Would an Extra $5 Million Sway Your Plans?

Would an Extra $5 Million Sway Your Plans?Would you stay in the country for an extra $5 million?  That was the question posed to me by my mom last week.

“If I hit the lottery and gave you $5 million to come back from Panama after one year, would you do it?”

Obviously, she’s not thrilled with our plans to leave the country and move to Panama next year.  Leaving family and friends is always the toughest part of moving.

Her thinking with this hypothetical question was that $5 million would be enough to change our plans so we wouldn’t permanently move out of the country.

It turned into an interesting discussion that I thought would be a good topic to go through.

Her stipulation in the imaginary question was that we would just need to move back to the U.S., not necessarily back to Cleveland.

This would be a short post if we agreed on what the outcome would be to the question, but here’s a hint… I didn’t budge.

$5 million is a lot of money and although this is just a hypothetical situation, passing on something like this would be difficult.  No matter where you are in your financial plans, that amount of money could take you much further.

But is there more to it?


The role of an extra $5 million in our lives

Would an Extra $5 Million Sway Your Plans? - The role of an extra $5 million in our lives
There I am – can’t you see me waving?! 😉

Heck, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t love to have an extra $5 million to work within their lives.

Think of all the cool things you could do with that money!

My biggest dream is to live on a cruise ship and travel to different places all over the world.  I mentioned that on my guest appearance on the FIRE Drill podcast recently.

How cool would that be?  Enjoying a life at sea with the sound of the ocean soothing you to sleep every night.  And every few days, you wake up in some new area of the globe to explore.

All your luxurious meals are prepared for you every day.  A room steward to take care of cleaning up of your living quarters and being at your beck and call.  Staring out at the ocean and stars from your balcony.

That’s my personal idea of awesomeness!  And there are people that actually do that.  In fact, John from ESI Money had loosely thought about the idea when he wrote “Is Retiring on a Cruise Ship an Affordable Option?” as a recent post.

It’s expensive, but it’s not outrageous after you realize that you would no longer have a mortgage or monthly rent, no groceries to buy, or no car needed.  And to top it off, no more stupid home or car repairs either!

I’d bet though that even something like that would get old after a while, wouldn’t it?  Sigh… I’d like to find out!

We all have fantasies of what we would do if we had a ton of dough and that for me is a wild one.  I’m sure you’re already thinking of some better ideas than mine.

My daughter just said her dream would be to live in a house where everything in it – including the house itself – is made of candy.  If you wanted a piece of candy, you just break off a piece of the house or take a bite of your pillow if the urge strikes you while lying in bed.

Can you tell that she’s been on a no-candy diet lately?  She made a bet with her grandma that she could do it for a month… it seems she’s got some withdrawal symptoms going on!


The role of financial independence in our lives

Would an Extra $5 Million Sway Your Plans? - The role of financial independence in our lives
Freedom. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. Soaring through life and enjoying every minute of it.

For me, more money really isn’t that important.  We’ve made our way to financial independence and I’m good with that.  We finally socked away enough that we don’t have to work anymore.

I still remember being in the room while my mom was watching the Oprah Winfrey Show decades ago.  The queen herself said something along the lines of, “Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you independence.”

That was a long, long time ago, but that statement stuck to me like glue.  That was the sole reason I wanted more money… to quit working.

I wasn’t after some lavish lifestyle with a mansion and servants – I just wanted my time back.

And now, we’re actually there.  At age 43, I no longer have to work if I don’t want to – we’ve gained our independence and freedom.

So, what would more money give us?

If we kept our same lifestyle, I’m sure it would eliminate any question of us ever running out of money before we die.  It would also pretty much guarantee we’d be leaving a nice nest egg to our daughter.

But honestly, I don’t really need that.  I’m sure my blog and other passion projects will take care of giving us that extra breathing room should it ever be needed.

Anyway, if I were really concerned that we would struggle with money, I would just work another year now to make sure we were in better shape before leaving.  However, I believe that we’re where we need to be, especially with us willing to be flexible if the need arises.

Then there’s the other problem with more money… lifestyle creep and people wanting to get a piece of it.  In the words of the Notorious B.I.G., mo money mo problems.   It’s like the more money we come across, the more problems we see.


The relevance of money

Would an Extra $5 Million Sway Your Plans? - The relevance of money
Here I am running my FIRE numbers… while naked, of course!

So for us, money’s become a little less relevant than it was previously.  Sure, I’m keeping tabs on where we stand, but I’ve noticed I’m not constantly staring at the numbers trying to figure out our financial path any longer.

This seems to be a common occurrence we see with bloggers in the personal finance community.  As they get closer to reaching early retirement, money isn’t as much of a focal point as it used to be.

I know I’ve had that discussion with Fritz at The Retirement Manifesto who just left his job recently and we’ve heard others say something similar.  Once you’ve got the numbers worked out, the math just kind of takes care of itself for the most part and you’re free to move onto other tasks.  Now you can shift your focus to be on your next adventure instead.

Some people enjoy the idea of money.  They feel good making it and just don’t want that feeling to stop.  They’ll keep working as long as that big payday continues to roll in.

