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Tell me if you heard this one… a financial planner and a client walk into a yoga studio. OK. I am not good at telling jokes, but I had conversations surrounding all three, last week. Somehow, they all pulled me towards one topic that I feel is worth discussing.

‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving…oops, wrong story.

The more plans I write, the more people I run into in outside the office. I run into clients in places where I don’t expect to see them. This past week, the place… a hot yoga class. I need to increase my flexibility and for whatever reason, I prefer the heated version. I’ve read the theories on why it is better and why it isn’t. I am not sold on either, I just prefer the hot version. By the way…I am horrible in these classes. I can’t do most of the poses. No problem…no one knows me here. I can fumble through and one day…maybe I will touch my toes. But, then…

I am in the back of the room. I am always in the back because I believe my falling over during the poses would likely be a distraction to those behind me. I look over and think I see a client. It is probably not her. What are the chances a client would be in the same class on 5:30 the night before Thanksgiving?

Apparently, the odds are pretty good. She came over after class and said hello. She just started as well, so she felt my pain. We both agreed we enjoyed the classes and compared notes on whether we would continue after our initial 10 classes…we both tested the experience with a Groupon.

Spend money on things you enjoy

We discussed the expense of taking yoga classes. There are more affordable options. But, we knew about the “cheaper” options and never (or rarely) did them. Yet, we struggle with paying for more classes. It seems wasteful.

We can buy a DVD for the price of one (maybe two) classes and have the DVD forever (or until DVDs go the way of VHS). Think of the value we would gain from buying one DVD versus paying to attend classes. On top of that, consider the time to drive to the class. With the DVD, it would be at home. We wouldn’t have to drive. We wouldn’t have to review class schedules. We could complete the class at any time. And we (or at least I) wouldn’t do it.

We laughed about this. So, we think it is a better idea to save money and buy a DVD that we will never (or at least rarely use) versus paying for classes we would use? Hmmm.

I agreed during the conversation that I would start with another 10 classes (Black Friday Special). I see value in pursuing this interest and as mentioned I enjoy it. Which made me think about the choice to spend money on yoga classes. As you’ll see, the topic of choice kept popping up.

Spending may not be the problem after all

You’ve likely heard the retirement success story…just give up your Starbucks. Brew your coffee at home for a fraction of the cost and you are on your way to successful retirement. Poor Starbucks. They became the bad guy when considering retirement. Is brewing your own coffee the solution? Maybe. Maybe not. I will guarantee that decision alone will not create or derail your retirement plan.

Spending on things you enjoy and receive benefit from is usually not the problem. The problem is wasteful spending. We’ve all been guilty. We buy things we don’t need and in some cases, we didn’t even really want. Sure, we wanted it in the moment, but we got home, and it never left the closet or was tossed from the refrigerator two weeks later.

If I enjoy yoga and go to the classes; I might consider this an investment rather than an expense. The added benefit of gaining flexibility and the time focused on me rather than everything around me is a valuable bonus. After all, if I don’t gain flexibility, I may break in half one day. We continued our conversation…

Expense versus Investment

The client in the hot yoga class revealed they (her and her spouse) were moving forward with the build of a pool in their backyard. She hesitantly admitted they were already over budget and hadn’t begun landscaping. I asked her if she knew what I would say. She said she did…

They had recently completed a planning review. Their reviews are always fun. They often have a new idea. A couple of years back, they were debating the decision to buy a bigger house. This past review, adding a pool (to the bigger house they bought) was the topic of interest.

The pool, the house and the yoga classes were all the same (or at least similar) conversation. They struggled with their internal voices…the ones that said…” this house is fine; do we really need to spend money on a bigger one?” And… “do we really need a pool? They are expensive.” Finally, “can I justify the cost of yoga classes when I have a perfectly good DVD at home?”

I find many struggle with conflicting thoughts surrounding money. Of course, some don’t. They simply spend everything they have. They don’t seek the advice of a financial planner (until they want to make a change). What becomes interesting in my position is when I have partners who have different opinions… one focuses on saving for someday while the other wants to enjoy life today (which costs money). The choice surrounding yoga classes seems simple and straightforward; just like the choice to go to Starbucks if you enjoy Starbucks coffee.

Some choices aren’t so easy

My father has been struggling with heart conditions for a few years. He recently found himself in the hospital and then rehab. I flew back to Buffalo, NY on Thanksgiving to check on him and my grandmother. I tried him a few times on Thanksgiving with no response. No big deal. He was in rehab. He probably didn’t have his cell phone charged or close by. I texted my sister that if I didn’t hear from him or her by mid-morning, I would head to Gowanda (where the rehab facility was). I got a quick response… “sit tight. You are not heading to Gowanda. You are headed to South Buffalo.” There was only one reason I was headed to South Buffalo instead of Gowanda…Mercy hospital. My sister called and summarized her recent call with the cardiologist. He was in room 724 door.

