Ode to Financial Leverage

Recently, we had the pleasure of attending the soft-launch of an acquaintance’s new restaurant in Denver, CO. He’s a successful restauranteur and chef on the West Coast and decided to expand his mad cooking skills in Denver. This makes sense to us. Denver is a foodie city and he can write-off trips to ski and camp in Colorado by stopping by his Denver restaurant when he’s in-state.

The food and wine was delicious. David had a massive burger topped with onions rings. I had the gnocchi with ragu. The gnocchi were as soft of pillows. They almost dissolved in my mouth without chewing. This mad it easier to eat without having to stop talking, a helpful meal for many talkative spouses. We’re fortunate enough that Denver has been unseasonably cool this summer, so no one has been forced to look at our “dad bods”, which in gay world means we’re fat.

As this place is billed as a “listening lounge,” we enjoyed a free jazz show. The music was great.

During our talk with friends, we learned from the chef’s wife that she and her husband completely over-leveraged themselves to pay for this restaurant. Another friend suggested we offer our services to help them.

This made me think about using credit and loans to fund an investment. It’s done all the time. Investment accounts, as we’ve discuss before, often have features that allow for borrowing in order to fund more investments.

So, is there something wrong with investment credit and investment loans? Inherently, I don’t think so. David and I have admitted to using credit to fund our lifestyle. We and many other personal finance bloggers use credit to “travel hack”. We travel hacked to visit my mother in Kiawah, SC this past Mother’s Day and our friend in Hilton Head afterwards. We recently used creative financing to fund our new furniture purchase. As soon as we use credit and get our credit card miles or points, we pay our credit cards off now.

There was a time when we were too over-leveraged. This put us in a basement for five years, cost sweat and tears to climb out of, but ultimately resulted in our book, 4: The Four Principles of a Debt Free Life. All’s well that ends well, I guess.

David and I are starting our own business, too, so to speak. It’s more virtual and less brick and mortar, but it’s a business. Our goal is to fund our lifestyle with Debt Free Guys, LLC. This has required a lot of investment of our time and money. Having struggled with too much debt before, we’re more conservative with our finances now.

I returned to work after eight months off so that we could use my income to fund our start-up. This has required us to be super efficient with our time and has spread us very thin at times, sometimes too thin. My income has helped with a lot of Debt Free Guys’ promotion, the promotion of our books and the financing of our public relations. This has resulted in the transition of our website to a new host with more bells and whistles than we had on SquareSpace.

We hope that Debt Free Guys starts generating the money we need to let us live off of our own efforts. We’ve lowered our expenses and increased our savings, so that we’re less dependent on the income of our day jobs.

That’s us, though. Other’s are clearly more comfortable taking on more debt to fund their dreams. Of course, the overhead of all businesses aren’t the same, either. If we started our own restaurant or our other dream of a coffee and wine bar, we’d likely have to take a business loan from a bank or credit union.

To hear that this chef and his wife are leveraged doesn’t concern us, so much as to hear that they’re “over-leveraged”. People are typically pretty private about their finances. When someone opens up about something so drastic, it’s likely true. With big risk, there’s often big reward. Big risk can also ruin people. We certainly hope our acquaintance’s restaurant is a huge success, especially because we enjoy the food, wine and music.

Would you leverage yourself to start a business? Would you over-leverage yourself to start a business? Let us know in the comment section below.

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Comment List

  • Oh, I can imagine the massive burger topped with onions rings! 🙂 For me, I would leverage myself to start a business and maybe having a business partner would be a good idea too.

    • John Schneider 12 / 08 / 2015 Reply

      It sounds as though you have a specialty in burgers. Maybe you and your business partner could open the next Shake Shack or 5 Guys? Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Jillian 12 / 08 / 2015 Reply

    I hope to work for myself by the time I’m 30, and my goal is to save up enough money to allow me to do so without having to go into debt. But since I don’t plan on opening a restaurant, if I did have to get a loan, it wouldn’t be as large as I’m sure your friend’s was.

    • John Schneider 12 / 08 / 2015 Reply

      Whatever you decide to do, it’s great that you’re focused on saving first. If you’re independent business has a low barrier to entry, all the better financially. Good luck with your endeavor. Hope you achieve your goal! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • I’m not one that is completely against using leverage. I just believe that you need to do it in a smart manner. Using debt responsibly for purposes of trying to start your own business can pay off in the end. It just doesn’t mean that you have an open checkbook to get whatever you want. You need a plan and to stick to it otherwise it can get out of hand quickly.

  • Our Next Life 13 / 08 / 2015 Reply

    It’s interesting how relative everything is, and how the decisions we’d make are so influenced by point-in-time experiences. There almost certainly was a time when we would have been happy to leverage ourselves to start a business, or even over-leverage ourselves. We’d have thought, “Hey, it’s someone else’s money at risk, not ours!” Now that thought horrifies us, and we would probably fall on the other end of the spectrum — passing up a dream opportunity to avoid going into debt. But we feel like we’ve worked hard to earn where we are in life, and we don’t want to jeopardize that!

  • Malcolm Tassa 04 / 09 / 2015 Reply

    Personal Capital’s FREE software helps you see your checking, savings, investments and retirement accounts in one secure, convenient place.

    • David Auten 05 / 09 / 2015 Reply

      We have a few PF friends who use Personal Capital, but I am OK with my Excel spreadsheet at the moment. 😉 What do you like most about it?

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