The Value of Risk

No, not this Risk.  Photo Source:  The internet.  Please don't sue me.
No, not this Risk. Photo Source: The internet. Please don’t sue me.

Jenn and I are finally trying to buy a farm, which has gotten me thinking quite a bit about risk (no, not the Risk pictured above). Before we decided that we wanted to own and operate a farm, my perspective on risk related to property was limited to a modest mortgage for a house and some land. Now, as we find ourselves looking at a property that would suit our vision for the future, I realize that buying a farm is quite a different from buying a house. Land is expensive in Vermont. And if, as we are, you are seeking open land for grazing livestock, it’s even more expensive. Add to that mix a house that is livable and necessary outbuildings such as a barn, and you’ve practically doubled the cost of that “modest mortgage.” Buying a farm means taking a risk.

At age 44, I figure I’m looking at twenty more years of work before I want to retire. Do I want to take on a big debt and a second job? Or would it make more sense just to ride out the next twenty doing what I do and clock out when I reach 62? We’d pay off our current debts and retire. Low risk, nice and safe.  I’ve realized through this soul searching that every pivotal or significant thing I’ve ever done that has made my life better, has been risky. I’m not talking about “drive fast and take chances” risky, I’m talking about big picture risk.

Jenn and I married when we were 20 years old, which was a pretty risky move. I know plenty of people who married young and watched their marriages fall apart because of it. 2016 will mark our 25th wedding anniversary! At 27, we decided to have a child (about is big a risk as any person can take). He’s healthy and (for a teenager) pretty happy. In my 30’s I quit my low-paying customer service job and went to grad school in hopes of finding a better job – a massive financial risk for us. Going back to school allowed me to find good work in a field I’ve now been in for the past thirteen years. I don’t regret a single one of these decisions. In all cases, our decision to take risks paid off. I believe that risk, when well considered and practical, is worth it.

My philosophy on life has long been rooted in Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” It is the final stanza that I can most easily apply to my past, present and future:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

The most rewarding parts of my life have involved risk, and though I’m mid-way to retirement, I’ve realized that I want to continue to do more and expand my horizons over the next twenty years – I want to continue to follow the road not taken. So we stand on the edge of taking a big leap into a large property and a new second career that will require a lot of energy. We’re working every angle we can to find funding to make this happen, to make sure it will be sustainable for us, but in the end – it’s still a risk. And I believe with every ounce of my being that it is the right choice. Wish us all luck, my friends. We’re getting ready to leap!

Thanks for reading,


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