The Price of Security

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…’”

Sad Simon

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

Akaisha in a longboat on the Mekong River

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.

Personal examples

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


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Important Resources

  • Talent Stacker is a resource that I learned about through my work with Jonathan and Brad at ChooseFI, and first heard about Salesforce as a career option in an episode where they featured Bradley Rice on the Podcast. In that episode, Bradley shared how he reached FI quickly thanks to his huge paychecks and discipline in keeping his expenses low. Jonathan teamed up with Bradley to build Talent Stacker, and they have helped more than 1,000 students from all walks of life complete the program and land jobs like clockwork, earning double or even triple their old salaries using a Salesforce certification to break into a no-code tech career.
  • Credit Cards are like chain saws. Incredibly useful. Incredibly dangerous. Resolve to pay in full each month and never carry a balance. Do that and they can be great tools. Here are some of the very best for travel hacking, cash back and small business rewards.
  • Empower is a free tool to manage and evaluate your investments. With great visuals you can track your net worth, asset allocation, and portfolio performance, including costs. At a glance you'll see what's working and what you might want to change. Here's my full review.
  • Betterment is my recommendation for hands-off investors who prefer a DIFM (Do It For Me) approach. It is also a great tool for reaching short-term savings goals. Here is my Betterment Review
  • NewRetirement offers cool tools to help guide you in answering the question: Do I have enough money to retire? And getting started is free. Sign up and you will be offered two paths into their retirement planner. I was also on their podcast and you can check that out here:Video version, Podcast version.
  • Tuft & Needle (T&N) helps me sleep at night. They are a very cool company with a great product. Here’s my review of what we are currently sleeping on: Our Walnut Frame and Mint Mattress.


  1. Will says

    Wow, that Hellen Keller quote is fantastic. And nowhere is it more true than in finance / investing. Holding only cash will almost surely cause your real net worth to be eroded by inflation. VBTLX appears to be flat over its 20-year life (if I’m reading Google’s results correctly), so bonds may not be much better than cash.

    There just isn’t any safe alternative to the “riskiness” of investing in stocks, at least not from what I’ve seen.

    • ScubaDuner says

      Copy that. Move the bonds into stocks and enjoy the ride back up. Sell bonds, buy stocks, repeat. It just keeps on working.

    • Aaron says

      You are probably looking at a price chart. On a total return basis, VBLTX has doubled in nominal value over the past 20yrs. In inflation adjusted terms, its only up about 20% cumulative, however.

      But regardless, stocks have been a much better investment, and have more than tripled in value in real, inflation adjusted, terms.

  2. Vorlic says

    Dear JL,

    It wasn’t a deadly worldwide pandemic – certainly no more than a fairly bad seasonal flu (and certainly not the worst).

    But the rest – I agree!

    Stay sane

    • Crooner G says

      Dear Vorlick,

      Your head is in the sand. One million plus, dead in the US alone. It’s like a bad flu ONLY for those vaccinated and double boosted! You’ve gotta stop drinking the cool aid and examine the reality around you.

      • Dave says

        you should really try that, reality. A government that has lied constantly through the entire pandemic. A CDC that has not been honest since it started. Live in fear if you like, believing in false government leaders will only make your life scared and miserable.

        • Dave says

          True, more people have died from drugs coming across the southern border, also brought to us by China. When is China going to be held accountable for COVID and for the drugs they are killing our people with?

      • Steven Peckham says

        Crooner, try looking at age adjusted mortality rates. People under 50 and without significant other risk factors had extremely low mortality rates. When you say “gotta stop drinking the kool aid” and “examine the reality around you”, you confirm your argument from emotion and fear and your ad hominem attacks make you look foolish and show you have no data driven argument to put forth. It was a pandemic with significant risk for the elderly and infirmed, but greatly exaggerated in general.

  3. Accidentally Retired says

    Absolutely, 1000% truth right here:

    “ 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.”

  4. Jason says

    WOW….Great story to share JL. And it was what I needed to hear at the perfect time I needed to hear it…You are The Man!!

    Jason L.

  5. LdeLageneste says

    The way I see it, I am not taking any risk by investing in the stock market since I have always followed the “simple” rule of investing money I can afford to loose.

    The central question for me is “Do I believe in infinite growth in a finite world ?”

