A Recipe for Retirement


I love sourdough, as does my family. I had never attempted to make sourdough before, as I had only heard how much work it is to make the starter, keep it alive, and then even more work to bake with it.

When I began researching how to make it, I discovered that making a sourdough starter is truly a labor of love. The maker must tend to it daily at the beginning of its creation by discarding some of the starter, then feeding it, and keeping it at a comfortable temperature, away from heat and sunlight, allowing it to ferment and grow. By the 4th day, you must discard some and feed it TWICE a day. After seven days, it requires weekly attention and feeding. It occurred to me that I will even need to take it on vacation with me if I cannot find someone to babysit my starter.

Making a recipe using the starter requires preparing it a day or more in advance and utilizing some discard to create dough or batter. Plus, to create that wonderful sourdough flavor, the process must allow the discarded starter to ferment. As someone who is usually last minute on everything, this was a daunting thought. But I was determined. Fueled by visions of the look on my family’s faces, including my parent’s, when I surprised them with a warm fresh loaf of sourdough bread, I went for it. My kiddos were on Spring break, so I felt it was the perfect time to start.

I found detailed instructions on the internet, gathered the ingredients, and started this long process. It has been interesting. I used two jars to create two starters, with one version of the starter using only bread flour and the other a mixture of bread flour and whole wheat flour. (I found recipes that differed in the types of flour they recommended the maker use) I got excited the first day when I discovered that my starter had almost doubled! Unfortunately, it went downhill from there. By Day 4, I had little growth, and in one jar, barely any growth at all. I did have a few bubbles forming on the top of the starter, and the deliciously sour smell, so I knew all was not lost. But my starter should have been doubling every 12 hours at this point. As I began to analyze what I was doing wrong, it occurred to me that my measurements could be off enough to throw my starter creation entirely off course. Every recipe for a sourdough starter that I found called for the measurements in grams, and I had been using Google to convert the grams to ounces and cups. I measured crudely, and I was trying to wing it, approximating my measurements and not following the recipe strictly. I tried to justify this by telling myself that my ancestors did not have a kitchen scale when they created their sourdough starter, so why did I need one? Plus, I didn’t want to spend the money on one if I didn’t need to.

Trust the process!


Shortly after starting this project, it occurred to me that there were several analogies between financial and retirement planning and the process of making a sourdough starter. There was also a lesson in following the instructions and not winging it. I let those thoughts ferment (see how I did that?), and the result is this:

  1. Begin with the end in mind! The process is long and tedious, but just like I envisioned making my family happy by bringing them homemade sourdough bread, we should all envision what we want our future to look like. Start by imagining the happy things you want to do, and get to work to make it happen.

  2. Don’t just have one source! I made two starters; just as we should not put all of our eggs in one basket. Keep plenty of cash for emergencies and have a diversified portfolio to spread the risk!

  3. Feed it! You must feed your retirement fund by regularly adding to it and dollar-cost averaging.

  4. Don’t wing it! You have likely heard the phrase, “measure twice, cut once.” It is the same with retirement saving. Follow a budget, be deliberate, do the essential calculations, find your number, and see what you need to save to live well when you are no longer working.

So, by Day 6 at the morning starter “feed,” I became pretty discouraged. It was time to buy the scale. I knew my starter was alive because I saw the bubbles from the fermentation and smelled the sour smells, but it was not growing as it should. Winging it was not working, but luckily the digital scale was delivered with my groceries that same day. The Day 6 evening feeding was measured precisely, with 100 grams of starter discarded, 50 grams of warm water, and 50 grams of flour whisked back in. I also decided to lend the starter that was not growing the discard from my newer, healthier starter, hoping that a boost of good stuff would do the trick. It couldn’t hurt, anyway. I even tared my bowl on the scale because I was not playing around. After two days of trying to fix my past mistakes, I knew I had to start over. And fortunately for me, I was able to do just that.

The digital scale and precise measurements are like the financial plan.

  1. Trust the recipe! When your advisor tells you what you need to do to succeed, do it! Follow the plan, save what you should, and watch your investments grow.

  2. Don’t try this alone. A voice in my head was telling me that my measurements were off, no matter how much I justified not needing to follow the measurements. Listen to your advisor!

I started over from the first step, committing to doing it exactly as instructed, correctly and measuring using my scale. And it worked. I now have a healthy, active sourdough starter. Soon, I will be able to make something delicious and bless the people I love with delicious bread, pancakes, and other wonderful creations. Like my sourdough starter led to delicious food, a healthy investment portfolio will allow you to create memories and financial security. You’ll be able to give gifts to people you love, give to people and charities in need of your help, and leave an inheritance for your children and grandchildren. You can do whatever your heart desires as long as you are willing to do the work and trust the process!