What Would You Do If Money Were No Object?

Last week I was asked to respond to this question through free writing: What would you do if money were no object?  This was in the context of developing a mission statement, which I’m doing in the professional development course I just started.  Other questions related to leaving a legacy and so forth, so my mind was primed to think about the long-term impact of my work.


My answers surprised me a bit.  They related to long-standing but background passions that I have explored only in my free time and not professionally.  I have never made a serious investment of my free time into either one for more than about a year.  Yet I was telling myself that if I had unlimited money, these are the areas in which I would like to make an impact.


This is the first time I have ever thought “Those financial independence guys might be on to something.”  I am critical of early retirement and think that financial independence is too far out of our grasp to be a current goal.  However, the passions I identified are not ones that I would expect to make a living in, particularly if I were to be a writer in those areas of passion, which is the primary skill set I want to use.


If I were financially independent, I would have the time to think and write about these subjects.  I wouldn’t have to concern myself with whether I could make money from these pursuits.


Kyle was very skeptical when I told him my answers to the question, precisely because I haven’t extensively pursued them in my free time (preferring to learn about and apply personal finance and nutrition, more practical subjects).  He sees me as capricious in my intellectual interests, and I agree with him.  I get tired of an area of study after 12-18 months, which is why I like to describe myself as “a breadth person, not a depth person.”  The great part about being FI, though, would be that I could be capricious and it wouldn’t matter.  A career takes time a dedication to build, but I wouldn’t need a career if I were FI, if I didn’t want one.


As I see it from here, the fastest path to FI would be through taking a career-type job that uses my PhD and possibly hustling on the sideThe fastest path to my passions would be to pursue them immediately without concern toward monetization and depend on Kyle’s income alone (not fair to him!).  Perhaps there is some middle ground, but because I see these areas as requiring a high level of expertise to be paid anything, I am not too optimistic about getting to that level on an investment of only a few hours per week.  But perhaps my assumptions are wrong.  I need to spend some time dabbling in these areas again to see if my interest is sustained and how others make money in them.


blackboard scienceWhat would I do if time and money were no object?  I would pursue:

  • healing the rift between science and Christianity, from both sides
  • learning about, promoting, and translating for the lay public astrobiology research


What would you do with your time if you had unlimited money?  Do you see a way to incorporate more of your passions into your life before you become FI?


P.S.  A couple months ago, I was alerted to an opportunity to teach a general science class to students at a local Christian university.  I considered possible curricula for a long time before telling myself that it wasn’t a good idea for me to teach (for the first time!) this semester when I’m trying to push toward graduation.  The pay rate (though sort of irrelevant to me, since I have a FT job) was also terrible – only $3k for the semester – especially for a job that would require a long-for-NC commute.  However, this type of position might allow me to work in one of my passion areas, and I should keep a more open mind to taking jobs that are outside of my (expected) wheelhouse of writing.  If I were FI or freelancing, I might be free to take this sort of position for the fulfillment of my passion and the possibility that the experience could build toward better-paying opportunities.


P.P.S.  When I asked Kyle this question, he said he would keep on his same track – PhD, postdoc, research position in industry.  So I guess he’s in the “never work a day in your life” camp!


photo from Free Digital Photos


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30 Responses to "What Would You Do If Money Were No Object?"

  1. Alicia says:

    I am the same as you – a breadth person rather than depth. When I started my position last year I jumped fields quite significantly, and I loved it. That is, after spending 5 – 6 years on my PhD research. I think being a breadth person bodes poorly for me as ever being a PI. And I’m fine with that, though it was nice and comfy when someone asked me to help set up a set of experiments and troubleshoot them with him since it was all my graduate school skills.

    As for what I would do if money was no object, I think I would pursue business. I currently can’t wrap my head around any more schooling, so I will make the transition from science to the business side in a few years. Otherwise I would do it now.
    Alicia recently posted..Financial Update – January 2014

    1. Emily says:

      The breadth vs. depth realization about myself is also what deterred me from staying on the PI track. That and the pressure to win funding.

      Would you want to do science-y business or business comma other? When I asked this question of one of my grad school friends (genetics) he said he would run a bunch of small businesses.

  2. Mrs. PoP says:

    If money were no object, Mr PoP and I would likely start a small business or two, but I’d likely only work on it part time. My other passions are spending time outdoors and yoga, so I’d love to be able to engage those more (SUP yoga, perhaps?). But there’s not a whole lot of money in that…
    Mrs. PoP recently posted..PoP Income Statement – January 2014

    1. Emily says:

      SUP yoga is a new one for me… awesome pics! Would you ever want to teach yoga?

