Eat Cheese, Avoid Cats

Eat Cheese, Avoid CatsIf you consider the common mouse and not only their capacity but also their motivation, for making decisions, we might describe them as wanting to pursue pleasure and avoid danger. Or, eat cheese, avoid cats.

I heard this idea from a guy called Dean Jackson who used this “eat cheese, avoid cats” concept to frame a discussion around how you and I make decisions and why.

Again, in simple terms, we’re all about seeking pleasure and avoiding danger.

So I was thinking about how this idea translates to your financial planning and your money decisions.

For some, “seeking pleasure” could be:

  • More money
  • More time
  • More freedom
  • Less stress
  • Less anxiety
  • Less uncertainty

Likewise, “avoiding danger” might include:

  • Less risk (investment or otherwise)
  • Financial independence
  • Less or no debt
  • A bigger emergency fund
  • Better health insurance
  • Having an up-to-date estate plan

I’m sure your versions of “pleasure” and “danger” will be different. And that’s OK.

But regardless of how you might classify or describe your fundamental motivations, I think there’s a lot of value in keeping things simple.

However, the examples above are all just generalities. While they may offer some insight into broad financial concepts and decisions, I’d ask you to remember that personal finance is “more personal than finance.” (thanks to Tim Maurer for that quote)

So, rather than look down upon the world – and your finances – from the window seat of a Delta jet cruising at 30,000 feet, I encourage you to apply some more “personal” to your finances.

Rather than saying you want “less stress” in your life, define the steps that will actually reduce or remove stress from your life.

You want “more freedom”? What does that look like, smell like, sound like, to you? Be specific.

Details, folks. I want details.

Want a bigger emergency fund? How much bigger? Why do you need a bigger emergency fund?

Want more money? How much? By when? Why?

Of course, these are a just a few examples of the virtually unlimited variables, choices, goals, and trade-offs available to you. And many of them are available to you right now whether you realize it or not.

But I find many people I speak with often talk and think in generalities until someone pushes them (gently, of course) to be more specific and outline the steps, timelines, factors, and risks involved in bringing clarity to their money decisions.

I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with 30,000-foot thinking, but that lack of clarity, that lack of specificity can lead to outcomes that, while generally on target, could ultimately miss the mark in the context of the people and things that are most important to you. In other words, you might be on track for a good life, but what about living your great life?

Whether you’re a woman dealing with divorce, a married couple approaching retirement, or anyone else in any other circumstance, it’s OK to take a macro view of your life and your finances. In fact, that’s a great place to start.

But the challenge, and what often stops well-meaning people like you in their tracks, is getting into the details, making plans and taking steps to live your life purposefully every day while also planning for a comfortable and confident future.

I’m not too concerned with what you call it . . . pursue pleasure and avoid danger, or eat cheese and avoid cats, or whatever you prefer.

My concern lies in working with a select group of clients to help them balance their strategy (from 30,000 feet) with the tactics and steps to help put them on a path to living their best lives.

This all starts with what I refer to as a discovery meeting. This isn’t an interrogation but is instead an in-depth exploratory conversation where we quickly get to the specifics of who and what is important to you in the context of living your ideal life.

But at the end of the day, I’m really about trying to give you more “cheese” while helping you avoid the “cats” along the way.

If you’re ready to start clarifying and quantifying what your cheese is while allowing me to inform and educate you about the potential threats and uncertainties (cats) you may encounter along the way, let me know. I’d love to start that conversation with you.

Thanks for reading. While you’re here, be sure to sign up for my weekly email newsletter where I share tips, advice, and stories about the intersection of money and our lives. Just click here to join the community.

Russ Thornton
Russ Thornton
Hi there! I'm Russ, and I help women in their 50s and 60s achieve and maintain their desired lifestyle leading up to and throughout their retirement years. Imagine being able to look forward to a comfortable and confident financial future...
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