    Growth has been sustained since the XIXth century by what was considered as an infinite amount of cheap and easy to use energy (oil) and not giving a damn about “externalities” (pollutants, wastes).

    Concerning energy, we might find viable alternatives to oil (solar, fusion…) but not in the foreseeable 40 to 50 years. Externalities on the other hand… they kind of come with the territory. Growth is essentially a process through which we transform ressources to products using energy producing waste in the process.

    There are some possibilities of reusing certain materials through recycling but let’s face it, we’re not really taking that route and it requires also energy in large quantity.

    There’s also a little discussed side effect to our growth that is sometimes termed as “the 6th extinction” and is simply a drastic reduction of life on this planet.

    So yes, things change and this continuous sustained growth that is so good for our retirement funds might not be infinite after all

    150 years is nothing and the effect of this ridiculous amount of time on our planet is disproportionately high. Our grand children might indeed not thank us for our selfishness.

    But enough about gloom and doom, FI mentality also can also have the good side effect of reducing one’s lifestyle to only important things in life (community, friendship, experiences…) and reducing consumerism so it’s not all bad…

    As a scientists though, I don’t believe in sustainable growth, and I am pretty sure that when ressources will become scarce (and they already are), the huge armies that we, the rich, have grown will come in handy to “secure our investments” in these “poor” countries that are holding most of them in their soils.

    • Kelly says

      I share most of your thoughts. How FIRE people can sleep at night in their greeny lives in developed nations while most of the “growth” in their portfolios come thru exploitation of non-developed nations and blue-collar workers, pollution of our planet, extraction of finite natural resources.
      FIRE is the ultimate type of selfishness

      • LdeLageneste says

        Well, I have followed the sound financial advices given here and elsewhere and, being the lucky guy I am (born in a rich developped country, highly educated and with a high paying job) I can attest that is sure works.

        Once you have reached a certain threshold, money just brings you more money… On which you can even borrow some more if you’d like and so on and so forth until you reach the apex of our civilization: being a rentier !

        Once you’re there you are free to travel, try some new ventures and, of course make the world a better place.

        If you’re not oblivious to the fact that you owe all this to an extraordinarily rare occurence of you being lucky, it can bring many positive things.

        I must admit though that the “market will always go up” mantra seems more and more ridiculous… At some point, people should realize what are the consequences of a market that would always go up. There is a price to pay for that too, and a steep one.

        • Akaisha Kaderli says

          That’s great that you were born to privilege, and that you are on track to be financially free.

          You are correct, once you reach critical mass you can do whatever you want. Teaching English as a second language, volunteer as a sports coach, or giving back to your community are all available. The opportunities to help others are endless.

          Traveling, mixing it up with foreign cultures is enlightening beyond belief. We know first hand, because we have been doing this for 32 years.

          Luck is the crossroads of opportunity and preparation, and you have this option every day to create your future.

          We have never said that the “market always goes up.” But over any 20 year period and few ten year periods, it has.
          Take care.

      • Akaisha Kaderli says

        Hi Kelly,
        I respectfully disagree with your premise, that “FIRE is the ultimate type of selfishness.”

        It is our perspective that becoming financially independent is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and for the world.

        When we are no longer enslaved to our paycheck with the corresponding pressures to maintain a job to pay our bills, we have the time and the finances to give back.

        I invite you to take a look at how we responded to Barbara, who felt very similarly to you and wrote specifically to tell us that.

        FIRE people are often very generous. Perhaps you have not met any yet.
        Sending you our best.

  6. Anonymous says

    This was *precisely* what I needed to read today. I have been doing deep-dive financial planning and finding no comfort — no matter how many calculators give me an A+.

    Because what I’m seeking is an illusion! I knew it of course, but we forget, don’t we?

    So nice of you to remind me.

  7. Peter says

    Although I agree with JL, I also totally understand Simon’s point of view and share some.
    The [US] stock market has always gone up. Most americans like JL are US centric. They think they know what goes on in the world but they don’t. Many many stock markets in the world haven’t done what the US market has.
    To be clear, it wouldn’t take a disaster like JL said for the US stock market to derail permanently like Japan’s. All the facts JL mentioned didn’t change the status-quo: US has been the major world economy in all this period with growing population. That is changing. China will sure be the next major super power (already is by some account but americans don’t like to hear that – who has the head in the sand here?) and needless to say, Chineses don’t like the US provocations (understandably) and that can end up badly for everyone. And who cares if they aren’t democratic? They sure don’t need to be.
    All that to say, invest, but only money you can afford to lose. Every empire in history has fallen, and that history goes way longer than the US stock market history.

