I had lunch today with a young man who is considering a career change. He strikes me as one of those types who is going to be successful at whatever he chooses. But at the moment, he's wrestling with staying the course on a promising track that's relatively predictable and safe vs. making a jump to a new field where his passion lies.
It reminded me a lot of my own decision to take the leap of faith almost 15 years ago to come join SMI. I knew I'd written about that before, but apparently it's been quite a while — what I found (and am re-running below) was first written 10 years ago! A number of people responded to it then, saying it had been helpful to them. So I thought maybe it was worth sharing again for newer readers (or those who don't remember everything they read 10 years ago). If it resonates with you now, I'd love to hear about it, so please leave a comment below.
One admonition older workers often give younger ones is it’s a mistake to sacrifice following your dream in order to “play it safe” and follow the conventional road, building a retirement nest egg and hoping somehow your drudgery today will pay off in a “comfortable” retirement.
I relate to this on two levels. One is professional – what I do here at SMI. A big part of our job is to keep you focused on long-term financial goals, so we write about them often. But I do sometimes worry about the balance between conventional financial wisdom and people listening for God’s distinct and unique call for their lives. I’d hate to think that our emphasis on your retirement “needs” and “staying the course” financially might block someone from hearing/heeding the voice of the Lord to do something different in their unique situation. You may have noticed that God doesn’t always follow the “conventional wisdom” in how He chooses to operate. This balance between focusing on the long-term via the conventional investing wisdom from places like SMI and staying flexible to the leading of the Holy Spirit in your unique situation can be tough, and it’s something for every Christian investor to prayerfully keep an eye on.
On a more personal level, I’ve been doing more reflective thinking this week than usual. My daughter turned five last weekend, and then this week I recorded some radio programs, doing “live” Q&A with callers for the first time. Both got me thinking back about the last five years, where I am now vs. where I was then.
Five years ago I had a “nice” situation. I had a “nice” job that paid decent money and had good prospects. My wife and I had a nice house in a city we liked, a great church, lots of friends nearby. We’d just had a baby, and had been offered about the best setup we could imagine – she could continue her current job half time, keep full benefits, and between our schedules, our daughter would be in a good Christian day care (that my employer paid the majority of the cost for) 3-4 hours per day. Things were pretty ideal. Except for one thing. That job wasn’t in personal finance, which is what I really had wanted to do all along. Then, totally out of the blue, the Lord cracked the window open, and waited to see what I’d do.
To make a long story a little shorter, this Christian investing newsletter named Sound Mind Investing wanted someone to come manage a new product for them. I didn’t know SMI very well – I had seen the newsletter, but hadn’t read it regularly before. Joining them would require leaving the security of my current job, giving up my wife’s income (we weren’t going to find the type of setup we had anywhere else), moving across the country to a city where we knew literally nobody. Oh, and my salary would be less than what I was making already, I’d give up the possibility of a big stock option payday, and the prospects of the new SMI product were decidedly uncertain.
Did I mention the cost of living was much higher in the new city we’d be moving to? I could go on, but you get the idea. Sounds like a winner, right?
Was it ever. As we prayed, my wife and I realized this was the break I’d been looking for. The way to realize my dream of helping people with their finances, PLUS be able to do it without any conflicts of interest, or starting at the bottom rung of some brokerage, and be able to do it all from a Christian viewpoint. In other words, it didn’t make financial sense at all, but it was clearly the right thing to do. So we did.
I think a lot of times God works that way. He knows that for many of us, money will be the chief competitor for our affections. In my case, it was pretty clear – “Do you trust Me? Will you give up your financial security to see what I can do?”
So here I am, five years later, having just recorded some radio programs that will be heard across the nation. Just little old me, talking about personal finances with oh, a few hundred thousand of my closest friends. It completely boggles my mind. There’s no way I could have orchestrated something like that, but God did. All I had to do was be willing to give up the modest little bit of financial security we had worked so hard to establish.
I would guess I’m not the only one with a similar story. And I also suspect there are some of you reading this right now that may be facing a similar fork in the road. If you are, forget what you’ve read in SMI about the need to save for retirement! If the Lord opens the window for you, He may also require you to put your financial security on the line to follow that Godly dream you’re harboring.
An article I read recently asked, “…this fundamental decision I believe we all face at some point … one so fundamental that most financial professionals are more likely to talk you out of, if they’ll advise you at all: When do you risk all on a spin of the roulette wheel of life? When do you risk your retirement savings now to chase a dream?”
When do you do that? When God tells you to. When He cracks the window open for you and you sense He’s calling you to trust Him. When that happens, don’t hesitate. Do it. Follow His voice. Don’t look back.