Everyone knows you’re supposed to be investing for retirement. But let’s be honest: That’s kind of a drag.
Yes, it’s important to save and invest so that you can one day support yourself without working. We’ll all be there eventually, whether by choice or by necessity, and you’ll need money in savings to replace the income that’s no longer there.
But that’s a boring reason to invest. Pretty morbid, too.
And the truth is that there’s a LOT more that investing allows you to do with your life than simply retire. Because at its core, investing is really about freedom.
The more you invest and the sooner you start, the more freedom you’ll have to make lifestyle decisions based on what you want instead of what you need.
Here are four examples of people who have done just that. People who have used their investments in support of things that matter to them, things that have nothing to do with retirement.
These aren’t pie-in-the-sky, fly-around-the-world-in-your-private-jet-type stories either. These are real people doing real things that almost anyone could do with enough time and dedication.
Choosing Not to Work
Jim Collins was laid off shortly after 9/11. But instead of finding another job and hopping right back into the grind, he chose to be unemployed.
For three years.
He could do that because he had F-U money. Or as he eloquently puts it: “Not enough to retire on perhaps, but enough to say F-you if needed.”
So he stayed home and spent time with his daughter, watching “The Lion King” and building Lincoln Log cabins. Eventually he jumped back into the workforce, but only when he wanted to and only when the right opportunity presented itself.
He didn’t drive a Mercedes, live in a mansion, or dress in fancy clothes. But he had the freedom to find employment on his own terms and enjoy himself in the meantime.
- Related: ‘Freedom’ Money
Advancing a Cause
A few months into our relationship, one of my clients emailed me to say the following:
“I haven’t mentioned it to you before, but since I was 14 I’ve had this wish to run an orphanage or a place where kids with needs can feel safe and cared for. I had this idea that my future yoga studio could somehow be the source of funding for this orphanage in the future. Just wanted to start sharing this with you.”
How cool is that?!
Now, this woman is married with two young children. Her husband is working part-time while pursuing a PhD, she’s working to build her yoga business, and her children have all the typical school and daycare expenses.
In other words, they have a lot of financial responsibilities on their plate already, and opening an orphanage is not going to happen in the near future. But it was absolutely something we could plan for.
They had money they could save, so we opened an account and started investing a small amount toward this goal. It will probably be a while before this is a realistic possibility, but in the meantime that money will grow and it will be there when she wants it.
Supporting Your Children
Despite his well-documented adventures in non-conformity, Mr. Money Mustache spent years insisting that his son deal with a public school system that was clearly a struggle for him.
Why? As he puts it:
“You have to stay in school,” we insisted, “that is what all responsible people do to ensure a bright future, learn to deal with diverse sets of people, and of course to socialize with other children.”
Finally, he had enough. His son was suffering and needed a change. So he and his wife decided to start homeschooling.
Part of the reason they could make that decision was that they had time on their hands. And the reason they had time on their hands was that they had spent years diligently saving and investing to the point that they no longer needed a paycheck.
Now, you obviously don’t have to be completely financially independent or start homeschooling in order to support your children.
The point is simply that your investments can give you the freedom to spend both time and money in support of your children. You can save for their college education. You can fund their travel overseas. Or you can simply be there for them when they need you.
Could there possibly be a better way to use your money?
Starting a Business
A few years ago I lost my job. I had been working at a startup and, like many startups do, it failed.
So I had a choice: Find another job, or start the business I’d been dreaming of doing.
The idea of starting a business was scary enough on its own, but my wife and I also had a one-year-old son at the time, another boy due in about a month, and to that point we had been completely dependent on my income.
It was not the ideal time to take a big financial risk.
But here’s the thing: We had enough money in savings and investments, outside of retirement accounts, to last us a year without any income at all. We could have even stretched it to 18 months with some realistic cuts, and that included the startup costs of the business.
I was still pretty hesitant because I hated the idea of putting my family in such an uncertain financial situation. But finally, after having the same conversation about a million times, my wife said these fateful words:
“We have all this money. If it’s not for this, then what’s it for?”
That Is What It’s For
Honestly, I couldn’t say it better myself. Being able to make choices like the ones above is the entire reason you work so hard to save and invest.
It’s not about retirement. It’s not about putting your head down and grinding it out until you’re finally allowed to start enjoying yourself 30 or 40 years down the line.
It’s about having choices. Investing gives you the freedom to pursue a life you love, both now and in the future.
And if that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will.
Matt Becker is a fee-only financial planner and the founder of Mom and Dad Money, where he helps new parents take control of their money so they can take care of their families. His free book, The New Family Financial Road Map, guides parents through the all most important financial decisions that come with starting a family.