Learning to say no

Learning to say no

September 24, 2021

Not long ago, my wife and I took advantage of a beautiful Saturday afternoon to visit art galleries in Carmel. As we walked past a fashionable men’s clothing store my wife suggested we pop inside to see if they had a pair of dress shoes. I had been looking for just the right pair for weeks.

Now before we go any further, you need to understand that I am not the most fashion-forward person in the world. In terms of fashion sense, I was a child of 1980’s Wall Street and I thought the epitome of style was a dark suit with pleated slacks and cuffs paired with a buttoned-down pinpoint oxford cloth shirt. I think you get the idea.

We went inside and were immediately greeted by Tony. He asked what he could do for us and I said, “You probably won’t have this, but I’m looking for a nice pair of dress shoes—in black.” He said, “You came to the right place. I have a pair in just your size.” I was incredulous. The other stores I had visited assured me that black shoes were way out of style (remember what I said out my fashion sense) and that I really needed brown shoes. But I didn’t want brown shoes. I wanted black, and a minute later Tony was handing me a box containing a pair of beautiful, handmade, Italian dress shoes—in black.

They were clearly very expensive. I coughed and asked pensively, “Wow…how much does a pair of shoes like this cost?” He said, “Don’t worry about that, just try them on. You are going to love them.” So, I did, and Tony was right. I really did love them. They were amazing. They were exactly my size and they were comfortable and I wanted them. They were also $1,195.

Tony was one of those excellent salespeople who just seem to understand what you want. He even knew my shoe size without asking and without measuring. But what Tony didn’t know is that I have other priorities. There is no way I would pay that much for a pair of shoes, no matter how much I loved them. I thanked him and broke the sad news. He countered by saying, “If the price is too high, we do offer lay-away.” I just smiled and shook my head. Lay-away? Really?

My point in this column has nothing to do with expensive shoes. If that’s your thing, more power to you. I’m talking about one of the biggest causes of financial grief in modern America – our inability to say no. This weakness seems to cross all political and socio-economic boundaries. It affects families and cities and states and the nation. John Rosemond, a syndicated columnist and the author of fourteen books on parenting, refers to this as “Vitamin N deficiency.” He writes:

“[Give] your children regular, daily doses of Vitamin N. This vital nutrient consists simply of the most character-building two-letter word in the English language – no. … Unfortunately, many, if not most, of today’s children suffer from Vitamin N deficiency. They’ve been overindulged by well-meaning parents who’ve given them far too much of what they want and far too little of what they truly need.”

Rosemond was talking about parents and kids, but his advice also applies to each of us in our financial lives. If we want to grow our wealth, we need a regular, daily dose of Vitamin N. We simply must learn to say no.

Of course, saying no is easier when you are driven by a more compelling yes. This is one of the reasons why financial planning is so vital to your financial future. A well-crafted plan will give you the compelling yes you need when the moment of decision comes. A plan will help you learn to say no because it will help you understand more fully where you are going and what it will take to get there. For example, I loved those shoes, but I loved the financial future I am building for my wife and me even more. That greater love made it easy for me to say no.

Steven C. Merrell MBA, CFP®, AIF® is a Partner at Monterey Private Wealth, Inc., a Wealth Management Firm in Monterey. He welcomes questions that you may have concerning investments, taxes, retirement, or estate planning. Send your questions to: Steve Merrell, 2340 Garden Road Suite 202, Monterey, CA 93940 or email them to: smerrell@montereypw.com