A few weeks back, I was on the road with my teenage son for a week, attending a basketball camp in the US. We shared a hotel room, as we had in previous years when we made the same trip.
It made me think back to times in my life when I had travelled on business with my father, and we had shared a hotel room on occasion.
My Dad was quite a snorer, and his loudness sometimes kept me from getting a good night’s sleep.
I am a former loud snorer, but thanks to the C-PAP machine I’ve used for years now, I get a restful night of sleep, and so does anyone sleeping within earshot.
Talking in your Sleep
One morning I asked my son if he was sleeping OK, concerned that I might be keeping him awake despite the “snoring machine”, as we call it in our family.
No snoring issues were reported, but apparently I do talk in my sleep sometimes. One night, according to my “roommate”, I uttered, “Even if it’s free, I don’t want it”.
I could not deny having said that, because it sounds like just the kind of thing that I would say. Not only that, it also sounds like the kind of thing my Dad would have said too.
I had no recollection of whatever dream I was having when I said it, but it did strike me as something that would be worth exploring here. The concepts of “free stuff” and “getting what you want” apply to many family legacy topics.
The word “free” itself seems to be disappearing in the business context; I am constantly annoyed by radio commercials from mobile phone carriers offering the latest device for “Zero Dollars”. (So it’s not free?)
And just because something is free, or included, does that mean you should take it? Think about that free dessert that comes with your meal.
Providers of goods and services put lots of thought into how to price, market, and bundle their wares in order to maximize profits, and often what seems like a great deal at first becomes a little “less good” for the consumer upon deeper reflection.
But it’s FREE!
When you think about low-cost items like a meal or even a monthly phone plan, the stakes are not that high, so who cares, right?
But what about transferring your family’s wealth to the next generation, you know, investments, banking, life insurance, and legal and accounting services?
Unfortunately few families have even a basic understanding of how those who provide them with big-ticket services get paid at the end of the day.
When something seems “free”, it is usually worth asking a few questions. More than a few, if that is what it takes to truly understand the business relationship that is being considered, or that has being going on for some time already.
“Gee that insurance fella seems like a great guy, he’s been really helpful, AND, he never sends us a bill!” If you saw how much the insurance company paid him for selling you that policy, you would have a better understanding.
And then there’s, “The bank offered to take care of all this for us for nothing!”
You get what you pay for
This blog often contains useful ideas, and it is free, that doesn’t make it bad, does it? Well of course not, I put this stuff out there at no cost, because some of my readers do buy my services, and it helps me attract other paying clients, and so I do it for that reason.
If there is one hope that I have in this area it is for families to take a more active role in deciding what services they DO want and need, and for them to realize how all their advisors get paid.
And if you have different specialist advisors, please understand that having them collaborate may seem more expensive in the short run, but it makes so much more sense in the end.
It’s not free, but definitely worth it.
And if you paid someone to coordinate it all for you, that would likely pay for itself too!