October 25, 2014

Rich Dad, Wise Daughter

I have always been fascinated with tiny replicas of real life items. When I was a kid, I liked Pet Shop, which were replicas of a wide variety of animals and their habitats. Most of the sets were common domesticated animals, like cats, dogs, rabbits, and birds, but, every now and again, they would come out with a set of rare animals.

On one particular visit to Toys ‘R’ Us, a visit which is infamous in the Marotta household, I went to the Pet Shop aisle and found that every toy was on sale. Upon further inspection, there was a set of tiny woodland creatures on sale for $1.30. To this day, I still remember the squirrel of the set, small and adorably posed with a giant bushy tail taller than its head, and I remember how deeply I wanted him.

I whipped around to find my dad behind me walking up the aisle. I pointed towards the toy and squealed the information to my dad, begging him to waive the Wait a Week principle just this once so that I could purchase this toy today.

Now, Wait a Week is a principle that has protected my money from reckless purchases on multiple occasions throughout my life. The idea is that the memory of impulsive desires cannot withstand the trial of separation for a week.

I hear now that my father underwent a great dilemma standing on the Pet Shop aisle. Should he let me buy it? Should he buy the toy in secret, but make me wait a week to buy it from him? Should he make me wait? I was young enough that my spontaneous desires frequently let me astray, but I was old enough that my discernment of what a wise purchase was had begun to grow strong.

However, on this particular occasion standing on the Pet Shop aisle, the decision needed to be made today or the opportunity be lost forever. The toys were being discontinued and in a week might be gone. The decision was a difficult one for my dad to make, although ultimately he made me wait a week. So, a week later, I ran to the Pet Shop aisle to find the squirrel of my dreams only to find that all of Pet Shop was no more.

With the knowledge of hindsight, I have three musings upon this situation.

First, there were many other occasions on the aisles of Toys ‘R’ Us when limited edition toys were chosen for the Wait a Week despite their discontinuation before the week was up. The only difference was that my desire for the Pet Shop squirrel lasted the trial of the Wait a Week principle where as my desire for the other toys was found to be too weak. My dad was being realistic by holding me to the principle. Desire for items is often insubstantial, especially when you are four.

Second, I say that, if in my over two decades of life, one Pet Shop squirrel is the only casualty of the Wait a Week principle, the principle is worth keeping. Because of the strictness of the Wait a Week principle, during my youth, I frequently put money from my childhood allowance in my bank account rather than the Toys ‘R’ Us cash register. Furthermore, that money that I saved in my bank account I later put in the stock market. So, the money I saved from the Pet Shop squirrel in the stock market, that $1.30, is worth $6.24 now and $435.41 in my Roth IRA account. So, Pet Shop squirrel, you have not been lost in vain!

Third, for cheap or limited edition items, desire needs to undergo a trial other than the test of time and the Wait a Week principle should be modified. Time is an easy test when you have it, but sometimes your purchasing window is limited. In those cases, wise discernment needs to take over. Imagining the item weeks and months down the road, thinking about when and how often you will use it, and pondering about how much you would be willing to pay for it if you never used it again are all good techniques to evaluating time-sensitive purchases. Although, do not be fooled by normal purchases in time-sensitive clothing. “On sale” does not instantly imply timely and department stores abuse this frequented fallacy.

Even after my squirrel tragedy, I still believe that it is better to miss a purchase than to hastily spend money.

Use wisdom, but hold to waiting a week.

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About Megan Russell

Megan Russell+ is the Systems Analyst for Marotta Wealth Management. A Cognitive Science graduate from the University of Virginia, Megan loves neuroscience, formal logic, creative writing, kittens, and her childhood. Her favorite blog series: Wealth Inequality in America.

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