  8. CityGirlGoesWild says

    I love this piece. The opportunity cost of security are massive and make for a very dull girl. I know this, but need to be reminded daily. We all come with different wiring and mine is naturally nervous. But with some determination, and a dreamers heart, I’ve mustered the financial courage to create life adventures. Keep reminding me:-)

    • Akaisha Kaderli says

      Hi CityGirlGoesWild,
      Actually I fully understand what you are sharing.
      I am naturally an introvert, with sensitive, nervous tendencies.
      I had to follow my (screaming) heart to make some of my choices… And I weighed my situation over enough time that to NOT do what I wanted to do was more painful than staying where I was.
      Keep that Dreamers Heart.

  9. Sury says

    “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing”.

    I’m sorry but given the choice, I prefer nothing. I’m adopting the let it rot or lying flat philosophy of the Chinese!

  10. Ying says

    I’m currently reading a book titled “The rise and fall of American growth”. I guess the author was trying to remind us that a lot of things need to be changed in order to keep on growing financially and socially. I’m interested in knowing what’s your take on this book.

  11. Enda Phelan says

    Dear Mr Collins,
    Thank you for the great, free information on your website.

    Just one question regarding your recommendation to stick with US stocks:
    In relation to stock picking, you make the point that even the most dominant companies (e.g. GM in the past) have gone into a decline that wasn’t foreseen by analysts or management and therefore we should avoid picking individual stocks. Doesn’t the same argument apply to picking the US above other countries/regions? Is it not presumptive to think the US will continue to be the top performer for the next 100 years? Wouldn’t it be better to buy the world index rather than assuming the US will dominate?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Kaiser says

      Perfect question. Your logic makes total sense to me. I always wanted to ask JL that . Anxiously waiting for his answer.

      • Chris says

        JL will be able to articulate much better than I can, but keep in mind how global large US companies have become. Approx. 30% of sales from the S&P 500 come from outside the US. Built in diversity : )

  12. Enda Phelan says

    Thanks Chris, but I’d point to the case of Japan who were are an export powerhouse and still experienced a 25 year stock market decline. Buying solely VTSAX is not just a bet on the performance of US companies, but also on the political stability, economic freedom and demographics of the US. Personally I think the US is still the best business region in the world, but I can’t know that for sure, or whether it will remain true in the future. Therefore I find it hard to allocate 100% to VTSAX. I understand that there is a likelihood of slightly lower returns by investing in a world fund, but that might be worth it if it reduces the risk backing the wrong horse for the next 40 years. 100% VTSAX requires a lot of conviction, and we’ll only know if we were right in retrospect, so I’m trying to challenge my thinking as much as possible.

    • Kaiser says

      Yes and I think VT is not perfect either. It’s about time someone comes up with a GDP-Cap weighted ETF that will balance it accordingly, increasing investments in countries that will dominate in the future (China, BRICS perhaps) and reduce in places that will become the new GM of the world – USA, Germany perhaps.
      Unfortunately, we still don’t have that index in the US, only here in the UK, the FTSE All-World GDP Weighted.

  13. Jim says

    Excellent and moving post! It’s so true that chasing security has risks, most notably the risk of opportunity costs. I find myself in that situation, where security matters, because right now I have a 12 yo to raise. I’m sure there are many opportunities I’m missing for the tradeoff of security. I hate it but…..

  14. RB40 says

    What I really hate about investing is the uncertainty.
    Who can say if Sad Simon doesn’t have a point in his comment?

  15. David Rounds says

    What other options do you have. Put it in savings with less then 1% interest per year with 8.5% inflation right now. Lose 7.50 per hundred invested.
    Bonds, earn little or nothing.
    If your investing money you need in the next year or two. Put it in savings and take the loss.
    Otherwise, the market is the only game in town.

  16. Brian says

    This was awesome.

    Lots of great quotes to use when I see this question come up almost daily on various investing forums.

