First Person: Learning Financial Lessons From Television Commercials

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COMMENTARY | I enjoy looking at the world through the eyes of a financial strategist because I learn from nearly everything that I see! One of my favorite commercials on television is from GEICO. The commercial is about a man who attempts to save money on his electric bill by training two guinea pigs to row a boat and one guinea pig to keep them on beat by yelling "row." The gentleman is quite proud that he has now produced an eco-friendly electro turbine that took him only six months to train the rowers. With a hint of disappointment in his voice, he admits that it took him eight months to train the last animal to say the word "row", such a simple word.

This commercial exemplifies something which I see very often in my practice. We look at something in the abstract and do not necessarily consider how difficult it might be for a particular individual to accomplish.

Among the examples that jump off the page and come to mind is one tax client who can never be ready in time to file the return by April 15. Their return is among the simplest that I do, but they suffer from extreme procrastination. Throughout the year, I send them little reminders and guides to help them stay organized, but success is limited. Lately, I have been trying to address with them to address the issues which are creating their fears of completing a task and I assume that they will no longer meet deadlines.

I have other clients who have issues which make, what we consider simple tasks, Herculean. One person has limited means and yet continues to spend recklessly on clothing. She seems to take pride in describing her new wardrobe which she buys almost quarterly. Discussions on her need to rein in spending fall on deaf ears and will continue to do so until she comes to grips with her underlying need to be a 60 year-old fashionista.

These are all lovely, sweet and intelligent people, however, when it comes to meeting commitments they might as well be the chubby guinea pig yelling "row." Once I realized this, my own life became easier and less frustrating.

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