Just finished another great read by Poundstone, Priceless.
For the families I work with, the information inside is probably worth an additional ten years of self-allocated time. Ten years, the parents could allocate to their kids, rather than building assets. Or even allocate to yourself.
If we slide into the investment world, the information is worth tens of millions. Just sit and listen to any executive who controls a budget over $250 million, or listen to the debates within your city council. Boulder city budget creeping up to $500 million for ~100K pop. Down the road, City of Denver has a ~$1.3 billion budget.
Unforced errors are easy to spot when watching others. More valuable is to teach yourself to notice how you are being pulled into spending more. Personally, my top unforced error is $275,000 and I’ve come across mistakes in excess of $1 million.
Our emotions can lead us astray. Be particularly wary of having sadness triggered… “I wish I could have that…”
Whenever I notice that feeling, I stop!
My first line of (emotional) defense is slowing down the process.
What’s the car off the lot? It’s the deal that gets you onto the lot.
I’ll compress three trips to the dealership and a month of research into a story…
When you arrive, the first thing you see is the anchor.
Or, in the case of fashion, it’s the purses/dresses in the display cases with discreet (but astronomical) prices displayed.
It’s the jacked up Denali Super Max Monster Truck, blacked out, with 48-inch tires, that’s driven onto a rock and visible from the street…
Locally, our Toyota dealership puts out a PRO and prices it $10,000 over MSRP. Thereby setting a $60,000 anchor in your mind. Each year, this car comes out with a unique color scheme, and a special type of roof rack, so connoisseurs can instantly ID the driver’s status.
While they’d be very happy to sell you the PRO, it’s not the lead vehicle. What they really want to sell you is one of the four (!) OFF ROAD parked right beside it. They have $10,000 worth of options and are priced at $49,999 (-ish). They are lifted, with gleaming knobby tires and they have swapped the decal so it is badged “PRO.”
With that $60,000 anchor in my mind, the sexed up OFF ROAD certainly felt like a deal. I could “save” $10,000 by buying it, it was right there…
But where was that basic OFF ROAD that I saw on the internet?
We went into the salesman’s office and pulled up the dealership inventory.
G: Sort the OFF ROAD trims by price for me, thanks.
Salesman: The system won’t let me do that.
G: OK, I’ll just have a look.
G: What about that one?
S: It’s not the color you wanted.
G: That’s OK, let’s have a look at it.
S: It’s at a remote lot.
G: That’s OK, I’ll wait.
30 minutes later, it rolls up. Homeboy was not in a rush for me to see this vehicle!
Eventually, I’m out of there with an extra $20,000 in my pocket.
By the way, the dealership still did well. I was emotionally tired and didn’t haggle the last $$$s out of the car and my trade-in.
Three trips to the lot and a month of thinking it over. Slowing myself down is the best defense against emotional purchase errors. These techniques, and much more, included in Priceless.
In my financial life, I have a system to slow myself down => a disinterested person sits on my investment committee and oversees every proposed change in strategy.
The remote, disinterested mentor => valuable!
Three things to notice in all purchase domains…
- What’s the high anchor?
- What do they really want to sell?
- Where is the “car off the lot” => their best deal?
These three things exist in every purchase offering: Anchor, Target Sale, Hidden Best Deal.
- Multi-unit apartment complexes
- Home appliances
- Luxury retail
- Hotel rooms
- Ski passes
- Show homes…
See it for yourself, and always take the initiative to set the anchor.
…then teach your kids.
Yes, you can afford the high anchor. However, your family system will do far better if you invest the money you save, buy yourself time and improve your human capital.
Also remember, every beneficiary, and dependent, sets a low anchor on the value of unearned money.
Unfortunately, we can’t change the reality of being influenced by knowing about it! The only thing that works is building systems around our human nature.