Sunday, June 11, 2006

Balancing Acts

Time being a relatively precious commodity in my household (particularly this month), we have often favored day trips to longer journeys to more exotic locales. This past weekend, we drove up to Maine for the day – motivated primarily by a desire to share some of our favorite places there with my visiting mother-in-law, but we all draw a lot of pleasure from those trips. On our previous trip to Maine, my youngest decided to be “adventurous” and try lobster for the first time. He not only enjoyed his first taste of Maine lobster, he (and, admittedly, his Dad) derived what some might term an “inordinate” amount of pleasure from his sisters’ aversion to watching him tear into the crustacean – a memory that was, no doubt, not far from his mind as he ordered lobster on this most recent trip.

That memory was richly “rewarded” on our recent trip, where not only were his siblings in closer proximity, but at a time of day (lunch, not dinner) when the “details” of the meal were even more evident. So much so, in fact, that my son was desirous of preserving that memory by bringing home a souvenir of sorts (the head and antennae). Incredibly (to me), his mother agreed – but he was admonished to clean said souvenir as soon as practical. And, being on the ocean, the means of cleansing appeared not only logical, but close at hand, er, foot.

Or so one would think. However, the reality on this unseasonably cool June day was that my son wasn’t prepared (physically or emotionally) for a dip in the equally unseasonably cold Atlantic. Consequently, while the rest of us were enjoying the splendor of waves crashing on the shore (albeit in windbreakers and parkas), he was trying desperately to dip his trophy without going for a dip of his own. Ultimately, he was unsuccessful, because he simply wasn’t willing to get his beloved Converse high-tops wet, nor was he prepared to doff those shoes and roll up his pants (he managed to convince his sister to do that – but her trepidations about handling the trophy nearly allowed the sea to reclaim its own).

We all make trade-offs, of course. And while yours are no doubt of more import than the decision to rinse out a lobster shell (let’s hope), those decisions have an impact that frequently transcends the significance we afford them at the time. We all know that, for participants, that decision to save for retirement – or to buy that new car…the decision to spend – or bank – that refinanced mortgage payment differential…or the decision to get some help with retirement savings decisions – eventually…can carry with them costs well beyond the 30 seconds those decisions occupy in their consciousness in an enrollment meeting. For advisors, that decision to ride just a bit longer with a fee structure that seems destined to come under regulatory scrutiny…the decision to push for the removal of a clearly inappropriate fund on that 401(k) menu…or to let it ride just a little bit longer…could bring with them a high price in the future.

Here’s hoping we look back on the decisions we make today with tomorrow’s clarity of purpose and priority.

- Nevin Adams editors@plansponsor.com

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