Keeping You

Money: Easy in theory, hard in practice

12 Jun 2018

Many of the worthwhile things in life look easy but don’t always turn out that way; in practice they turn out to be harder than first imagined.

  • Bringing up perfect children? Easy in theory, hard in practice
  • Getting to sleep early? Easy in theory, hard in practice
  • Writing a book? Easy in theory, hard in practice

I am sure you could add to the list.

I was reminded of this when reading an article recently by a popular US finance blogger, Nick Maggiuli. In a story that will be familiar to many Kiwis, Nick tells how a trek by a small team of climbers up a Portland mountain known as a beginners’ climb went horribly wrong.

Nick picks up the story (look out for a reference to New Zealand lamb):

“Roughly 60 miles east of Portland, Mount Hood is the most visited snow-covered peak in America. Despite rising 11,240 feet into the skies of northern Oregon, it is considered a “beginner’s mountain” with over 10,000 climbers reaching the summit each year. As Laurence Gonzales stated in Deep Survival:

One difficulty is that the standard route up (and down) Mount Hood is not technical. It’s more of a hike on a steep snow field. On a good day, you can walk it without crampons, snap some pictures on the summit, and be back at the Timberline Lodge ski resort for New Zealand fire-broiled spicy loin lamb chops.

However, on May 30, 2002, Bill Ward and his 3-man climbing crew would learn that the term “beginner’s mountain” was all too deceptive. The four-man team was descending the mountain in working order. Ward, the most experienced climber, was at the top, followed by the rest of his team, each man separated by 35 feet of rope between himself and the next climber. The system was well thought out and would work, as long as Ward (the top man) didn’t fall. However, it had rained the previous night and now the slopes were covered in ice and slush, making it easy to fall and hard to stop.

Harry Slutter, the lowest man on the rope, was looking down when he saw a blur out of the corner of his eye. Ward had fallen. In the course of the next few seconds, the force from the rope yanked Slutter and his fellow teammates down the mountain into a crevasse below. Unfortunately, in their free fall they entangled themselves with other climbers who were also on the slopes. When it was all over, three climbers (including Ward) were killed, and four others had been injured.”

Although not always as dramatic as in our story above, what we assume is going to be a cakewalk can become rather more challenging when you get into it.

It’s those easy-in-theory/hard-in-practice stories that remind me of the work that I do in giving financial advice to some of our more confident clients. These are people who have had great success in their chosen fields, who could perhaps retire many times over. I know that nine times out of ten they will make the right decision on their own, until one day when they least expect it, they don’t. Easy things can suddenly turn hard and that’s when having a financial adviser can make a difference.

Keep asking great questions …


Read more articles in this fortnight's edition of 'News Farmers Can Use':