Skip to main content

Learning About Doomer Optimism

Applying tenets from a social movement to retirement planning.

A new term has made my radar and I’m interested in learning about it and possibly applying some of the tenets to how we do things for ourselves or how I approach trying to pass along information in various places kind of like FIRE, financial independence retire early. I’ve written about FIRE many times, I love the financial independence aspect of the movement, I just think actually retiring, as in not working at a young age is terrible idea.

The term Doomer Optimism seems to combine the acknowledgment of some serious problems what we might be facing combined with the belief that individuals can solve these problems through a combination of self-sufficiency, homesteading and locally sourced food with a stronger sense of community, micro over macro basically or maybe even nano over macro. Again, this is new to me so if this catches the attention of anyone in the movement, feel free to correct me. This link offers some color to learn a little more. Three concerns expressed in that post relate to ecological, social, and climate challenges.

In terms of actual Doomer Optimism, I can’t get to the point of a total breakdown of our societal structure like Walking Dead but without the walkers. I can however get to the point of serious inconvenience like we’ve had with supply chain disruptions in the pandemic. I believe there are where we live has some potential problems with an antiquated grid that may not be anyone’s priority to address so we’ve taken steps to mitigate for ourselves.

We’ve had some abhorrent weather but not catastrophic like other places. If I’m wrong about real doom, I think it might be due to weather. Fire is the biggest threat here, we don’t have hurricanes or tornados, and in terms of trying to prevent our own problem (self-sufficiency) we have a huge water tank with hoses and a nozzle to hopefully knock down any fire that threatens us or at least lets us hold our ground a bit before my colleagues on the fire department can get here.

A big takeaway from Doomer Optimism, for me I feel like it is a reiteration, is to assess your life and figure out what you’re vulnerable to and then figure out how to mitigate it, at least partially. @cognazor Tweeted that if you’re subject to entropy (a gradual decline into disorder) you’re NGMI (not going to make it).

I think Doomer Optimism can be applied metaphorically to retirement planning and then when you’re actually retired. Just like Doomer Optimists being worried about ecology, the social dynamics of the country and our climate, many Americans hoping to retire one day are worried about having any money in some cases or enough money in other cases, can they stop working if they want to, their health and you could probably come up with others.

Getting your health together is a great intersection of Doomer Optimism and retirement planning/living. I write about this all the time. Here’s a link to Phil Pearlman’s blog that goes over many of the ideas I’ve been sharing for the last however many years. When I Tweeted his link out, I included a comment about not wanting a fall in the kitchen at age 70 to be a life altering event which it can be. I was struck by this idea when I went through EMT training 10 years ago. A call for a ground level fall is serious until it proves otherwise.

If you put in the time when your chronologically younger to take care of yourself by exercising and having a proper diet, the odds that you bounce right back up from a fall, maybe a little embarrassed, without needing to call 911 or even being hurt go way up. What better hack can there be for being old than being biologically younger than your chronological age? What if you’re too close to 70? Trick question, it is never too late to start. No matter what age you are, you will make improvements. PD Mangan on Twitter shares studies that show improvements in insulin resistance by cutting carbs in just a few days. Literally, a few days. If you’ve never lifted weights before, your biggest gains in strength will occur early on. If today is your 69th birthday and you start today, you will be much better off a year from now? A lot. You’ll be a lot better off.

Every other aspect of retirement planning/living becomes easier when you’re fit. This ranges from mundane day to day stuff like a honeydo that involves moving something heavy to the more impactful like not having to pay for prescriptions. Running a decent number of medical calls with the fire department, it is rare to encounter someone over the age of 50 not taking a handful, or more, of prescriptions. Many chronic maladies can be reversed when you get your metabolic health in order.

Think about how much we’ve heard about chronic metabolic maladies as comorbidities for Covid. While it seems like there’s a lot we don’t know about Covid and how to actually solve the problem from the top down, it is clear that people whose metabolic health is in order have far far less likelihood of Covid being a serious problem.

If you’re not spending money on prescriptions, then your retirement finances are far less strained. If you’re at an age where you could be frail, or weak compared to 15 years ago but you are not frail and not weak compared to 15 years ago then you have far more optionality in terms of what you could do for work if you needed too. Being 65 or 70 and still being able to get it done greatly improves your ability to create multiple income streams which, tying in some social concerns of the Doomer Optimists, might come in handy if something unforeseeable happens with Social Security.

Doomer Optimists seem to be trying to solve problems they foresee by acting from the bottom up ahead of time. Improving your health and fitness which improves your financial optionality is the same thing, it is a bottom up solution. If “they” get the climate wrong, there’s not much you’re going to do to solve the world’s problem, but you might be able to lessen the impact that getting climate wrong has on you. If something crazy happens with Social Security there’s not much you’re going to do to solve the world’s problem, but you might be able to lessen the impact a cut to Social Security has on you or the impact of something like means testing has on you.

One reason Doomer Optimism resonates is the importance of being able to envision your future. A while back I cited a study that concluded most people can’t see further than 50% past their current age. So, if you’re 30, you might be able to envision 45 but not 55. Based on how I see what is happening, I have to wonder how many of us can’t envision our futures anywhere near that far out? I think the answer might be pretty high and that this lack of planning ability is a hinderance to many people in the various/all parts of their lives.

Maybe that doesn’t hold water but I think the type of self-awareness I am describing can help being “luckier” than other people, less impacted by adverse current events.