We've all heard the old dodge,"God is in the details," and certainlyit's true in medicine. It's also"way true," as my daughter says, inmoney matters.
For example, when traveling, you'velikely worried about security, connections,and a thousand other things thatyou'd rather not be bothered with. Ifyou're on holiday, you can't wait to getinto "no worries, mate" mode as soonas possible. So you wave your credit cardleft and you wave it right, easing you toyour destination.
Recently I learned anew how valuablepaying attention can be. In 1 trip,my wife got a free night at our hotelafter pointing out a management snafu,reversed a $30 error on our rental carby retaining our confirmation numberfrom a prearranged deal, and cappedoff the morning with a corrected restaurantdouble billing. It took a little effortwhile in our travel mode, but paid wellin dollars and smug satisfaction.
Have you noticed how frequentlythese errors occur and—shockingly—how they're never in your favor? If youcasually multiply the cumulative totalof this kind of money out for a year, ora lifetime, you're talking about thousandsof lost dollars. And I'm sure youhave better uses for the money.
We see even greater waste in ourinvesting activities. If we're in a hurry,or anxious when we deal with finances,because we haven't taken the time toinform ourselves of the specifics of ourtransactions, we're going to let a lot ofbucks slip away, like sand through ourfingers. Remember, studies show it'snot investment return, but investorbehavior that is dominant in determiningyour bottom line.
There's money on the metaphoricalfloor when we don't use tax-deferredvehicles for our savings; when wedon't watch transaction costs (eg, bargainbrokers vs high-fee types andload mutual funds vs no-load funds);when we don't shop around for bondor CD rates, squeezing out that extrafraction of a percent return that willcompound mightily over time; whenwe fund our IRAs at the end of theyear instead of the beginning; whenwe don't balance our checkbooksmonthly; when we don't use the lowest-interest credit card, or better yet,pay it off monthly; when we haven'trefinanced to a lower rate with no out-of-pocket cost; when we don't comparisonshop, go to sales, or negotiatebig-ticket items. That's enough. I'mexhausted. Watch your wallets.
Jeff Brown, a partner on the
Stanford Graduate School of
Business Alumni Consulting
Team, teaches in the Stanford
School of Medicine Family
Practice Program. He welcomes questions
or comments at email@example.com.