Photo courtesy of Billy Kaderli
“Funny, no one has a crystal ball, no one knows the future but all say the stock market WILL go up in the future.
Maybe we’re the generation that our kids will also look and say: ‘They gambled everything in the stock market thinking it would keep always going up…’”
The above appeared in the comment section of my last post, as comments like it commonly do.
The theme is always the same:
“But what if…”
Followed by whatever potential disaster they have imagined. Or, like Simon, simply implying some unspecified disaster could be around the corner about to derail everything.
This is hard to argue. Of course something terrible could happen. Terrible things have happened in history. There are no guarantees in life.
To be clear, the kind of thing it would take for Simon’s future to unfold would be extraordinary. Lots of terrible things have happened in the last 47 years during which I have been investing. The market has not only rebounded, it has returned on average over 11% a year.
Let’s suppose you had that crystal ball and looking out over 30 years it told you there would be a major tech crash, the worst attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor, the US would become embroiled in two wars, a housing crash would cause the worse economic decline since the Great Depression, we’d face a deadly worldwide pandemic and inflation – having been dormant for 40 years – would come roaring back. Would you have taken early retirement?
My pals Billy and Akaisha did. How did it work out?
Since 1991 they’ve traveled the world, lead a life of adventure, and now – 11,000+ days (three decades!) – later have more money than they started with.
Yes, they knew chasing adventure carried risk. But they also knew, so does chasing security. You don’t get to avoid risk, you only get to choose which kind. You can embrace Sad Simon’s concerns or, like Billy and Akaisha have, Helen Keller’s take…
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
The Price of Security*: A guest post from Billy and Akaisha Kaderli
Recently I have been reading a book called Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. You may have heard of it. The theme of the book is about being vulnerable, taking risks and being willing to expose ourselves to possible failure. It’s an enlightening read.
I bring this up because what I want to share is that security has a price. Everyone speaks about how risk is dangerous and sometimes unthinkable. It seems that everyone wants unmitigated surety – the 100% guarantee.
But security never makes one courageous nor does it make a person’s heart sing.
We all want our bases covered, and none want to be starving or out in the land of the lost.
But there is an energy about taking a risk with the possibility of failure that adds dimension to our lives and creates memories that we share with our children and grandchildren and we can ruminate over when we become old. Having everything laid out, fully unchallenged with no adversary to overcome makes for a dull story.
To make my point, here are a few personal examples of big risks I took with my life direction over the years.
In 1971, I was 19 years old and my then 20 year old boyfriend wanted to make an extensive summer motorcycle trip across the country from the Midwest through a semi-southern route, up the coast of California to Alaska and back again via northern roads. This sounded like the most exciting thing I could imagine in my life at that time.
I had $400 dollars saved and a vinyl, fleece-lined coat my father had given me. My boyfriend had $500 and a good pair of warm gloves he let me wear when it snowed or rained. We owned sleeping bags and a tent. He had a 650 Triumph (oh those electrical problems!), was a good driver and gasoline was 29 cents per gallon.
I was ecstatic.
We ended up traveling thousands of miles in heavy wind, rain, fog and unbearable heat but also on perfectly crisp mornings, and amazing sunlit days. We traveled the Alaskan pipeline before it had been completed and helped a friend build a log cabin on his property in British Columbia’s Queen Charlotte Islands.
We tested our mettle and we tested our relationship. Everything survived.
The memories of that summer don’t fade into oblivion like the summers I worked in the department store and ate pizza on Friday nights.
I took the courage I garnered from this trip forward into my future. I found out that I was not a lightweight, and that quality of spirit has served me many times over the years.
Buying a restaurant with no money
Similarly, after a 6 month trip to Europe almost a decade later, my husband Billy and I purchased a restaurant with some creative family financing. “Everyone” told us we should not pursue this venture and that we had surely overreached. We were 27 years old and our financial futures were on the line.
Failure wasn’t an option.
Our blood, sweat and tears paid for that restaurant and it certainly was not an easy career choice. We did not have holidays off, a 401k program or an employee sponsored pension. We paid for our own health care.
But on the other hand, we matured young and built a sense of self-reliance that money can’t purchase.
Blazing a new path
In 1991, at the age of 38, Billy and I decided to leave the conventional working world and begin traveling the globe. We sold our businesses, our home, cars and all of our belongings to venture out in uncharted waters.
My mother was critical and frightened, my father, secretly jealous. Our friends told us we were committing financial and social suicide. Who would leave perfectly good jobs and a gorgeous home a quarter mile from the ocean in Central California?
But we saw it differently.
The home, mortgage, cars and the collecting of “stuff” felt oppressive. We wanted adventure. Crossing oceans, experiencing people of different cultures, viewing vast geographical contrast and tasting cuisine outside of our defined norm energized us.
Three decades later we are still living our chosen lifestyle of wanderlust.
We hold the perspective that if there is a choice between taking a risk that will enrich our lives or staying put in entrenched security, we should take the risk.
If you were to look back on your life, the colorful, most outstanding memories are the ones where you reached for the stars, where you put yourself on the line and took a personal or professional chance.
I guess my point is that risk has a price but so does security. I think risk pays better.
*This post originally appeared on Retire Early Lifestyle
For those unwilling or unable to endure the volatility of stocks, here is an approach that sidesteps it:
WARM: The Wasting Asset Retirement Model