I decided to write a blog revisiting a concept I discussed on one of my podcasts, Episode 11: Why We Don’t Make Financial Decisions called “the raft phenomenon.” For years I have joked about the raft phenomenon when I’d invite friends, family, and clients out on our boat in Lake Tahoe. I would talk about the hesitation to go into the water because it’s capital-C Cold. But once you do, it feels so good.

For those who have not visited Lake Tahoe, I’ll give you a quick summary of the lake. It’s beautiful. It’s over 1,600 feet deep. I believe it’s the second deepest Alpine lake in the United States. It’s crystal clear, and stays cold (typically mid-60’s) through the summer.

My whole concept or idea about the raft phenomenon came to me when I used to lifeguard at Incline Beach in Incline Village, Nevada. It was my summer job for three years while I was earning my Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering at the University of Nevada. I loved that job. I was getting paid to be on the beach, help/save people in the water, teach kids how to swim, and play and train in Lake Tahoe. What a cool job!

On some of my breaks I paddled out into the lake on a rescue board or raft (we’ll go with raft), and float in the water. I would get so hot from the sun, but would hesitate to go into the water. I knew it would feel so good to cool down, but I would hesitate for a long time and then eventually muster up the courage to roll in. The water felt amazing after baking in the sun on that raft, so I became curious about why hesitated for 10-15 minutes to do what I was inevitably going to do anyway? No exaggeration, I would actually feel like I was reborn again (OK maybe the tiniest bit of exaggeration, but then again try for yourself and let me know!) It’s such an incredible feeling, So again, why the hesitation?

Because of the pain!

It’s very uncomfortable and even hurts a little for the first 15 to 60 seconds. Like I said, Tahoe is an Alpine lake so the water is very cold even in the summer. But once you get over the initial discomfort and adapt to the new environment, the water is perfect. You wonder why you hesitated for so long. So every time I am out in the boat and I feel hot and I know that I want to jump in the water, I no longer hesitate to dive head first. Because I know it’s going to feel so good after a short moment and it will make my day.


What’s Your Point, Ken?

I equate this raft phenomenon to making–or more accurately, hesitating to make–financial decisions. Making big decisions on what to do with your hard-earned money can be overwhelming, so much so that you procrastinate dealing with it altogether. There’s so many details to consider!

Where do you save it?

Where should you invest it?

Who do you trust to help that money grow so you have more opportunities?

There’s a valid fear of losing your money. You know you need to make a decision but you avoid it or set a grey deadline to take action. If you’ve ever said, “I’ll eventually get to it or I’ll get to it in the next five years or I’ll get to it when …” then I’m talking to you.

You may understand once you create your wish list (priorities & dreams) that working with the right financial advisor could set you up for a much better financial future. But, you still put it off.

I have become a great observer of my financial habits and others, and what I have found is most responsible people pay their auto insurance, home insurance, and taxes on time. I cannot think of anything more boring (yet important) than auto and home insurance and taxes. But most people get it done on time. My guess is because those deadlines have clear external expectations and subsequent consequences if you pay late. In simpler words: it’s financially painful if you miss the deadline! And the pain of not doing it, is greater than the pain of getting it done.

I hate paying my home, auto, toy insurance, umbrella insurance, business insurance, professional liability insurance, … (insurance rant) every year. I hate dealing with income taxes, unemployment taxes, property taxes, … (my tax rant). Yet it is all done on time because there are huge consequences if I don’t pay my taxes on time. If I don’t pay my insurance on time just like my energy bill, they turn it off, and now I have lost one of my cheapest forms of asset protection. So I pay it on time. I bet every responsible reader does the same thing.

It’s much harder to will yourself to make important decisions if there are no clear expectations or subsequent consequences. It’s the same reason why you meet a deadline at work but keep pushing off “deadlines” for personal projects at home.

The same goes with making smart financial moves, there’s this huge hesitation: the raft phenomenon. You know it’s going to feel so good having more money, and as a result, more options and more freedom than you have today. More available money opens up doors to …

  • Go on more vacations
  • Free up your spouse to not work as many hours
  • Free you up to not work as many hours
  • Retire early
  • Find a different profession that you love but might not pay as well
  • Give more in charity
  • Help out a friend or family member
  • Pay for your children’s education.

And still we hesitate!


Take the Plunge, I’ll Meet You In The Water

Making drastic changes (that after a few months you don’t even notice) to your financial environment can create a world of freedom within years or sooner … sometimes overnight (not kidding). You’ll become empowered.

You have control of your financial environment and your financial future. You will feel reborn once you make those nagging decisions. You will be in a position where opportunities seek you out. All you have to do is overcome the raft phenomenon. Focus on the reward and the feeling by taking action now. You know that it will feel incredibly good. You know you will do it eventually, so why not dive in head first now?

There will be a little pain, but that pain will go away quickly. What is the pain? Making slight changes to how you control, use, and move your money. That’s it! Quite often it can be no out of pocket expense. But once you endure the little bit of pain (change), I always like to tell myself and others, “with a little bit of discipline, comes a world of freedom!”

Overcome the raft phenomenon with some focused help from someone who has done it many times. Join me for a quick 15-minute introductory call, and maybe I am the right person to help.