Convenience is Not Always an Advantage

May 17, 2017

We love it when things are convenient.

There’s a new car wash place that has opened up in my town. They say I can just drive through, never get out of my car and have a clean ride in just four minutes. I think I’ll give it a try. I mean, four minutes and never get out of the car – that’s convenient. And if it’s still dirty after I give it a try, I guess I’ll go someplace else and get it done. No big deal.

But convenience has its limits.

If a new urology clinic opened up, advertizing “four minute drive through prostate exams – you never even have to get out of your car!” I don’t think I’d try that. Call me old fashioned, but convenience isn’t always the only thing to consider.

Have you ever seen those late night TV commercials (not that I ever watch late night TV) where the over-excited host is schilling a cooking device where you can just “set it and forget it,” which presumably means you just throw the chicken in the pot and come back in a few hours and it’s done. Didn’t they used to call that a crock pot? No matter.

The value of convenience must be weighed against the risk of failure.

If I blow a few bucks on a car wash that doesn’t work, or a bird that gets overcooked, life goes on.

On the other hand, messing up big, lifetime financial decisions like retirement saving, investment management or insurance protection is too important to make based on what’s convenient.

But how are these critical issues pitched to the public? What we usually get are slogans selling convenience, like “Fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent.”

I often see retirement accounts, IRAs and variable annuities that someone got into several years ago…and nothing has changed. They have the exact set of investments they had five or ten years ago. Now, if that is the result of a plan, fine.

But more times than not, it is simply the result of negligence. It wasn’t ever “convenient” to review their investments, so they ignored them. Now they just mourn them.

Don’t do something because it is convenient. Do it because it’s smart. Because you (or someone helping you) has thought about it and made a wise decision.

Too often “set it and forget it” turns into “forget it and regret it.”

Convenience is overrated.