And, provided they’re putting away for their future in the meantime, I can’t argue with that.  Go for it and work for all eternity if you want for as long as it’s making you happy.

However, there are other folks (like myself), that just want the full bucket and not necessarily one that’s overflowing.  We just want to sock away enough money to cover our expenses so we can quit our jobs and take advantage of our newfound freedom to focus on other passions.

Because of that, the relevance of money in the lives of those folks similar to us is not as much of a priority.  We’re using money more as a means to an end (or really a new beginning) than anything.

So in that manner, a $5 million windfall would be fantastic.  It would actually help make the relevance of money in our lives be even less important because we would have to think about it even less.  That’s always a good thing.


Strings attached

Would an Extra $5 Million Sway Your Plans? - Strings attached
Tin can phone… string attached – right, right? Ba-dum-ch!

However, that would only matter to me if the money had no strings attached.

Free money = Good.

Money with stipulations = Not so good.

Sure, there’s a possibility that the stipulations aren’t that bad, but it’s pretty rare to get something for nothing in this world!

Let’s go back to the imagined question posed by mom.  Although it’s completely hypothetical, it’s still interesting.  Mom’s angle is that this $5 million would be enough for her to leverage us to change our plans.

Her thought was that we’re moving to Panama mostly because the cost of living is cheap enough to allow us to retire early.  So if she handed us over a $5 million bill (how awesome would that be if that was a thing?!), we’d have little reason to stay in Panama any longer.

However, there are three holes in that thinking:

1) The initial plan was to be able to retire earlier by moving to Panama.  However, after the thought of possibly not liking it and realizing I’d have to go to work if we came back, we changed our plan.  We built our portfolio up based on what our expenses would be if we were living here in the U.S.  That way, if we come back, I can still stay away from going back to a W2 job again.

2) We actually want to try living in Panama.  It’s an unusual circumstance for sure, but what an opportunity for our daughter and for us as a family.  We’re excited to see how this goes.

3) We’ve hit the peak where more money isn’t as important anymore.  We have enough and we’re actually in what feels like a very weird dynamic not to be a slave to money any longer.

Those “small” details are enough to let us decline that upcoming offer from my parents when they win the big one with the lottery… though I have a feeling that day’s not going to be anytime soon!

So for now, we’ll wait for a while to get our $5 million with no strings attached.  Anyone… anyone?

In the meantime, we’ll continue on down the path toward our early retirement in Panama next year.  And we’ll continue to do it our way.


What about you?  What kind of dreams would you run with if you had an extra $5 million?  If you were already FI, would that be enough money to sway you from your plans?


Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

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14 thoughts on “Would an Extra $5 Million Sway Your Plans?”

  1. Ironic timing, Jim. I’m writing a post about my first 60 days of retirement, and I’m including the reality that we haven’t really thought about money since we retired.

    Once you’ve gained Independence, Enough Is Enough. It’s time to enjoy that hard won Freedom. $5M sure would be nice, tho!

  2. That’s an interesting question from your mom. Luckily, you already have an answer for her. 🙂
    $5M sure would be nice. We’d probably spend a little more if we have that much, but no big changes overall. It’s a nice amount, but not life changing for us. That’s the primary benefit of FI. Money doesn’t hold the same power as it used to.
    I’m looking forward to reading more about Panama. It’ll be a grand adventure.

  3. In a similar vein my wife asked me the other day if I’d stop working if someone gave me 2 million. Before I had a chance to answer she basically said I wouldn’t as I enjoy my job. She was right. I’d just work remotely more.

  4. It’s tough to answer a hypothetical, because it’s not real and the implications of your answers are nil. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see how you believe you would behave given the $5 Million hypothetical gift.

    I applaud you in your decision to try a move to Panama and your willingness to stick with the plan regardless of the circumstances.

    I sometimes wonder if I would live differently if we had $10 Million in retirement savings, which is more than 3x what we plan to have when cutting loose next summer. I’ll be honest — I think I would spend more freely. As easy as it is (and mostly true) to say we spend as much as we care to spend right now, if I had the ability to triple it without jeapordizing our future, I wouldn’t triple it, but you can bet I’d spend more.


    1. C’mon, PoF – the question being imaginary makes it more fun! I think you bring up a good point – having a ton of extra dough probably wouldn’t change most of us in the personal finance world to be spendthrifts. However, it would probably open up the change purse a little more than we might do otherwise.

      Appreciate you stopping by, PoF!

      — Jim

  5. Many good points here! I think that you hit the nail on the head when you pointed out that money with stipulations is not good – it’s not really “financial freedom” if the $$ has specific freedom-limiting strings attached!

  6. I mean if there were no strings attached to the money I might stay in the U.S. Maybe move to Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands or something….technically I am in the U.S. (ha, ha).

    That said I think you all are making the right decision for you. I mean it doesn’t have to be forever. Besides just because you would have $5M doesn’t mean you would live close to family. You might live in Alaska, which is further away. But as others have said $5M would be nice though.

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