It was not that long ago that my wife and I took advantage of a beautiful Saturday afternoon to visit the art galleries of Carmel. As we walked past a trendy menswear store, my wife suggested we go inside to see if they had a pair of dress shoes. I had been looking for the right pair for weeks.
Now, before we go any further, you should understand that I am not the most forward thinking person in the world. In terms of fashion sense, I was a 1980s Wall Street kid and thought the epitome of style was a dark suit with pants and pleated cuffs, paired with a button-down oxford cloth shirt. I think you get the idea.
We walked inside and were immediately greeted by Tony. He asked me what he could do for us and I said, “You probably won’t get that, but I’m looking for a nice pair of dress shoes – in black.” He said, “You have come to the right place. I have a pair just for your size. I was incredulous. The other stores I had visited assured me that the black shoes were very old fashioned (remember what I said with my fashion sense) and that I really needed brown shoes. But I didn’t want brown shoes. I wanted black, and a minute later Tony handed me a box containing a pair of beautiful handmade Italian dress shoes – in black.
They were clearly very expensive. I coughed and asked thoughtfully, “Wow… how much does a pair of shoes like this cost?” He said, “Don’t worry about it, just try them out.” You will love them. So I did, and Tony was right. I really liked them. They were awesome. They were exactly my size and they were comfortable and I wanted them. They were also $ 1,195.
Tony was one of those great sales people who seem to understand what you want. He even knew my size without asking and without measuring. But what Tony didn’t know is that I have other priorities. There’s no way I can pay that much for a pair of shoes no matter how much I love them. I thanked him and announced the sad news. He responded by saying, “If the price is too high, we offer layaways. I just smiled and shook my head. Lay-away? Truly?
My point in this column has nothing to do with expensive shoes. If that’s your thing, more power for you. I’m talking about one of the biggest causes of financial grief in modern America – our inability to say no. This weakness seems to cross all political and socio-economic boundaries. It affects families, cities, states and the nation. John Rosemond, union columnist and author of 14 parenting books, calls it “vitamin N deficiency.” He writes:
“[Give] get your children regular daily doses of vitamin N. This vital nutrient is simply the strongest two-letter word in the English language – no. … Sadly, many, if not most, of today’s children suffer from vitamin N deficiency. They were abused by well-meaning parents who gave them far too much of what they wanted and far too little. what they really needed.
Rosemond was talking about parents and kids, but his advice also applies to all of us in our financial lives. If we are to increase our wealth, we need a regular daily dose of vitamin N. We just have to learn to say no.
Of course, saying no is easier when you are motivated by a more convincing yes. This is one of the reasons financial planning is so vital to your financial future. A well-designed plan will give you the convincing yes you need when making the decision. A plan will help you learn to say no because it will help you better understand where you are going and what it will take to get there. For example, I loved these shoes, but I loved the financial future that I am building for my wife and me even more. This greater love made it easier for me to say no.
Steven C. Merrell is a partner at Monterey Private Wealth Inc., an independent wealth management firm in Monterey. It welcomes questions you may have regarding investments, taxes, retirement or estate planning. Send your questions to: Steve Merrell, 2340 Garden Road Suite 202, Monterey, CA 93940 or email them to [email protected]