A fly that alit on Vice President Pence’s head and stayed there for a long time became the talk of Wednesday’s Vice Presidential Debate between Pence and Senator Kamala Harris. What does that say about the state of our political dialogue, that a fly can become the star of the show? But I digress. The dark-colored fly became prominent against the contrasting background of Vice President Pence’s light gray hair. Light gray hair – black fly: You will see the fly. Had the fly alit in Senator Harris’ dark hair, we viewers may not have seen it. As a result of the contrast of Pence’s head, it is a “viral” news item.
Something that is visually different will likely stand out from the crowd. What about you and your personal finances? Would you like to be the one with a black bug on your white hair and thereby stand out from the crowd and attract attention? Or would you prefer to blend in to the background? Here are some examples to think about:
- College: Your high school senior is a good student and would likely be admitted to any number of elite private colleges, but they would have to borrow a lot of money to do so. Your child’s closest high school friends will also likely go to private college, so your child would better blend in if they also did so. However, the better financial decision is to go to State U., or even your local CC for a couple of years. Should you contrast with your neighbors just to save some money?
- Investing: The stock market has been bullish and the TV “experts” think the bull run will continue. However, you think things are about to take a turn. Do you stick with the experts (blend in) and hold your positions, or do you liquidate now (contrast) and stick to your own intuition – or maybe it’s more than just intuition?
- Retirement: Your childhood friends are all taking early retirement and seem to be having the time of their lives. They are all urging you to retire and join in with their fun. However, you figure you need to work a few more years (God willing) to complete your financial goals. Do you blend in with your friends and retire early (it does sound like a lot of fun!)? Or do you contrast with your friends and work until you feel you can retire more comfortably?
Although my examples seem so, the “contrast” option is not always the correct decision. Sometimes everyone else is right and you are wrong. It is difficult to make a decision when you right in the middle of a situation and you are perhaps not objective in your reasoning.
The point that I am making is that you should not be afraid to go with the crowd and blend in with your financial decisions, nor should you be afraid to be the fly on Pence’s head and contrast with the crowd. You are not always right and the background crowd is not always wrong, and vice-versa. The trick is to recognize which way to go when you have a fork in the road. That said, if you are concerned about saving for the future, decisions that boil down to “spend less money today” are usually good decisions that perhaps result in some sacrifice in the current for good stuff in the future. Rather than focusing on the background color – i.e., what other people will think or say – focus instead on how this decision will help you achieve your own financial goals. That’s the better way to make a tough decision.