Work optional Or having no Option But To Work

If you ask a child what they want when they grow up it’s probably some mix of a Ferrari, a mansion and being famous? Why? Because that’s what the media tells us we should strive for when we grow up! In my conversations with clients, I find that as we mature what we really want is to be able to live life on our own terms.

Your day-to-day decisions starting at a young age will determine whether you create a work optional life versus a life that you wake up and have no option but to work. Work optional means getting to the point in your life where you wake up and you are in control of your day and living life on your own terms. You are answering to yourself. Not your boss, not your next mortgage payment, not your lease payment on the BMW. In practice it means something different to everyone. For some it means leaving the corporate job and starting the coffee shop they always wanted to open, for some it means leaving the daily grind and taking on charitable causes, for some it means slowing down at work, going part time and spending more time with family.

So how does one build a work optional lifestyle? We’re not talking about forgoing the avocado toast and the Starbucks. We’re talking about buying new cars vs. used cars, do you really need to upsize the house, should you stick it out longer at the current job in order to increase pension benefits? Are you prioritizing investing and buying appreciating assets versus depreciating assets? The work optional mindset is the pilot light in the back of your mind that lights up when these decisions are on the table and errs on the side of caution. It’s a series of decisions that we make throughout our life each of which determines long term whether we’re waking up work optional or waking up with no option but to work. 

Here are the top three mistakes I see people make that prevents them from getting to the point of being work optional –


1-      Thinking there is a shortcut. For most of us despite all the noise in the media and headlines of the crypto millionaires or local lottery winner there is no shortcut. Patience, process, and discipline are the keys to long term wealth accumulation. I once read, “I can’t tell you how to get rich quickly. I can only tell you how to get poor quickly: by trying to get rich quickly.” Having a plan in place and sticking to it is key.

2-      Waiting and or being too conservative. Time is not on your side and fear is not an investment strategy. You aren’t going to catch the bottom of the market and get in at the perfect time. And even if you do there’s a good chance you’ve missed out on a lot of dividends and market appreciation while you waited. A mentor often tells me perfect is the enemy of good. Sometimes in our attempt to be perfect we end up doing nothing. That doesn’t work. Einstein put it best when he said “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.

3-      By far the main factor that is going to determine when an investor becomes work optional is mentality and behavior. When it clicks (and I have seen it happen) the light bulb lights up and suddenly people get it. It’s a mental shift away from investing in what society tells us we should want vs. investing in what we want.

Part of our jobs as advisors is to help people make the right decisions and help them map out their goals and dreams and help them get there. Let’s say you do decide you want the second home. If you buy it, are you still then on track? Is now a good time to do the kitchen renovation you’ve been thinking about? And if so which accounts, should you pull the money out of to pay for it? We can answer that.

One of the most enjoyable parts of being an advisor is when clients finally get to the point of pulling the trigger and becoming work optional. Things change for them. For some it’s the smile I can hear through the phone as they go about spending more time with their grand kids. For some it’s a certain change in their walk you notice when they come into the office to discuss their charitable giving strategies. So that begs the question? What are you prioritizing? A work optional lifestyle or a lifestyle that gives you no option but to continue to work?

P.S. one of the best books on the topic is The Millionaire Next Door. The book does a great job identifying common traits among those that accumulate wealth and the mindset required to live life on your own terms.

Views expressed are not necessarily those of Raymond James and are subject to change without notice. Information provided is general in nature, and is not a complete statement of all information necessary for making an investment decision, and is not a recommendation or a solicitation to buy or sell any security. Past performance is not indicative of future results. There is no assurance these trends will continue or that forecasts mentioned will occur.  Investing always involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss. No investment strategy can guarantee success.

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