The Most Important Investment of All – (Why I Stopped Saving for Retirement)

invest in yourself

Just two weeks ago, on this very blog, I wrote about the massive importance of starting to save early and often. If your goal is to reach financial independence sooner rather than later, there’s nothing you can do that’s even remotely as powerful as a simple increase in your savings rate.

And yet, I have something I have to admit: I stopped putting money into my retirement accounts back in December of 2013.

It’s true. Up to that point, my savings had been on auto-pilot since I was 23 and my Dad convinced me to open an IRA (thanks Dad!). And those consistent contributions have helped me a lot, doing more than anything else to build up my savings.

But 15 months ago I knew I needed to put them on hold.

I had something more important I wanted to invest in.

A different kind of investment

It was high time I started investing in myself and in the life I wanted to live.

For years I had been dreaming of running my own financial planning practice working with people like me, people starting their families, their careers and trying to make the right financial decisions. And for years I had been putting that dream on hold.

Well no more. In December of 2013 I officially decided to take a chance and start this business.

I was excited, but also nervous. Because starting a business from scratch meant I had to do a few things that many people would consider a little unconventional, and some might even say downright risky:

  • Go without income – By turning down a “normal job” and starting a business instead, I was intentionally deciding to live for a period of time without an income.
  • Stop saving – Because I didn’t have an income, I didn’t have a way to save for the future. All the automated contributions to IRAs, 529 plans, a future house purchase and the like were all turned off.
  • Live off savings – In fact, I was actually going to be depleting my savings to pay the start-up costs of my business and to put food on the table until the business was making money.

So just to sum up, I, the guy who just two weeks ago wrote about how your savings rate is BY FAR the single most important part of your investment plan, was intentionally deciding to make my personal savings rate negative.

I was taking FROM my savings, not adding TO it.

And oh yeah, my wife and I had a 1-year-old AND a newborn at the time, both with mouths to be fed and bottoms to be diapered.

A little crazy, right? Maybe.


What the heck was I thinking?

I decided to do all of this for one simple reason: I believed that this was a chance for me and my family to create a life that made us happy.

Specifically, I was investing in my ability to build a business that could do two things for me:

  1. Generate all the income I needed to not only provide for my family, but to create our financial independence.
  2. Allow for a happier, more independent lifestyle. I could spend my days doing work I loved while having the flexibility to do things like visit the fire station for my son’s birthday on a weekday morning or travel for two weeks to see my parents across the country.

THAT was the return I was looking for, and it wasn’t something that the stock market alone could give me.

If I wanted to get them, I had to invest in myself.

The most important investment you’ll ever make

When we talk about investing, we typically talk about things like contributing to retirement accounts, investing in the stock market, and technical details like asset allocation and diversification.

And those things ARE important. They’re powerful tools that can make it easier to reach your long-term goals.

But that’s not the only way to invest.

Every day you have the opportunity to invest in yourself. To invest a little money, time or energy into something that might give you a chance at living a happier life.

You could invest some money to learn new skills or gain new experience that might help you earn a higher income or pursue a different job.

You could invest some time with people you love, deepening your emotional connections to the world around you and maybe even opening up some new opportunities.

You could invest your energy doing work you love, work that fills your day with meaning and excitement as you strive to make the world a better place.

The possibilities here are endless. The only questions are what you want and what you’re willing to do to get it.

How will you invest in yourself?

Personal finance isn’t about checking off all the right boxes. It isn’t about doing all the “right” things so that you can wake up years down the road and hope that you’re where everyone else wants you to be.

No. Personal finance is about using your money purposefully to build a life that makes you happy. And sometimes that might mean bucking conventional wisdom a little bit in order to pursue something that’s truly meaningful to you.

So as you think about how you want to invest, don’t forget that YOU are a pretty powerful place to put your money. The more effectively you invest in yourself, the more opportunities you’ll have to create whatever kind of life you want.

So tell me, how will you invest in yourself next?

Start building a better financial future with the resource I wish I had when I was starting my family. It’s free!

16 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Nicola March 31, 2015

    I’d love to set up a financial coaching business where I live but would have no idea where to start! I think you’re very brave but no doubt are making it work 🙂 did you have a business plan/strategy before you started? How did you market your ideas at the start? I’d love to hear more about your journey 🙂

    • Matt Becker April 1, 2015

      Hey Nicola! Thanks for all the kind words! And I’ve got a few answers for you.

      First, if you’re really interested in starting a financial coaching business, I have two posts that I think will help you out:

      As for me, I had pieces of a business plan in terms of how I would market my services, what exactly the services were that I was offering, what my value proposition was and what kind of growth I might need to be successful. But it wasn’t as formal as it probably could have been.