      1. Mrs. PoP says:

        I don’t know if I’d enjoy teaching yoga, but I do want to deepen my practice and like sharing it with others, so you never know?
        Mrs. PoP recently posted..PoP Income Statement – January 2014

  3. S. B. says:

    Although many people ask themselves that question, I think most people have difficulty really imagining the scenario. Thus, people imagine themselves with a few hundred thousand dollars, and assume they’d still probably keep their career and still do most of things they’re currently doing. But what if you really had some enormous sum of money, like $50 billion? I seriously doubt most of us would keep our current jobs. Most of us wouldn’t blog. Most of us would do things very differently in all aspects of our lives.

    Now the odds of you or I (or any of your readers) obtaining that sum of money are essentially zero. But the answer to that question should be a major clue to many things in our lives. Finding a quicker path to the things that really fulfill us may allow us to short-circuit years of nonsense in our lives. And unlike becoming a billionaire, that is a path that many people in the world have found.
    S. B. recently posted..Reading Review: Week 3

    1. Emily says:

      Yes, I agree with your conclusion. I didn’t imagine myself a billionaire, just not having to have a full-time job. Basically the same as FI. 🙂 What’s your answer?

  4. Cash Rebel says:

    Emily, it’s so interesting to hear your honest thoughts on the matter. I know I talk about financial independence a lot, but my true thoughts are pretty similar to yours. FI seems like a nice idea, but it is out of reach for most people, and maybe myself. I’m just an optimist so I like to try to convince others that it will work for me.

    I think you’re right that it’s tough to get paid a lot to do astrobiology research, however, I bet you’d be quite a strong candidate in an astronomy lab if you were willing to just be paid a stipend (after you get your current phd). Obviously it’d be a waste of your current skills and training, but those are really sunk costs anyway. If you still have a strong passion for astronomy next year, and the year after, perhaps it’s a life change worth considering.

    PS I have an astronomy minor and my dad was an astronomy professor, so if you ever want to nerd out about astrophysics, let me know.
    Cash Rebel recently posted..When it’s finally time to find a new job

    1. Emily says:

      Ugh, sunk costs. That’s the worst.

      I don’t really want to keep doing research, though, astronomy or otherwise. I just want to LEARN (and maybe translate for others) about the subject. The same reasons I didn’t go for my PhD in astronomy 7 years ago (undesirable lifestyle, tight funding) still exist. BME is a cool subject too – in a more practical way – but I think I’m just getting tired of it after being so focused.

      Thanks for letting me know about your astronomy interest! I would have majored in astronomy, probably, if my school had offered it – physics was the closest. Astrophysics was a suuuuuper hard class for me!

  5. Matt Becker says:

    For years now I’ve wanted to make a living helping people with money, and that’s what I’m really trying to build up now. It’s not exactly an answer to your question, since money is still an object, but to me the real point is to build a life you’re happy living, not necessarily one in which you don’t have to make any more money.

    The only other piece I would add is that I want the flexibility to be able to be significantly involved in my kids’ lives. That means going to dance recitals, soccer games, etc., even the ones that happen during the week. That’s a big goal of mine.
    Matt Becker recently posted..How to Budget Without Actually Sticking to a Budget

    1. Emily says:

      What is your day job, Matt? I really admire you for branching out into your financial coaching business. Please give update on your blog!

      Yes, I would definitely want flexibility, too. Writing would give that, I hope!

  6. Is it wrong that I want to link to the Office Space quotes that answer that question?

    I think I’ll end up doing a lot of various things, but nothing for more than a few hours a week. I’ll blog, hike, volunteer, spend time with the family, read…a bunch of little stuff. The thing I’m aiming for with FI is activity diversification. Right now, 40-60 hours a week just for one activity that happens to make money, is way too much for me, no matter how much I like that activity.
    Done by Forty recently posted..February Budget Porn

    1. Emily says:

      I haven’t seen Office Space in so long I had to look up the quotes!

      I like the idea of activity diversification. I think it will take me a long time to get to 10,000 hours in either of those subject areas.

