Don’t Risk It All


My husband is a good, hard-working man, who has been stuck in a job he really doesn’t like for almost 10 years. He came to me the other day with an idea to cash out his 401(k) and use the money to open a business. He has always loved the idea of going into business for himself, and I want him to be happy, but I’m not sure this is a good idea. Do you have any advice?

A. Yes, I do have some advice. And it can be summed up in one word. Don’t.

I admire your husband’s spirit, but the way he wants to approach this turns the entire situation into a trap. Think about it. If his business idea doesn’t work out, you guys have lost your retirement savings, and bankruptcy becomes a very real possibility. Diving head-first into opening a new business just because you’re bored with your current situation, or tired of answering to others, is not a good idea.

Look, I get it. Lots of folks have an entrepreneurial spirit. And everyone I know like that wants to live their dream. The problem is these dreams can turn into nightmares, for the entrepreneur and everyone around them, if they don’t plan wisely and very carefully ahead of time.

In my mind, one definition of a nightmare in business is “going all in.” When you’re playing cards, this means betting everything on a single hand. You never go “all in” when it comes to business. So, for the moment, the first question he needs to ask himself is this: How can I live my dream without going all in?

For starters, he needs to find something he truly loves doing and can look forward to every single day. To have any chance of success, he’ll have to live and breathe that idea. I know you love this guy and want to help. So, the best thing you can do right now is express your concerns about his idea, and offer to help him think about what he could do every day that would make him smile. Once he has the answer to that question, the next step is figuring out how to start that business without putting your entire financial world in danger. In other words, how can he save up some money—and start small—instead of blowing your entire savings or going into debt?

If you have some cash other than your emergency fund or retirement fund, it’s okay to use some of that. But never, ever, go into debt to start a business, or pledge every dime you have to something that could be a complete disaster.

It’s not an either/or proposition. He doesn’t have to risk it all to get away from a job he hates and live his dream!

Dave Ramsey
Author: Dave Ramsey

David Lawrence Ramsey III is an American radio show host, author, and businessman. He takes your questions here each month.


David Lawrence Ramsey III is an American radio show host, author, and businessman. He takes your questions here each month.

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