I’ve been feeling inspired lately. A couple weeks ago, two of my favorite personal finance bloggers wrote remarkably similar posts discussing the need for big ambitions and new projects in early retirement. Mrs. Our Next Life described them as “your next BIG GOAL,” while Mr. 1500 Days framed things slightly differently as “passion reignited,” writing that “work is the key to happiness.”
My takeaway from the two pieces was the same: most people pursuing a big goal like financial independence aren’t going to be satisfied living without another big goal in the future.
So much for my plan to sit on the beach and drink margaritas for the next sixty years.
I agree with their perspectives. “Work,” in some form, has always been part of my long-term vision for my life. It’s the reason I prefer the idea of “semi-retirement” over “early retirement” and the reason I recommend envisioning your life without a full-time job. Do I want to go back to a 60 hour/week office job with only a couple vacations every year? Probably not. But part of my time will always be spent working on something.
Some years, it might come in the form of W-2 or 1099 contract work with an employer. Some years, it might be aggressively pursuing an income-generating side hustle. At other times, it might be a challenging and rewarding activity that doesn’t lead to any income – like learning to play piano or building my Spanish language vocabulary. Even now as we travel full-time, I’m committed to writing semi-regularly here, an activity that requires far more time than I would have guessed a few years ago.
As I pondered the importance of work and continuing to pursue big goals, a question occurred to me:
What if my next big dream requires capital?
When we were traveling in Guadalajara a few weeks back, we stumbled upon an awesome restaurant called Churros La Bombilla. The place is open every night from 5:30 to 11:00, and it specializes in serving just two items: warm, crunchy churros and delicious hot chocolate. What a dream!
For years, I’ve toyed with the fantasy of opening a food truck or a neighborhood beer bar. From what I gather, it’s a fairly common entrepreneurial dream, in spite of the high failure rate. But that still doesn’t stop my daydreaming every time we come across a cool new restaurant. Dining out is one of our favorite pastimes, after all.
“This churrería concept would be crazy popular at home! I think we’d have a great time running it, too.” As we savored each sugary bite, Daniel and I discussed potential locations in our home city.
We’re a long way from pursuing any big new business ventures, and this example probably isn’t the one we’d choose anyway. But suppose we found one to which we felt really committed. Our next big dream. The thing that’s going to keep us excited every day.
Of course, we’d work to make things as capital-efficient as possible. Instead of signing a ten-year retail lease, maybe we’d give it a shot with a little food truck – something we could resell if it didn’t work out. Perhaps we’d even try to raise some money from investors, though I’d be hesitant to have someone else’s money on the line.
Even in those circumstances, though, we might need to have some of our own “skin the game.” Whether it’s opening our coming-soon churro place or hiring a developer to build an app or launching an online store, most entrepreneurial ideas require some upfront investment. Which brings me back to the question I’ve found myself debating:
How much of my savings would I be willing to bet on my next big dream? Would I risk my financial independence?
I could easily argue that retirement savings are for lifelong cash flow only. I’m allowed to touch 3-5% per year, no exceptions! If I need capital for a new venture, maybe I need to go earn it first.
I could also make the case for more flexibility. We’re still relatively young, and I expect to earn income in the future anyway. If I lose some money along the way, I’m not overly concerned about my ability to earn it back. What better way to spend money than pursuing our big dreams?
I’m still debating my own answer. Thankfully, we have a few more travel adventures on the horizon before any hypothetical new ventures become a reality.
Readers, do you consider your savings untouchable for anything but retirement, or are you open to other uses? Am I appropriately risk-tolerant (keeping in mind that I’m a childless 29-year-old), or have I lost my mind? As always, we love learning from your perspectives in the comments!