Finding the Wins amidst the Losses

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In the summer of 2006, at the absolute top of the housing market boom in the SE and literally weeks before one of the biggest housing crashes in history, I purchased my new lakefront house!   The housing market was booming and everyone was making money. Timing was perfect! I figured I’d get a great house, have fun using it and then make a bundle selling it whenever I wanted. Well, things didn’t quite work out the way I wanted. I, like so many, had no idea how wrong I was and how the looming risk was so imminent and so substantial.

As you would expect I grossly overpaid for the house and, today, I’m suffering the consequences as I try to sell it. Twelve-years later and the house is finally under contract to be sold for 30% less than I paid.  Didn’t our parents tell us that real estate is supposed to be a good investment and appreciate ~5% /year?   Well, I guess, like anything, there are good real estate opportunities and bad ones, and so many factors impact the transaction. What makes it worse is that the loss in value of the house is not the only loss. Think of the opportunity cost for the money that has been stuck in a depreciating asset for 12-years. I could invested the money elsewhere where it would have compounded interest for years. Well, enough about the loss.

Interestingly, my misfortune turns out to be a boon for the new buyer who is getting an amazing lake house for tens of thousands less than I paid. One man’s suffering is certainly another man’s fortune. I guess that creates balance in the universe. Furthermore, I’ve learned that I cannot expect to win every time. Other people have to win too!

As I reflect on the lake house transaction further and focus differently, I realize I had substantial intangible gains on the house.   My friends, family and I shared dozens of weekends relaxing, cooking, boating and chatting at the house. It was (and is) a special place that that created indelible memories.   And, if I had not bought the lake house, I would never have met my wife (longer story). Those are some big wins!

When I look back on my life 30-40 years from now, I trust that I will not regret my lake house purchase, despite it being a financial loss. I realize that winning and losing is totally relative. I am grateful for the opportunity to own a lake house and to have shared that with my friends and family. In the scheme of things, I now recognize this as more of a win and great learning experience. Don’t get me wrong… For now, I’m happy to rent a lake house from time to time when the urge arises (and won’t be buying a second home any time soon).

The Smarter Sooner takeaway: be sure to look closely at all of life’s events as there usually are wins (sometimes tucked away) that may just overshadow even the most prickly financial losses. Good luck!



Dinner Out vs. a Gym Membership

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If you’re anything like I was, you’d happily pay $75 for dinner out, but you might hesitate spending that for a month’s gym membership.  You’d also pay $6 for a Beer quite easily, but you’d rarely splurge for a fresh Veggie Juice for the same price?  What about paying $15 for lunch versus a drop-in Yoga class?  Ask yourself these questions and consider the irony.

The fact is that we easily, often and without much thought spend substantially on things like dinners out, beer, wine, cappuccinos and more. Think of how much you spend at Starbucks on a monthly basis. Now, think of how much you spend per month at the bar or at the liquor store?  I personally spent a ton over the years doing these things.  And, if you do the math, the amount is totally disproportionate to the amount we spend on your health, especially given the returns.

A beer, glass of wine or mixed drink at a bar or restaurant is expensive (and unhealthy). But, for some reason, we are conditioned to pay for it without hesitation. The same goes for expensive coffee drinks, dinners out and more. It’s more familiar and seems like a normal expense.

Now, think of spending $100 per month for a gym (yoga, health club, whatever) membership. Oddly, that seems like a hefty bill and that ends up being a major deterrent for better health. While we spend more at just 2 or 3 dinners out, somehow health clubs have to be dirt cheap of we won’t join. And, while we think a health club membership is expensive, we liberally spend $5+ daily at Starbucks ($150 or more a month)!

The irony: Our health is the most important thing that we have and therefore it should be the thing in which we invest the most. Without our health, we cannot enjoy life (including visits to great restaurants). And, if you really analyze it, investing in our health and well-being is not really that expensive. Perhaps it just feels expensive when we look at its cost in isolation. But, when you compare its cost to things that we freely spend money on (dinner, drinks, etc.), it should feel a lot more comfortable.  Be sure to add the tangible and intangible benefits of being healthier to your calculations!

So, next time you’re near a Whole Foods (or similar), pop in and buy a fresh veggie juice. Rejoice since it’s cheaper than a liquor drink, and, importantly, because it will nourish and sooth your body, bring energy and vitality to your life and even combat some of the ill-effects of drinking alcohol or eating rich meals out. And, consider joining your local gym (yoga studio, crossfit, spin, kick boxing, whatever) and think of the cost of doing this as low, compared to many of our other living expenses, while the upside is priceless: better health.

It’s all how we look at expenses and benefits. After many years of living and recognizing the above concept, I gladly invest in all sorts of healthy things in my life because I’m willing to pay for things that create the most value / benefit in my life.  I guess I’m a bit Smarter now than I was 20 years ago!

Try it out and see how you feel.


The Alcohol Trap


Drinking alcohol can be a trap – something I’ve learned after NOT drinking it for the past 90-days+.

For most of us, beer, wine and/or liquor drinks are a default part of our daily lives. From a relatively young age, we have become conditioned to drink without even thinking about it. Social events, business events, cooking dinner, eating dinner, after dinner, parties, food-pairing, special events, while boating, while watching sports, after exercising, when at the beach, après ski, celebrating, commiserating… these are all prompts and reminders for us to drink. We don’t have to look very hard to find a reason or place to ‘have a drink’.  This is socially accepted and encouraged by the beer, wine and liquor industries whose marketing is very effective. Whether we realize it or not, we are socially and behaviorally conditioned to drink and it is likely an embedded part of our lives.   And, by the way, the liquor business laughs all the way to the bank.Read More »

Anger or Poison?

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“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies”. That’s what a wise friend once told me and I never forgot it (apparently this is a famous Buddhist quote). It’s so true and accurate and conveys so much. If you hold anger, resentment, grudges or other negative feelings inside, in actuality, you are the one being poisoned and the one who is suffering. Nobody else feels that but you and, most likely, the person you’re angry with is completely unaware of your inner turmoil. You suffer by electing to harbor these negative feelings about somebody or something else. Regardless of what happened and who was right or wrong, you don’t need to hold poison (negative, toxic energy and feelings) inside. Take a deep breathe, exhale and release it.   Holding anger (resentment, grudges, etc.) inside does absolutely nothing positive for you. Think about it and be honest with yourself. It doesn’t feel good at all. So, what does one do to change this? Simple… if you’re Smarter Sooner, you’ll LET IT GO.Read More »