That was the point Adam Savage of the TV show Mythbusters made as the speaker at my son’s graduation as a mechanical engineer.
He was talking about using engineering skills after college.
But, it struck me as equally applicable to my audience of the indebted as it was to his audience of newly fledged engineers.
For engineers, Savage hoped that they would look beyond the technical challenges of any task at hand to see where they, and the gadget they were making, fit in the larger world.
Your technical skills don’t exist in a vacuum, he said. Or shouldn’t.
For debtors, I want clients to look at their financial life on a canvas larger than just this month’s payments. Looking at the bigger picture, years and decades, even, is there any meaningful chance of paying off your debt and achieving economic stability?
Look at only the short term and you miss the sweep of your life.
Wearing financial blinders
I saw short term thinking at work recently in a client considering refinancing her home mortgage to a smaller payment “like her friend has.” I cautioned about loans with appealing initial payments that soon morph into monsters that the borrower can’t afford, putting the home at risk.
Her response, to my dismay, was “I’ll deal with that when it adjusts.”
Like so much of the thinking that lead to the mortgage mess, she assumed that nothing else in the financial world around her would change except her mortgage payment.
Unlikely, in a world where the only constant is change.
Looking at the long term was the theme of my recent post looking at the differing results if you paid off credit card debt with the contractual minimum payment versus putting the same money into an IRA over the same period.
Making good decisions about how to deal with a technical or a financial challenge requires that we lift our eyes from the desk in front of us to the future, and look at the bigger picture.