As many of you mourn the loss of The Office from Netflix, I thought it might be a good time to revisit one of my favorite blog topics from last year. That is right, more finance lessons from everyone’s favorite Dunder Mifflin Regional Manager, Michael Gary Scott! We have so much to learn from the bumbling office worker portrayed by Steve Carrell both good and bad (mostly bad).
More Emotional Decision Making
As highlighted in my last Office-centric blog post, Michael makes most important decisions in his life based on emotion, including financial decisions. One such decision was to sell his condo prematurely in the hopes of attaining a promotion. He is so sure that he will get the position that he sells the condo to a buyer on eBay. Thankfully, he is able to back out of the sale when he discovers that the position he has applied for is the same position that his girlfriend, Jan, currently holds.
In Michael’s case, this financial blunder results in nothing more than, “some negative feedback on [his] eBay profile”. However, emotional decisions like this can cause far reaching consequences that can be almost impossible to overcome. Consider the S&P 500 index in 2020 which was down over 30% when the coronavirus first hit the United States last Spring.[i] It would have been easy to panic in the face of a global pandemic and liquidate your investment accounts. But if you would have only held on for 9 more months, you would have seen the market, and likely your account, rebound to end the year at a positive 16.26% return![ii] The market tends to reward those who are able to keep their emotions in check.
Michael Scott is the king of procrastination in the workplace particularly when a difficult decision needs to be made. Time and time again we see the middle management icon wait until the last possible minute to make decisions that should have been made many months prior. Who could forget when he fired an employee mere minutes before the company Halloween party and only after Creed convinced Michael not to fire him first (which turned out great for us as Creed is a national treasure)? Or what about the time he promised a group of children that he would pay for their college if they all graduated and then waited until the last-minute years later to tell them that he was unable to (after they performed a musical number in his honor).
Procrastination is a deadly enemy of sound financial planning. The longer you wait to take action, the harder it will be to catch up. Many people suffer from “analysis paralysis” and are unable to make a decision due to the sheer volume of information and options available to them. My advice? Just start. Don’t wait for the perfect option to manifest itself. Find someone who can answer your questions and give you direction (I happen to know someone who does that for a living 😊).
Never Give Up
How about something positive that we can learn from Mr. Scott? Despite his many, MANY failures and shortcomings, Michael never gives up on his dreams. Up until his very last day at the office he keeps his dream of writing a book on management (entitled “Somehow I Manage”) alive before ultimately bequeathing it to Darrel. After several seasons of the show, he finally finishes his screenplay, “Threat Level Midnight” and casts all of his coworkers in his production.
As with any new habit, it can be easy to give up when the going gets tuff. But those who succeed in reaching their retirement goals are the ones who tough it out and stick to their plans. You can have the best plan, best portfolio, best investment product in the world and still fail if you do not have the discipline to follow through.
After writing two blog posts about The Office, I think that it might be possible that I have watched that show a few too many times. Of course, that’s crazy talk but the thought did cross my mind! This week’s song of the week is short and sweet. Enjoy!