When Small Stuff Becomes a Big Deal

An exasperated client told me,
“My wife keeps saying we need to get our wills updated. I tell her, “Why? We already have wills, which is more than most folks can say. We’ve covered all the big stuff! Why fuss over the details?”

There’s a lot to like about the mindset that says, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

When we obsess over little matters, we often miss the big, important things in life.

On the other hand, don’t you want the doctor who does your heart surgery to be off the charts when it comes to little details? Personally, just before my anesthesia kicks in, I want to look up and see my surgeon’s furrowed brow so I can be sure he or she is “sweating the small stuff.” 

This same tension exists in your financial life. 

Wisdom urges us to focus on big issues like:

  • Insurance…so that if something happens to you, you family is taken care of
  • Investing…to make sure that you accumulate and grow enough wealth so that when you quit working, you can worry less and live more
  • Impact…taking care to ensure you’ve got a plan in place to pass on all the assets you’ve accumulated to the people and causes nearest and dearest to your heart

Once these big financial matters are handled, we then have to sweat the small stuff. Because financial matters involve countless little details

Take Joe, for example. He was diagnosed with cancer in his late fifties. The good news is that Joe entered treatment early. He’s in remission today. 

The bad news is that even though Joe had medical insurance, he wasn’t aware of certain details in his coverage.

Like the fact that the policy he switched to—because it cost less than his old one—had a cap on the amount of chemotherapy it would pay for. 

You guessed it. Joe’s chemo bill skyrocketed. Today he has a six-figure medical indebtedness that threatens to take him under financially. 

Another pesky detail Joe discovered? A little rule about taxes on disability insurance payments. This rule stipulates that if you treat your disability insurance premium as a business expense and deduct those payments, you’ll have to pay taxes on any benefits paid to you. Only those who forgo a tax deduction can receive disability payments tax-free.

Now that Joe is receiving monthly disability benefits, do you think he wishes those payments were tax free? Sadly, he didn’t pay attention to that “small detail.”

And then there’s the guy I met 20+ years ago. He had heard that the XYZ mutual fund was a hot investment. (Yes, in the 90s, the words “mutual fund” and “hot” were often used in the same sentence.) He couldn’t send the company a check fast enough. 

For months he watched the fund rack up huge gains. Yet each time he got his statement, he noted that his account was barely growing.

When he finally came to see me, I looked at his statement and saw the problem: He hadn’t put his money into the XYZ Mutual Fund, but a money market fund owned by XYZ investment group. 

He had failed to pay attention to the details.

Here’s my advice: Focus on the big things…AND start sweating the small stuff.

Because the small stuff is often a big deal indeed.

One last note…I meet people all the time (especially those in their late 50s, early 60s), who have done the big thing of accumulating assets for retirement; however, they haven’t addressed the small but important detail of “How are we going to turn our ‘nest egg’ into regular monthly living expenses?”

If you’re one of those people, you’d benefit greatly from taking the RISA® (i.e., the Retirement Income Style Awareness®) Profile. Email me at bmoore@argentadvisors.com, and I’ll send you a free link where you can take this eye-opening self-test and find out what kind of retirement income plan best aligns with your personality.

Argent Advisors, Inc. is an SEC-registered investment adviser. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request. Please See Important Disclosure Information here.

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