  7. If money were truly no object, I would focus my time and energy on my kids and close family/friends, and on raising awareness (and money) for a select few causes that I feel passionately about. It would be about making a difference and adding value to individuals and society at large.
    Tie the Money Knot recently posted..You are Your Own Financial Safety Net

    1. Emily says:

      Sounds similar to my full answer if I weren’t just focusing on career-ish stuff (and if I had kids). We also did a bunch of “values” exercises and family was consistently in my top few.

      What are the causes you would support?

  8. Michelle says:

    I’m not sure if I would do anything different. I truly enjoy blogging and engaging with the blogging community.
    Michelle recently posted..February Goals – Making and Keeping Them

    1. Emily says:

      You’re living the dream!

  9. SarahN says:

    As always, a really interesting topic Emily, and some great commenters. I think I agree wholeheartedly with SB – our idea of money is out of whack with ‘never’ working, and my colleague and I regularly say if we were lotto winners, we’d still work to keep ourselves busy, but perhaps sleep in, and leave when it suited us. What we’re saying is, we’d like the flexibility of the money to not have to commit to our set hours (7-3.30pm) and instead work less hours, but still regularly. And as an aside, just yesterday my mother accepted a job, stipulating she’d take it IF she got two late starts and two early marks. So perhaps right ‘on the money’ (bad pun!)

    I think DonebyForty also raises a good point, 40 hours of anything is a lot, even when you love it. Or, like you Emily, don’t love it forever and ever (only 18 months or whatever). While I don’t disagree with Tie the Money Knot, I also think that if I won a lot of money (or had) not everyone I currently know and love would have the same free time to spare, given they’d still be working.

    Overall, I actually think of this situation in the inverse. If I was to lose my currently well paid job ($100k+) what would I do? (I have savings, not enough to live on forever but enough to not be hasty in finding new paid work) I would increase my contribution to the church, I would exercise more, I would experiment more with cooking, I would volunteer at the coop. Bascially I would farm myself out, in a way I’m limited to now due to my work hours and tiredness (there’s only so much you can fit in!)
    SarahN recently posted..February Challenge: Water Guzzle

    1. Emily says:

      Yes, I totally agree that we really want less work and flexibility. I think the idea here is that your leisure activities would take over, and maybe your leisure activities would generate and income and maybe they wouldn’t. Perhaps the reason I’m not sinking a lot of time into these areas of interest now is that I’m too intellectually used up from my day job.

      Your lost-job life sounds like a sweet staycation. Very similar to the break I want to take after I defend! But plus more blogging.

  10. If I had a boatload of money, I would invest in companies. I would probably be a Warren Buffet. At least I think I would. If I had some money, but not a boatload, I would open up my own small business. Maybe become a full time write. Always one of my dreams.
    SavvyFinancialLatina recently posted..Applied for a Travel Rewards Card

    1. Emily says:

      Great dreams! Any particular kind of business or writing?

  11. As I indicated in yesterday’s post, I would probably start brewing beer as a way to enjoy myself and maybe start an actual brewery. It is a strong passion for me and I think I would really enjoy it.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..American Express Personal Savings Review – Good, Bad, & Ugly

    1. Emily says:

      That’s awesome that you’re already pursuing your passion in your free time. Did you think about it for a long time before starting or just jumped in and realized you loved it? I enjoyed reading your post and your desire to ramp up your hobby into a business.

  12. […] @ Evolving Personal Finance writes What Would You Do If Money Were No Object? – If you didn’t have to work for money, what would you do with your time? Maybe I do […]

  13. […] @ Evolving Personal Finance writes What Would You Do If Money Were No Object? – If you didn’t have to work for money, what would you do with your time? Maybe I do […]

  14. […] What Would You Do If Money Were No Object? was featured in the Carnival of Financial Independence. […]

  15. Corbin says:

    I think periodically asking ourselves that question: “What would I be doing if I was FI” is a great lifelong habit. Just devoting some thought power to it every so often, even if it is a few times a year, can make sure we are living in accordance with our values and passions.

    I think FI is a worthwhile pursuit for anyone, not because money is important, because our time is. It is a finite resource and when we have the ultimate authority to do the things we want and our best at, the world benefits just as much as we do personally.
    Corbin recently posted..The Truthful Gaming Mouse Guide

    1. Emily says:

      Good points. I hope that I don’t have to wait for FI to have a reasonable amount of control over my time, though! I agree about re-evaluating on a regular basis.

  16. […] What Would You Do If Money Were No Object? was featured in the Financial Carnival for Young Adults. […]

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