I was there the day Washington D.C.’s mass transit rail system opened for business: March 27, 1976. I rode the length of the system that day on the red line from Farragut North to Rhode Island Avenue and back. To the 8 year old me, it was nothing short of awesome.
Today, 11 days shy of 40 years later, not a train will move as inspectors shut down the entire network to inspect electrical lines that may cause deadly fires. It’s the first time the system has ever been shut down, save for a handful of weather emergencies. I can’t find a record of any other American rail system being shut down because of potential safety issues (except for natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes).
Who wants to bet this won’t be the last time? Forty years of non-investment in upgrades and maintenance are blooming into fatal accidents and system shut-downs. (As a political aside, one would think politicians would notice that interest rates have never, ever been lower and may want to invest in 50- to 100-year infrastructure projects. I’m just sayin’.)
Getting older is inevitable. It is not to be bemoaned, as it is a privilege that is denied to many. What is more painful than aging is the failure to respond to changing circumstances, then wake up one morning and wonder why the hell nothing works.
The state of everything is entropy. For our purposes, entropy could fairly mean that everything is in decay. Entropy works in nature as new organisms compete for resources (light, water, food) abandoned by dying organisms. For the man-made world it is not quite as simple.
It’s why the best-built house (or subway system) will collapse if not maintained. A body abused by drugs, poor diet and lack of exercise will fail sooner and more painfully. The battle is fought anew every day, and Dylan was right: he not busy being born is busy dying.
So when is the decision made to take action? I suspect it’s when the price of inaction becomes too great to bear. I’m sure my friend Susan has had people come to their first yoga class only after they tire of waking in pain each day. Many runners I coach picked up the sport after they “had tired of being tired all the time” (as one athlete put it).
New clients make the painful decision to address their finances frequently because life as they knew it was no longer manageable. Complexity, stress and worry had finally become so great that as difficult as it was to seek help, doing nothing became just too costly. Our jobs as fiduciary advisors is let the world know that another way of living exists and is available to them.
Today, roughly 700,000 people will need to find another way to get to work or school. It will cost them time, money and hassle that they otherwise did not expect to pay. The Metro system they counted on has failed them, at least a little.
Someone will wake up in pain. They won’t have as much energy or interest in their jobs or their family or whatever else brings them pleasure because pain is all-encompassing. Their bodies have failed them before their time. For them I say go outside and go for a walk.
Someone else is worried about their finances. Perhaps today is the day the price of inaction becomes great enough that they no longer want to live with it. The pain of change becomes trivial.
Show us where it hurts.
Simple, not easy
An important distinction I like to make about personal finance is that it is simple...