Husband’s Income: $50,000
Helena’s Actual take home pay: $9,858/monthly
401k balance: $78,000
Goal: I want to stop working as an attorney. I have always wanted to open a coffee shop. I’m thinking about cashing in my 401k and savings to get this done. I make a tremendous amount of money, but I just don’t care. My husband is a firefighter, and I think we can get by. How do we do this without making fools of ourselves?
Pete the Planner says: A good business always starts with a great logo. Have you considered a logo of a mermaid with a split tail in the middle of a circle? Just kidding. You gotta love it when you ask a life-altering question, and the person answering your question starts off with a joke.
This question may seem incredibly complicated, but in fact the answer will take us back to the basics. According to an Ohio State University study, between 57-61 percent of restaurants fail in the first year. But, guess what? I don’t really think that helps us answer your question. I just don’t think it is relevant, although every other person you come across will bring up this statistic to you. Be prepared to tell them that you don’t care.
This is all about income needs and desires. There is no rule that I know of that requires make as much money as you can in spite of your relative happiness. In fact, I would simply urge you to just earn enough to cover the lifestyle that you choose to live (now and in the future).
Let’s take some time to identify some potential pitfalls in logic that could hamper your chances for success and/or security:
1. Cashing out of your 401k at age 31 to start a business is a really bad idea. I mean really bad. You would be sacrificing approximately 43% in taxes and penalties based on your income. That means that instead of using $78,000 to start your business, you would only have access to $44,460. You will have wasted $33,540. That’s a lot of biscotti.
2. This plan of yours is reasonable in the sense that you can live on $50k per year (your husband’s salary), but you haven’t been doing this. If you had, you would have a heck of a lot more than $27,000 in savings. You make nearly $10k per month. If you could live on your husband’s salary, that would mean that you would be able to save an additional $50k in just 5 months.
3. It is quite likely that will not turn a profit for a while. Therefore, you must prove to yourself over the next six months that you can really do this.
Here is your game plan. Continue your lawyerin’ for another 6 months to a year (and I will continue to make lawyer jokes at your expense during this same time period). But this time put your giant income to good use. Buy nothing, save everything. This will prove that you can live on your husband’s salary alone, and it will help you start with an additional $50k in working capital. If you are able to hold out for a year, then you will have over $100k saved! Honestly, I’m not worry about you failing based on restaurant industry statistics. Most people that make this faithful jump into their passion simply fail to handle their money right. Following your passion is one of life’s great privileges, but ignoring your money has never been part of this journey.
Helena, what are you willing to give up? Are you willing to sell your car? Are you willing to downsize your home? Are you willing to get rid of cable (your husband may not be willing to)? I’m not saying that you need to do these things. I’m simply pointing out that you can’t become a victim of The New Necessities. You are on the verge of making some big-time decisions. Don’t be afraid to sacrifice. Remember, you aren’t sacrificing your income – you are sacrificing your spending.