I don’t go back to Buffalo very often. It has been a couple of years and hadn’t seen my dad in that time. Sure, we talk on the phone, but I hadn’t seen him. I found the room. By the way, I realized two things. First, I need to do what I can to avoid being in a hospital (hopefully obvious) and I could never be a nurse. To those of you reading this post who are nurses…I have an increased appreciation for what you do. I couldn’t do it and I am certain you don’t get paid enough. Oh yeah, back to choices…

Within the first hour of my arrival, a doctor from the Intensive Care Unit paid a visit. They wanted to take him “upstairs” (the ICU unit is on floor 8). They wanted to administer different drugs that could only be administered there (details aren’t important). I listened as my father asked great questions. “Let’s suppose I go upstairs and agree to more invasive treatment, will my heart pump better afterwards?” The answer was no. “Then I will stay right where I am.” The ICU doctor asked a couple different times in different ways. My father turned to me… “what do you think?” I think we should respect your wishes. We stayed on the 7th floor. The nurses and doctors continued to monitor him. They slowly lowered the dose of dopamine which was helping keep his blood pressure elevated. By Wednesday, the dosage was decreased on the doctors started talking about sending him back to rehab, but they couldn’t tell me when. So, on Wednesday, with my dad stable, alert and telling me to go back home, there wasn’t anything I could do in Buffalo, I returned to Phoenix on Wednesday night. The choice to remain in the cardiac unit rather than intensive care was arguably the right choice.

Steph’s shopping choices

I think I have shared our joy of Costco trips in previous posts. Stephanie loves to sit in the cart or have me sit in the cart. She especially enjoys tasting samples…who doesn’t? The Costco samples create a choice (or many of them depending on which day you go).

She (like many I assume) try a sample and want to buy it. I am sure this isn’t lost on Costco. But, I find Steph loves the product at Costco, but when she gets back to the house, I end up eating the food because somehow it isn’t as good as it was in Costco.

So, now I limit her purchases at Costco. I explain past choices and share how they are emotional rather than logical. She resists, but perhaps she is learning something?

Life is a series of choices

I return to the beginning of this post. Over the past couple of weeks, I was constantly reminded of the importance of choices. I realize life is a series of choices. My father is not only making choices today. He is answering for the choices made in the past.

The couple with the pool and yoga classes will continue to make choices going forward. The choice will be based on what is known today and a consideration of how today’s choice impacts tomorrow.

I mentioned that she would know what I would say about being over on the pool. She knew I would say it was OK. I would tell her not to stress over it. Why would I say that? Because we “tested” the impact of the pool expense in the last review. We discussed the financial impact and the emotional impact. They have four kids. They plan to spend a lot of their family time around that pool and their plan continues to project success. Build the pool, enjoy the family time.

This was the key point of the yoga class, the pool and the hospital. You will continue to make choices. Some are financial while some are not. Some are easy. Some are not. I continue to preach balance when considering any financial decision. Ask questions, measure the joy received today and compare it with the potential cost in the future. Then, make an informed decision. Not ready to make an informed decision? Ask more questions.

Another choice crossed my path during the plane ride to Buffalo. I was listening to a podcast. The speaker talked about his struggle to be perfect. He admitted things didn’t get done because they weren’t perfect. His fear of being criticized for a project that wasn’t perfect kept him from sharing important and useful information.

I realized I was falling into this “trap” when it comes to my posts. I haven’t posted in a few weeks. This isn’t because I haven’t written. I have. I’ve spent a lot of time writing. I just couldn’t find the “perfect” way to say something. Or I couldn’t find the “perfect” conclusion. Or…any number of things that kept me from sharing.

I found it interesting that the podcast speaker noted that some of the projects he did that he felt were less than perfect were well received, while some he was proud of fell flat. I find the same thing. Sometimes, I wonder if the post was worthwhile and I get great responses. Others that I think will create responses…nothing. So…my choice…share without the need to be perfect. Because, in the end, I enjoy writing the posts. I get positive feedback from readers. Another choice in the books.

Finally, when I don’t update the posts frequently enough, the most common question is…what is Stephanie up to? Given that it has been a few weeks, I will update. She is entering Tech Week for Elf Jr. at Greasepaint theater. I like this theater’s approach and look forward to seeing the show. Opening night is this upcoming Saturday for her group. One client thought they would be a stalker if they went to see the show. I laughed. I appreciate the support of any children’s (and adult) theater.

She wants to go see Grandpa. I am not sure I want her to see him in his current condition. I prefer she remembers him in a different way. I am not sure what the right decision is…I am working on that one. 

Photo by Avrielle Suleiman on Unsplash