And with the current travel restrictions, Mr. Richard and others can’t live in a cheap foreign country, a common FIRE tactic known as “geographic arbitrage.” In Bali, for instance, he and his girlfriend were staying in “a lovely guesthouse with a pool,” minutes from the beach, he said, for less than $800 a month. Who knows when he can get back?
Still, he had his own lucky timing: He sold a portion of his investments in February, at the peak, earnings he will live on until the market comes back. And if the market continues to go down, Mr. Richard said, “I wouldn’t be opposed to picking up part-time or freelance work. Financial independence, to me, gave me the freedom to leave my corporate job to pursue things I’m passionate about. It’s not about never doing anything to earn money again.”
For Mr. Adeney, the current moment is a test of the principles of financial independence. For years, he has taught his fellow “Mustachians” to not be reliant on a job, to live modestly, to squirrel away an emergency fund, to invest in the stock market consistently over the long term. And he has been reassuring his followers on his blog that those practices can offer psychological comfort, now more than ever.
“This is a happier way to live whether you are in an economic boom or a deep recession,” Mr. Adeney wrote in an email. “But its biggest moment of strength is at times like this.”
He added, “This could all be misinterpreted as smugness, but I don’t intend it that way. My hope is that by being self-sufficient ourselves, we are in a better position to help out other people who really need it.”
Ms. Shen and Mr. Leung are similarly sanguine about their continued future as millennial retirees, though they are making lifestyle adjustments. “Going forward, we are going to live on $40,000 a year, and maybe less,” Ms. Shen said. “Because I’m finding all kinds of deals.”
Indeed, Ms. Shen and Mr. Leung, back in Toronto and self-isolating for two weeks, will soon be moving into a two-bedroom condo downtown they found on Airbnb that normally rents for $111 a night.
The rate now? $39.