      And this website has really served as my main marketing tool from the beginning. I had already been running it as a blog for about a year, so I had some traction there. But I made some big efforts to really focus it specifically on my target market and to be more present on other sites in order to draw people to the website.

      If you ever have more questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly at I’ve had plenty of help along the way and I’m always happy to pay it forward!

  • Nicoleandmaggie March 31, 2015

    Next year I’m going on half pay someplace expensive in order to do lots of research. Some of that will be financed from savings.

    If I were building a business though, I would want limited liability and a business loan.

    • Matt Becker April 1, 2015

      Wow, that sounds really interesting! What kind of research are you planning on doing? I’d love to hear more about it as you move along.

      And you’re right, taking out a loan would certainly have been another way to do it, and for some people that can work out really well. As the only person in my company though, the truth is that true limited liability can be hard to come by. Even with an LLC (which I have) or an S-Corp, there are ways to pierce that if you’re the only person. That wasn’t really a risk I was willing to take.

  • Done by Forty March 31, 2015

    Good for you, Matt. Your post reminded me of what Kraig did over at CreateMyIndependence, and he caught some flack, too, if I recall.

    I admire entrepreneurs, especially as I am not one. I hope your business takes off and you’re able to invest both in yourself and your retirement again, soon. Let me know if I can help in any way, of course.

    • Matt Becker April 1, 2015

      Thanks Brian! You’ve already been plenty supportive and I’m incredibly appreciative of that. No matter what you do in life there will always be people who are with you and those who want to tell you why you can’t/shouldn’t be doing it. I try to stay focused on what’s best for me and my family and ignore the rest, though it certainly isn’t always easy.

  • Jason April 2, 2015

    In some respects, my job is investing in myself because it rejuvenates me. I get to do what I love. However, I fully admit that a new investment in myself has come about and that is financial independence. I have always struggled with the idea of balance. Achieving financial independence is one way for me to get to some form of balance in my life.

    • Matt Becker April 3, 2015

      That’s awesome to have a job that gives you that! Not many people have that.

  • Andrew@LivingRichCheaply April 3, 2015

    Wow, I can believe it’s been over a year that you took that leap. Time flies and I hope things are going well. I’m with Brian, I admire entrepreneurs immensely for having the courage to take that leap. When your job is something you are passionate about, you never have to “work” a day in your life.

    • Matt Becker April 3, 2015

      Time definitely seems to fly by! At the same time, from my end there’s been so much change that it kind of feels like forever. And thanks for all the kind words! I hope you and your family are doing well these days.

  • brian April 6, 2015

    Nice post Matt!

    I’m with you 100%, and you are also in the fortunate position of still having those earlier investments you made continue to compound for you, even though you are no longer adding to the pot (at least for now).

    You made the right choice.

    • Matt Becker April 7, 2015

      Thanks Brian! And you’re absolutely right. Those past investments are still earning money, which is pretty cool! Still, we’d definitely like to be upping our savings sooner rather than later.

  • Philip Hall April 16, 2015

    I genuinely wish you the best, I have been reading this blog off and on for the past year or so and have enjoyed it. In fact this highlights the importance of saving and having solid financial planning even more, as it’s the fact that you HAVE done that that enables you to take this kind of risk to invest in your future. Good luck!

    • Matt Becker April 16, 2015

      Thanks for the kind words Philip! They really mean a lot to me. And yes, I definitely agree that this shows the value of good financial planning. We couldn’t have done it without our savings. Money in the bank always gives you options.

  • Alex Craig September 16, 2015

    Love it. I have been learning this lately.

    Are you familiar with James Altucher. This is similar to what he promotes.

    I read an article a few months ago about he stopped investing in stocks which is weird because he made a killing at it as a hedge fund manager.

    Premise of the story is he would rather invest in starting his own company then fund some other company. It changed my thinking and has caused me to put less money into savings accounts.

    Of course it can be scary getting over the fear of what if you lose it?

    How did you overcome this fear?

    • Matt Becker September 22, 2015

      Having other people who believe in me, support what I’m doing, and help me work through the tough times has really made all the difference when it comes to getting over the fear. I talk more about that here, and it’s not only the whole reason I had the courage to start this company to begin with, but the reason I’ve been able to keep going through some challenging situations.

      In most situations I think that you can find a good balance between saving in the traditional sense and investing in yourself. But in some cases it can absolutely make sense to go all-in in one direction over the other, at least for a little while.

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