Early retirement has to be one of the most controversial yet widely talked about goals in the personal finance industry, and even more so in the travel industry.

It’s the American Dream to strive for once you achieve the original American Dream. The pinnacle status that shows the world you’ve officially made it, long before 99% of the world’s population.

But is it really all that great? 44-year-old physical therapist Chris Mamula has been successfully retired for the past 3 years and has some insights that may surprise you. Granted, he may not be a millionaire in his early 20s, but I believe his insights from his “Can I Retire Yet?” blog and his recently penned article on MarketWatch are great reading materials.

Here are the top 3 things he’s learned about early retirement, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic…

The guarantee of safety is nothing more than an illusion.

When you officially make the decision to retire early, you feel scared. Chris points out that the age-old question of “Can I retire yet?” actually means something else:

Do I have enough money to maintain my desired lifestyle forever? Unfortunately, there are too many unknowable variables to ever answer that question with certainty.”

As Chris points out, the past 3 years were full of market uncertainty. Even with all of the stock market gains up until 2020, the smaller drops had him and his wife scared. Especially since the security of being a two-income household was given up in exchange for early retirement.

And with the market crash in March of this year, he was scared. He found it quite frightening to spend money from his volatile portfolio, but such is the price you pay. You have to face fear head-on and still move forward.

Your most important life priorities do not magically change.

Chris smacks his readers down with the harsh reality about early retirement:

“I’m going to be brutally honest. If there’s anything that you think you will do in retirement that you’re not doing now, you probably won’t. There is a good reason you’re not already doing that thing. It is not a priority in your life. If you want things to change, you need to own that.

If you plan to start exercising, meditating, or eating better when you retire, start now…  If you want to travel in retirement, start traveling now!

So much of retirement planning is wishful thinking… I encourage you to start building your best life today, even if you can’t retire yet.”

We can’t predict change, but we can plan for the long-term future.

Chris says that plans are worthless, while planning is indispensable. As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos once said, “Be stubborn with your vision yet flexible with your plans.”

And he clarifies further by pointing out the difference between plans and planning:

Though we can’t predict what will happen, we can be cognizant of chance and luck. We can develop a robust planning process that enables us to adapt to better or worse than expected outcomes, even if we don’t know what the causes of those outcomes will be in advance.”

All great advice!

But I’m curious to know: What do YOU think about Chris’ advice for people seeking early retirement? Do you agree or disagree? Reply to this newsletter and let us know!

A SECOND Airline Wants to Make COVID-19 Vaccinations Mandatory for Passengers

In recent news, Australian airline Qantas took a lot of heat when its CEO claimed in an interview that he would want to enforce a rule where all passengers have to be vaccinated for COVID-19 before they step foot on a plane.

Sadly, Qantas now has a friend in the form of the Philippines’ largest budget airline: Cebu Pacific. I can say this because CEO Lance Gokongwei made this definitive statement in a recent interview with local news outlet TeleRadyo:

“We do think that’s essential, especially as we open up international travel… [there are] vaccines and I think we have to work on a single, global COVID passport so that each country respects the passport.

 That has to be the number one priority: to get vaccines in the hands in as much of the global population as possible, and then connecting this to a COVID passport.”

I pray to God that US airlines don’t follow suit with this idiotic idea, because it will be disastrous for their already-failing passenger volumes and revenue numbers.

Testing negative for COVID-19 numerous times is an unfortunate burden that may people are willing to put up, especially if it means the elimination of a 14-day quarantine. But being forced to take a COVID-19 vaccine before a flight is an obvious infringement on fundamental human rights.

I foresee airlines dividing into two categories: Catering to those who will happily take the vaccine, and catering to those who absolutely refuse to take it.

What is YOUR opinion about mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for flying? Will you take the vaccine in order to hop on a plane, or will you wait it out until an airline fully supports non-vaccinated passengers? Reply to this newsletter and tell us where you stand!

How Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected Small Businesses Worldwide?

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has led to Americans talking nonstop about the death of small businesses country-wide, we can’t forget about the other small businesses worldwide and how they have been negatively impact.