  17. William Muffi says

    Great article. I’m retired and used many of the ideas of the FIRE community. My wife and I downsized and moved to a ski & golf resort in PA.
    Long term investing with Vanguard Stocks and Bond Indexing funds have worked wonders.
    It’s the long game of investing because dividends make babies.
    JL your articles and book have been enjoyed by family and friends over the years.

  18. Plaide says

    Good day,

    I’m a 25 year old from Singapore and have recently started investing. I would like to thank you for the advice on simple investing. I have previously struggled with determining the best asset allocation. The whole X-age in bonds, 60/40 and more.

    Today, I have sold my bond portfolio and put it all in VWRA (it makes the most sense due to a 30% dividend withholding tax and perhaps my world view). The improved simplicity and higher expected returns will serve well to help me achieve financial independence.

    However, if stocks don’t do as well as before, I have made my best bet. If stocks go to zero, at least I tried.

    With much thanks,

  19. Leonard says

    I give up. I just sold out my positions and I don’t think I’ll be back to the stock market for a while. It’s not worth all the lost sleep.
    Good luck to all who remain in the FIRE path. My path is just not this, I prefer to work all my life than living with such anguish over the market

  20. Charles says

    It’s been a particularly painful year for one single reason. The bonds that are supposed to be the stability pillar of any portfolio are doing worse than stocks. It is compounding the pain and drawdown and understandably, many are already jumping ship.
    Mr. Collins, ins’t it time for a post on bonds and does the same “meditation video” you made and I watched like 100 times this year already, applies to bonds? Is it going to recover? TLT fell 42% from all time high already. It’s scary!!!!!

      • Rui says

        Ahahah! How childish! Have you read the blog? Where is anywhere written that there are impossibilities in the markets? There’s even something written about swan events. To say that JL would run away from discussing something because he is surprised from any movement in the market is either just a call for attention or plain ignorance… his views are quite well explained in the blog!

        • Ralph says

          Education is something that is missing in these comments.
          Anyone can see Harvey was being provocative to get an answer from JL, which unfortunately didn’t happen. I’m also very curious about the bond world lately.
          But…no wonder the world is as it is lately. Nobody has any patience and empathy anymore. Offense and ignorance are the norm. Dangerous time

          • Rui says

            If that is the case, I do apologize. I guess not everyone could see Harvey was being provocative.
            I do understand context counts and inflection lack when we write. So, there’s that.
            On the other hand, if you check the nonsense comments about the pandemic, just to give an example, that are written a few comments before, maybe you may see why I do am a bit unconfident on the comments section. So, I did thought the comment was meant.

        • Ralph says

          I see…hadn’t read the pandemic comments but yeah, people have some crazy opinion these days.
          Anyway, thanks for being polite. We all need some more empathy these days. Hope JL answers soon. He could calm some nerves here for sure.

  21. John Harris says

    Mr. Collins. The idea behind the asset allocation principle that your book and the stock series is about indicates that in times like this I should sell bonds to buy stocks to bring the allocation to target.
    However I find myself having to sell stocks to buy bonds at the present to reach my target allocation.
    Does it make sense or are we just seeing the end of the allocation principle theory?

  22. Anonymous says

    I don’t think of the “direction” of the sales — it’s simply rebalancing.
    Whichever way the rebalancing needs to go, that’s what you sell / buy.
    The market moves up *and* down; it’s the nature of the beast. Rebalancing is just putting the allocation back to the plan’s percentages — whatever the direction of the imbalance.

  23. Satoshi says

    In a market like this you can see why you should focus on income and dividends and not on capital gains (or losses more likely). VTSAX is great in a bull market, but in a bear it doesn’t pay your bills

  24. Faye says

    Hello Mr. Collins… My name is Faye. I am 56 and just getting started on the simple path to wealth. I have been listening to your book and know that I can’t time the Market but I have a question about my current situation. I have a 401k Rollover and a Roth IRA with Schwab. The investments in the accounts were selected by Schwab and then a management company with which I have just recently parted ways. According to the cost basis info in my accounts, between the two, they are down by $10,000. I will lose the $10,000 if I sell the stocks in both accounts and buy the Schwab Index funds that mirror the Vanguard funds. Would you suggest taking the loss. I know I would be getting the Schwab funds on sale. Just a little more info on both accounts the 401k is around $70k and the Roth $10K. I hope this makes sense. I am new to investing on my own.

    Thanks for your help.

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