Everyone loves ice cream. I remember the last time my family and I went to an ice cream shop. We were in Sullivan’s Island last fall and stopped by Beardcat’s Sweet Shop.

Beardcat’s, whimsically named for the 19th century Frenchman Louis Coulon, (picture below complete with his long beard and black cat), occupies the ground level space under the popular Sullivan’s Island eatery, The Obstinate Daughter. The ice cream there is technically gelato and is reminiscent of the gelato shops in Italy.

Louis Coulon for Blog

As always, when you’re in an ice cream shop, the main questions as you approach the counter are: how many scoops? and what flavor?  Of course, there’s also the matter of the price/cost.

Weighing Your Options

Here’s the thing. The dollar price that you and I pay for ice cream is the same, but our cost is different. If you’re saving to buy a new pair of running shoes, the $ you spend at Beardcat’s postpones your progress; there’s a trade-off. Your choice to partake of the tasty treat today delays the purchase of your running shoes in the future.

We all make dozens of these trade-offs every day. We choose to have more of one thing now, (the gelato), and in turn invariably end up with less of something else, (running shoes).

The price we see on the tag may not actually be the full price to us. The real cost to us comes later.

I’m not suggesting that the lynchpin of financial security depends upon foregoing ice cream or your daily latte. I am saying that these choices tell a story. It’s important to fully understand the story and re-affirm that the trade-offs are intended and that they are worth the cost.

Life is a Series of Trade-offs

Let’s shift gears to a more stark example of trade-offs. Each year about 38,000 souls perish in car accidents within the U.S. These figures, from the National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) peaked in the early ‘80s and have been steadily trending lower since then.

As a society, we have consciously made the trade-off; there will inevitably be deadly car accidents, (despite all the safety precautions), and we are willing to pay that cost to reap the mobility benefits this mode of transportation creates.

Thankfully, most of the choices that we make aren’t a matter of life or death. Taken as a whole, however, these decisions contribute to the trajectory of our lives.

Everything Has a Cost

My generation, (boomers), tends to be far less accepting of trade-offs than previous generations. Many boomers cling to the errant belief that if they have sufficient financial resources, trade-offs aren’t needed.

They believe they can have the ice cream and the running shoes at the same time. This runs strongly against the grain of economics. Everything has a cost, even if you don’t see it boldly displayed on a price tag.

Our choices… the ice cream, the running shoes, the house, the vacations are all one package; they can’t be separated. Make sure that the true cost is worth the price you have to pay. Start there. Ready for a real conversation?

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