An Ounce of Prevention

I was at an Estate Planning meeting recently. The room was filled with attorneys, CPAs, and investment advisors – it was a great cross-section of the various professions who serve as advisors and provide guidance and advice to their clients. The program was a case study.

We were asked to discuss the issues that concerned us from our different vantage points so that, in the end, the client in the case study would be particularly well-served and protected.


The direction of the discussion quickly got pushed off course. We were discussing all the issues that could go wrong and how to correct them. There were a lot of really well-qualified advisors in the room, sharing what they would do to fix the many, many problems that would be cropping up from the fact pattern.

Responding to a problem when it crops up is good. When I was a crew member on a submarine we trained so hard all the time that, when a problem did come up, our response was immediate and intuitive.  We were trained to minimize and eliminate the threat without having to first think very hard about it.

It was a crucial skill that served us all very well.

85% of the people in the room were excellent at responding to and prevailing over the problems presented in the case study.


Even better than properly responding to a problem is to not incur that problem in the first place. My recollection of time onboard my submarine is that we spent even more effort and training on doing what we needed to do to keep the problems from cropping up in the first place.

15% of the people in the room were excellent at anticipating and planning for the problems before they cropped up in the first place.


At the end of that meeting, I was left with two takeaways; first, if the 15% of us who focus on preventing our client’s problems in the first place were successful, the other 85% would have a lot less to do because the issues they needed to correct were no longer going to be so prevalent.

Secondly, the great good we do as advisors for our clients is when we’re able to remind them that an ounce of prevention is only uncomfortable at first, but a pound of cure can be really painful for a much longer period of time.

Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

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