According to the “State of Small Business Report” released by Facebook, where over 150,000 small businesses around the globe were surveyed, the effects of the coronavirus have been nothing short of catastrophic:

  • 63% of SMBs (small and medium sized businesses) have lower sales volume compared to 2019 – a 13% drop in year-over-year sales
  • To nobody’s surprise, the large drops in sales happened in consumer-facing businesses (especially travel and tourism)
  • Logistics are down by 58% and manufacturing has decreased by 59%
  • Major concerns include a lack of cash-flow (40%) and a lack of consumer demand (52%)
  • Only 56% of SMBs are “very optimistic” about the future of their business

However, there WERE some positive outcomes taken from the survey:

  • 26% of SMBs report increased sales compared to their pre-pandemic years
  • The closure rates for restaurants, hotels, and cafes between May and October went down from 32% to 17%

So in a weird sense, small businesses are doing better and worse at the same time. There’s no telling what will happen in 3 months from now, but I do hope the picture starts to become brighter for small businesses all around the world.

Business Travel Faces a Permanent 33% Reduction After the COVID-19 Pandemic

Let’s imagine a near-future scenario where the COVID-19 pandemic is permanently over and everything returns to normal. Or at least, the “new normal” that politicians keep telling us about. Will business travel make a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels?

According to a new report from CarTrawler and IdeaWorksCompany, the answer is a resounding NO. They foresee business travel being stunted for life:

  • Airline travel for business purposes will be permanently down by anywhere between 19% and 36% compared to pre-pandemic levels
  • Travel for the purpose for sales and client acquisition was responsible for 25% of all business trips, which could see a change between 0% and -20%
  • Travel for business development will return to 80-100% of pre-pandemic levels
  • Travel for attending conferences, which makes up 20% of all business travel, could decline from anywhere between 10-20%

So how are airlines supposed to make up for this lack of revenue from business travel, which accounts for a large share of airlines’ revenue? According to TravelWeekly and their analysis of the report, airlines will have to make some serious adaptations:

“… airlines can replace some of the revenue that will be permanently lost from a decline in business travel by doing things such as enhancing leisure travel retail efforts, boosting ancillary revenue, reducing lie-flat seat capacity and adding premium economy seating.

No matter how hard the airlines work to make these kinds of changes, I don’t believe they’ll be able to completely replace their income from business travel alone. It’s an extremely tall order, and only a miracle would make this feat possible.

Time to start signing up more passengers for even more flights!

JetBlue Finds Brand New Ways to Cut Costs and (Hopefully) Stay Alive

Airlines are doing everything in their power to avoid bankruptcy and closure. Facing daily cash burn rates in the millions, they will stoop to every low possible to slash costs and experiment with any idea which could generate additional revenue in the absence of a packed flight schedule.

JetBlue Airways recently announced some brand-new cost-cutting initiatives for 2021, some of which were rather surprising to me:

  • Slashing the salaries of top executives
  • Merit raises for the majority of employees will be put on pause
  • Labor Day will not be recognized as a company holiday
  • Paid parental leave will be put on hold
  • Furloughing of non-unionized front-line workers will be pushed back to “at least” September 30th, 2021

Chief People Officer Mike Elliot pointed out in his note to employees that these changes will hopefully be revised in 2022, but workers need to hold on tight for now:

“We are finalizing next year’s budget now and there is no doubt it will be the most challenging in our history… We are planning for revenue to be billions of dollars lower than usual, and are challenging teams across JetBlue to reduce costs and improve efficiency even further.”

You may find these measures somewhat unorthodox, but it certainly beats laying off tens of thousands of workers.

In 2021, Wyndham’s Viva Resorts Will Offer FREE COVID-19 Insurance!

Hotel company Wyndham is most famous for its all-inclusive resort Viva Hotels located in prime destinations such as the Bahamas, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.

And to make their offerings even sweeter for would-be guests, their new “Hotel Assist Insurance” program will offer travel insurance for the year of 2021 at no additional cost.

Travel magazine Travel + Leisure broke this story and confirmed additional details about this new initiative:

“The insurance will cover both medical and travel issues that may pop up from check-in to check-out, including medical assistance, COVID-19 testing, repatriation, an extension of stay, medicine, and lost luggage compensation. 

The program is automatically included for free in bookings made online or through the Viva Reservation center for visitors from a residence more than 60 miles away. The offer will remain effective through Dec. 31, 2021.”

While other hotels and airlines have offered free COVID-19 insurance to travelers in 2020, it’s nice to see that more big companies are starting to go down this route. Safety and health will be at the top of consumers’ minds for the foreseeable future, and you might as well give them exactly what they want.

Some day in the future, I hope that ALL travel companies will provide guests with some form of free travel insurance, whether for COVID-19 or for other health problems.

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