Smart About Money: When it’s simpler to do what you don’t want to do

Nick Maffeo

A few weeks ago, the Good News Network told the story of a gentleman who immediately returned a wallet with $10,000 in it to its owner. “I never took seriously the notion of keeping the money,” he said. “It’s just simpler to do the right thing.”

Of course he’s right. And many times in life it’s also just simpler to do what you don’t want to do.

A few examples:
1> This spring, The Boston Globe’s consumer advocate wrote about a young woman who signed up for a 2020 summer session class at UMass. The class cost $1500 and UMass would be sending her a bill.

Then she lost interest. “For no particular reason,” she told the Globe. But she never informed UMass. “I wasn’t aware I had to drop the class,” she said.

When the bill for the class arrived, this young lady set off on a time-consuming effort to try to get UMass to waive the $1500 charge.

But – as the Globe’s consumer advocate discovered when he got involved – at UMass, a student is considered enrolled until and unless a formal “drop” form is filed.

The comment section post-ers on the Globe story pretty much backed up UMass on the idea that it’s a college student’s responsibility to drop a class.

What was sort of interesting was how much time and energy this young lady put into trying to get the charge waived, including going to the Globe. It would have been so much simpler to have filed the “drop class” form.

She’s not unique. Everyone has had multiple situations where making the time to do something they didn’t want to do would have been so much easier in retrospect. And often much less expensive. Refusing to act is always an option but it can be costly – or very costly.

2> At the Bank’s recent HomeBuyer Info Session, a local REALTOR® pointed out how much work a homebuyer has to do to be in a position to have an offer accepted in this red-hot sellers’ market. He said the “most important and critical part is being ready.” Even if that means selling your current home first so your offer on a new home can be without a home sale contingency

Selling and moving to a short-term rental can be a pain. But it’s another good example of when it can be simpler to do what you don’t want to do. (Getting a bridge loan might be an option, but that takes time and planning too.)

3> A colleague told me about a developing situation where friends and family have become quite worried about a bored-with-their-job individual who is spending tens of thousands on seminars and Facebook ads trying to start a “passive income” business.

These “buy my system” opportunities have been around for decades. They used to be on late-night TV. Now it’s the internet. The reality is that often those businesses don’t pan out.

Silicon Valley executive coach Bryan Franklin has said, “So many times, I’ve seen people pursue passive income and end up having active losses instead.”

It’s crucially important to try to figure out the value of an opportunity before blowing through savings, retirement savings, credit card available balances or hundreds of thousands of dollars of home equity. Work with an objective local financial professional who can help you from getting in too deep. Heed the concerns of people who genuinely care. It’s not easy to give up on a hoped-for dream. But doing what you don’t want to do in a situation like that can absolutely help you avoid an avoidable train wreck.

Nick Maffeo is the President & CEO of Canton Co-operative Bank – right next to the Post Office in Canton. Have a question? Email to

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