What Nearly Getting Crushed By A Light Pole Teaches Us About Investing

Classic Cars

I don’t know if I can call what happened to me last Friday morning a “near death experience”, but it was attention getting..

Every morning, I go by a Panera about 6 blocks from my house to get coffee. While I’m in the car, I start to organize my thoughts for the day: what am I trying to accomplish, what problems do I need to solve.

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So, I’m sitting at a stoplight at a major intersection in St. Louis. I’m in the right lane, and next to me is a right-hand turn lane. I hear a crash, look to my right, and see the right side of my car showered with glass.

What happened

There is a large car dealership that runs along the right side of the road. The lot is empty, and a dump truck was turning around. The driver backed into the light pole, which fell into the street- missing my car by about a foot.

This was a large metal light pole with a set of 4 large lights. The lights shattered right beside my car- spraying glass. Fortunately, no one was in the right hand turn lane when the pole was knocked over.

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I pulled into the car lot and spoke with the dump truck driver- who was shaken up about what happened. I used a towel to brush glass off my car. When the police arrived, I explained what happened. I took down the truck’s name and license plate, in case I had any damage (some scratches from the glass), and headed on my way.

Clearly, had the pole fallen on my car, I would have been seriously hurt- or worse.

Thoughts before- and after

It’s funny- the difference in my thoughts before and after the near-miss accident.

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My thoughts before the accident were about doing a reasonable amount of work and hope that I would find a good (but not great) amount of new business this month. The point is that I was operating in my normal, comfortable zone of possibility.

After the accident, my view changed. If it’s possible to be lucky enough to have a near miss, what other possibilities are out there- possibilities that I simply overlook?

Maybe my view of what’s possible needs to change, I thought to myself.

Personal finance possibilities

OK- consider your spending, savings and investing patterns. We all get into habits (maybe ruts) and do the same thing month after month. I’d like to suggest that it’s possible for you to change things and get better results.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good

This quote- one of my favorites- is attributed to Voltaire. As an example, many people set New Year’s resolutions that are completely unreachable. A woman wants to go from a size 12 to a size 2. We want to plan a trip around the world- and start next month.


Don’t set these goals, get frustrated and end up doing nothing. Instead, simply take a step forward. Not sure what to do? Here are some simple financial steps you can take:

Use a mobile app to track your spending

There are tons of great mobile apps you can link to your bank account and credit card statements. Pick one that you can set up on your laptop, but access it through mobile.

With a mobile device, you can immediately check where you are financially before you spend. Thinking about spending $100 on dinner? Well, check your financial app first. Given your spending so far this month, should you spend $100 or $50?

These apps can provide pie charts, bar charts and other great visuals to display your spending. Use an app to stay on top of your spending.

Cut one monthly subscription or other expense

Again, you don’t have to change everything- just change one thing. If you review your bank and credit card statements, I bet you can find one subscription or recurring expense you can cut.

Maybe you drop your music streaming service and only listen to the free version (Pandora, Spotify). Instead of three credit cards that each charge a monthly fee, you cut down to one. Think of how much a $10 monthly fee adds up to over 20 years. It’s a meaningful amount.

Save and invest 10% more

Well, this one may be the biggest change. But believe me, it will also make the biggest difference. Not convinced? Use a compounding interest calculator online. Input the amount you save and invest each month now using a reasonable interest rate. Then, assume that you invest 10% more and run the calculation again.

Over 10 or 20 years, you can’t believe the difference in your total earnings.

“I have no excuse”

I used to attend a networking meeting. We met once a month to help each other find business referrals. One of the guys at the meeting was Rick. He was a former Army officer. Whenever he was late to a meeting, he would say: “I have no excuse”.

And neither do we.

Take a step

We all have these ideas kicking around in our head. Don’t wait for a near-miss accident, or some other “wake-up call” to take action. Just take one small step. You won’t believe how it will improve your financial situation.

Have used any of these ideas? I’d love to hear from you. As always, these ideas are for educational purposes oly.

Ken Boyd
Author: Cost Accounting for Dummies, Accounting All-In-One for Dummies, The CPA Exam for Dummies and 1,001 Accounting Questions for Dummies
Co-Founder: accountinged.com
(email) ken@stltest.net
(website and blog) http://www.accountingaccidentally.com/
(you tube channel) kenboydstl

Image: (CC)

Maciej Lewandowski, Vintage Cars, (CC By SA-2.0)

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8 thoughts on “What Nearly Getting Crushed By A Light Pole Teaches Us About Investing”

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