love, travel adventure, passion project or anything else. I cannot imagine myself retiring just to be at home and thinking about what to do next.

    This lockdown is nothing close to how I see myself in “retirement”. It’s more like torture 🙂


  9. I would be a lot happier if I wasn’t juggling a full time job in this lockdown but I wouldn’t be happy without an income. DILEMMA. Or not really, that just means we can’t retire until we have enough money and that was always the plan.

    We’re lucky that for the most part, JB is enjoying all this home time, but it’s also incredibly taxing since they aren’t ready to be all that independent yet.

  10. I don’t have the temperament to home school either, I don’t think. I’m too impatient haha!! It has been pretty tough to keep my toddler entertained as he often goes out every day to a class or something or a group session. He is very rambunctious as well.

    I agree this is similar to what retirement would be like minus the freedom, haha.

  11. In a funny way, the lockdown (which is far more restrictive here in Panama) wasn’t that much of a difference for our routine. Considering my wife and I are FIRE and already at home homeschooling our daughter, we’ve had a simpler transition than a lot of folks.

    The hardest part is not being able to really leave our property. That’s makes it more difficult with a kid that you need to wear out each day, but we make due.

    In the meantime, our life really hasn’t changed all that much. I miss being able to walk around outside here, go on hikes, and even do grocery shopping the “normal” way, but this will pass. Eventually, everything will start to loosen up and people can get back to their routines.

    Hang in there, Joe!

  12. Great post!
    We in Michigan have been in lockdown (stay home, stay safe is what our Governor has called it) for awhile as well. Wife also working from home and me trying my best to home school our 3 kids…yikes! All in all, it seems to be going ok, keeps arguments to a minimum while my wife if holed up in our bedroom working and doing a lot of Teams calls.

    Upside is we are starting to see the sunshine more often here in the midwest so we can get outside more. Stay healthy!!

  13. There are a lot of similarities for sure! It definitely feels like hard mode – you’re getting a lot of the “downsides” to retirement (social isolation, stock market down, not able to travel, additional kids responsibilities, constant news cycle) without all the fun side. I can’t wait to hear how most (non-fire) people feel when they come out of this.

    • Yes, a lot of downsides with lockdown. Normally, retirement wouldn’t be this difficult. So if you can handle lockdown, you should be great with retirement. I think it’ll take a long time to get back to normal. This pandemic exposed a lot of faults in our economy.

  14. My wife and I are both telecommuting full-time (and I’ve done so for the last four years) so day-to-day life isn’t all that different. Except I went from 4-6 rehearsals and concerts each week to a big empty zero, our exceptionally social neighborhood is now limited to shouting from sidewalks to porches, and my wife’s car battery is completely dead because she hasn’t driven the thing in almost three weeks.

    Social interactions at work were never a priority for me — it’s always been about those I spend time with outside of work. If retirement is like this except I get to hang out with my friends and am not tethered to my desk eight hours a day, sign me up!!

  15. This would be great if I didn’t have to work on top of taking care of the kids. Maybe I’ve been wrong all these years… Though I’m pretty sure I still prefer work to homeschooling and I’m pretty sure without the kids at home I’d be happier working.

      • I am not looking forward to next week when their online work starts getting graded… we made it through the last couple weeks by just ignoring the optional homework for my youngest kid who has been sleeping in until noon and reading pokemon comic books until the wee hours at night no matter how many times we go in and turn out the light. Fortunately my oldest is in high school and seems to be taking care of himself ok.

  16. I think the hardest thing for me is dealing with my teenage daughter who is not taking lock down as well. She’s constantly bored and still tries to get me to let her do sleepovers etc. The lock down had awful timing too because we had to cancel our spring break trip to Cancun where we had planned to go with one of her best friends from school so it was disappointing for all.

    I actually enjoyed the down time and did some yard work and cleaning around the house.

    I still have to go to work as I am considered essential so it is a little more nerve wracking to try and protect my health there and not bring anything home

  17. I mentioned this on another blog the other day, it’s definitely giving people a bit of a taste of what retirement could be like. You drew some great parallels, and the possible reduction of one’s social life is a good one to consider. I’m just very fascinated at how people are handling it, but will be more fascinated at what happens when this is over. Will people just move on to their old lives?

    • I read a few stories from Wuhan. Life is better, but it isn’t back to normal. People are more distance and they are tracked a lot more. The CCP took this opportunity to go full-on 1984. This isn’t going to end up well.
      Here? I don’t know. I think life is going to be a lot different after this.
      Many big stores will never recover from this. More people will be working from home.
      I really hope people wake up and vote for universal healthcare.

  18. Funny, my husband is working from home right now also, and I find I’m not enjoying the 24/7 “full house” as much as I thought I would. Probably too set in my early retiree routines already ;-). And as you’re mentioning delicious homemade kimchi, was your recipe part of your yummy food posts on the blog (I might have missed it)? I just thought yesterday that it would be brilliant to try making some of our own…

  19. Great positive way to look at it Joe. In many ways, being retired can be pretty similar… except lockdown is a far more extreme version.

    For example, when retired you can still go to a restaurant occasionally… but not under lockdown.

    Sometimes taking things to extremes can be educational though. We learn a lot about ourselves when pushed into uncomfortable situations!

    Stay positive Joe! I wish I could say it’ll be over soon, but… probably not.

    • Right, lockdown is a lot more extreme. But, I’m sure some retirees had to do something like this. Money is tight so they can’t go out, for example.
      I think it’s starting to improve. The curve is starting to flatten, but you never know. It seems rural America isn’t taking the lockdown seriously enough. The curve might worsen again.


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