Geo Week News

July 16, 2014

Reality Avoidance

I spent last week taking my annual family vacation, where I spend a week with the maternal side of my family in a beach house somewhere on Florida’s “forgotten coast.” The time together makes for lots of conversations, which are of the “what work was like for me this year” variety. This is always interesting, but especially so when my mother is telling the tale, as she has spent most of her adult life either managing or owning funeral homes. As you can imagine, few things give one an unvarnished look into human behavior like caring for the dead.

While many of the most outlandish stories seem unbelievable, what I found most unbelievable was the number of people that come to her with a dead relative and simply say, “They didn’t plan for their funeral and none of us in the family have any money, what are you going to do to help us?” At first hearing this, my thought was, “How awful! What a miserable position in which to find oneself.” But after hearing these stories over and over again, I start to wonder, “Don’t these people realize that they are going to die?” I mean, honestly, how many things are more inevitable than death?! (For those of you keeping score, the answer is none.) And that’s when it hit me. If even funeral directors can’t sell people on the reality that their death will happen and that consequentially, someone will have to deal with it, why is it that we in the 3D-imaging space are surprised when someone fails to invest in preventive maintenance of their assets? Or, more appropriately, someone else’s assets that they are being paid to maintain.

I’ve always considered selling preventive solutions to be very difficult. Given my new funeral related knowledge, selling them now seems downright foolhardy! We all seem to know that an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure, but what is it that keeps many of us from acting upon this? The answers I received when I queried my mother on this account were eerily similar to those I’ve received from clients. Maybe it really wasn’t me, but was instead something deeper in the human consciousness that leads these people to save a dollar to today at the expense of later costs that will undoubtedly be larger. Any of these answers sound familiar to you?

  • We just could not afford to set any money aside. Really? You pulled up in a newer car, you’ve used your cell phone three times during this conversation and you have a pack of cigarettes in your pocket. Something tells me there was disposable income you had during this person’s lifetime, but they or you just didn’t want it to go toward something that did not bring you some measure of joy. Planning for a tragedy (however inevitable) did not accomplish this, so you “never had any money” for it. Asset managers do the same thing every day. It’s far easier to copy the last approved budget than to seriously look at your needs each quarter and argue for the money you need to properly do your job. However, once you fall into crisis management mode with your budget, it takes a much larger expenditure to get back into maintenance mode. All things move toward entropy, it’s just a basic fact of life.
  • I’ll be dead so it won’t matter to me! Also known as, “I’ll retire before that happens so…” Unfortunately, reminding those upon whose shoulders the burden will fall does not always help (even in the funeral business!). However, we should remember that helping to prevent problems – or at the very least mitigate them — is their job today.
  • He/She just didn’t want to think about it. While this may seem understandable from our modern point of view (where we rarely deal with death first-hand), it doesn’t change the facts. Bad things happen and nothing lasts forever. Planning for a major outage and the subsequent repair may seem overwhelming, but it is nothing compared with trying to perform one without a plan.

As it turns out, there is a way to prepay for your funeral. It’s called “pre-need” in the industry. It’s essentially a way to pay today’s cost and get what you paid for when you die, no matter the cost at that time. Oddly enough, it is mostly sold to lower-income demographics, as higher-income groups typically have life insurance to cover such things. Maybe that should be my new lead question when consulting, so that I can tell what type of person I’m dealing with: “Tell me a bit about your life insurance portfolio…”


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