My dad was a smoker. As I recall, he started either as a teen or once we entered the Army. He smoked until I was probably around 12 or 14, when he began to be a little more conscious about his health. My dad was a ‘considerate smoker’, meaning he never smoked in the house or the car. We weren’t directly exposed to cigarette smoke much at all, as far as I can remember. I suppose that, for my dad, it was something he did for his own reasons, but he never intended for it to impact those around him.
But just before my 16th birthday, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. By the time they went in for surgery, there was nothing they could do. It was far more involved than the tests at that time could determine. About a month before my 17th birthday, he died.
Unintended consequences. A habit that was formed decades before, out of some impulse or desire unknown to me, resulted in my father being absent from my life. For the rest of my life.
Fast forward 23 years later. My wife and I are applying for new term life insurance. We’re putting together Financial Plan 3.0 (1.0, by the way, was no plan at all), which includes many different pieces. One of which is insuring we are covered through our ‘building phase’ of life. Yesterday we received the results of our applications. I’m proud to say that my wife earned “Elite” status, and received a lower rate than what our financial guy had quotes. I, an the other hand, dropped a tier to some other cleverly named status, resulting in a higher premium. The reason? Family history.
I think you get the point. There are a number of decisions in our lives that we would categorize as decisions that ‘only effect me’. But often those decisions carry the potential for unintended consequences that are much farther reaching that we ever anticipated. The next time you prepare to make a decision that will only impact you, consider the unintended consequences.