Cincinnati, Ohio receives an average of 15 inches of snowfall per year, nearly half the national average. Typically, this comes anywhere from a dusting to an inch or two at a time. Our home has a manageable amount of driveway and sidewalks, why would I ever need a snow blower?
This morning, about an hour after I started digging out of roughly 10 inches of snow, my neighbor fired his up, cleaned off his driveway, sidewalk, a neighbor’s sidewalk, and was back inside an hour or so before I finished. I have to admit cursing my standard hardware store snow shovel a time or two.
So, do I hit the store this weekend or stick with my trusty shovel? There are a few ways to think about this kind of decision.
“Haste makes Waste” – John Ray’s Proverbs
On one hand, the historic average I quoted above hasn’t changed because of this heavy snowfall. Averages are averages for a reason. Running out to buy a blower after the snow has been cleared seems somewhat wasteful. I remain perfectly capable of clearing snow on the rare occasion that it falls. Buying a new piece of equipment requires cash outlay to purchase, the space to store it and ongoing maintenance costs despite the likelihood it will only be used a time or two each year at most.
It reminds me a bit of a family member that used to be in the radar detector business. According to their sales data, people most often purchase a radar detector the day AFTER they get a speeding ticket. Spending hundreds of dollars on top of their fine despite the statistical improbability they will receive another ticket anytime soon.
“Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail” – Source is debatable
Shame on me. I’m a financial planner. I know that extreme events can and will occur around any statistical probability. If an area receives an average of 15 inches of snow per year, it is well within expectation that we’ll occasionally receive more than 10 inches of snow in one storm. I should have been prepared.
I was discussing long-term planning with another family member a while back. They were hesitant to set too much aside for future home improvement and maintenance. After all, virtually every major system in the house was nearly new and was unlikely to cause them significant expense for the rest of their time in the home.
Within the next several weeks, seemingly at once, nearly half of the windows in the house were found to be leaking and needed replacement. I share that story not to equate shoveling a little snow with a major home expense, but to suggest that we all have to decide just how much of the unknown we’re comfortable leaving to chance.
How are we to lean here? Which thought process is correct? It depends on the person, their circumstances, risk tolerance and countless other variables. Like with so many decisions in life, there isn’t one clear answer.
At TAAG, we caution people against making major decisions or changes immediately following a significant change or surprise. This can be something as minor as considering a purchase after an unusual storm, but is often much more significant in scope.
We also build plans to be resilient in good times and bad. We tend to include a healthy amount of cushion and conservatism in our financial plans. Attempting to get overly precise with what life will bring, when, and how much it will cost ignores the multitude of curve balls that life can and will throw us from unforeseen angles. These changes can make a decision once deemed wasteful to become invaluable. Having additional resources on hand to adjust as needed through these changes in life is key to truly experiencing the joy of financial freedom.
I’m off to dry out my coat, boots and gloves. There’s more snow in the forecast tomorrow. 😊