Squirt and Stocky 6 years ago, back when we still lived in Chicago.
I write a lot about investing on this blog with the purpose of helping you achieve your financial goals. Of course, “financial goals” is a fancy way of saying make more money with your investments. Isn’t that what we want after all? To make more money so we can have a comfortable life, have a secure retirement, pay for our kids’ educations, support the charities that are important to us.
But it’s a long road, and it can be easy to lose sight of those goals. Sometimes all your hard work, your thrift, and your smart investing just become numbers on a bank statement. Well, I want to share with you a story of how smart investing allowed us to make a really good decision that our family benefits from each and every single day.
The dreaded “C”
Our family has been blessed with two amazing little boys, but before Lil’ Fox and Mini Fox joined us, we had Squirt, our impetuous Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Squirt is getting up there in years, last May she turned 14, so we know that at some point she’ll go to heaven (actually, probably not because she isn’t a well behaved dog, but you get my meaning).
About six months ago a bump started growing on her side. It got progressively bigger, but we figured that she was old and that’s what happened to older dogs. But then it started oozing gross stuff, and we knew we had to get it checked out. They did a biopsy and gave us the terrible news that the tumor was malignant, and an aggressive one at that. Fortunately, we did have options, namely surgery.
Now I don’t want to lose perspective on these things in a world where humans suffer from cancer and other diseases, but we were pretty devastated. Squirt was our baby before we had babies. She was there when we were married, moved into our new house in LA with us, welcomed home both boys. In particular she’s really great with the boys despite the abuse they dish out. I guess they have an understanding—she steals their food if they aren’t careful and they can lay on her if they’re tired (Mini Fox has taken to gumming her tail).
We took her into the veterinary surgery center where they checked her out. They said that they would have to do a pretty major surgery to remove two masses, but they felt there was a pretty good prognosis. That was great news!!! Oh, and the bill would be about $5000. That was less than great news.
Thank you, smart investing
Foxy Lady and I talked about it for a long time. What should we do? What would you do? Squirt was 14 years old and she had lived a great life. Was this her time to shuffle off this mortal coil? Should we let her bow out gracefully on her own terms, instead of putting her through a painful surgery? It was a really tough decision for us. Again, we appreciate that we’re talking about a dog, and a 14-year-old dog at that, but she’s our baby.
And then there was the cost–$5000. That was a lot of money. That is a lot of money. On the cusp of me quitting my job and us becoming a single-income family, that was really a lot of money. Of course, we didn’t want to make a decision about the life and death of our dog based on money, but you have to factor that in. She was 14 and had cancer. Did it make sense to spend that much money?
However, we started thinking about it and while $5000 is unquestionably a big number, in some ways it’s not. Allow me to explain. On this blog, we talk about all the ways that you can get higher returns by being smart with taxes, using low-cost mutual funds, and being smart with asset allocation. $5000 is six months of using an index mutual fund instead of an actively managed one; it’s three months of doing investing ourselves instead of hiring a professional; it’s a year’s tax advantage of using a 401k.
When we put the cost of Squirt’s surgery in that perspective, that we’d make that up in a few months by doing a few simple things with our investments, it became a lot more palatable. We were able to be comfortable with the cost of the surgery, or at least play mind games with ourselves to justify it in our head, and then just made our decision based on what was best for Squirt. As you probably guessed, we went ahead with the surgery.
I share this story because this is a tangible way that investing wisely has impacted our lives in the here and now. I couldn’t imagine having to make a decision on Squirt’s life if I was thinking in the back of my mind, “Can we really afford this?” Smart investing generates more money, but that’s a means to an end. What it really gives you is freedom and comfort and security, and in our case wet kisses.
So we had the surgery. The timing couldn’t have been worse. All this was happening in the midst of my leaving Medtronic and then us moving to North Carolina. Two weeks after her surgery we took Squirt on a 2500-mile road trip just to make an already challenging situation more difficult.
Two months after surgery and she’s doing great. They biopsied the mass they removed and said that there were no cancer cells along the margins, so that means it wasn’t spreading. Great news!!! She’s adjusting to her new home. She has found the little nooks where she likes to take naps and the strategic spot between where the boys eat to maximize the amount of fallen food she can pounce on. There are a ton of trails that she can walk along and several creeks and streams that she can wade through. Her wheels aren’t what they once were, but she can still chase that tennis ball like a champ. The boys had no idea of what was going on, but what they do know is that their dog is there to play with, lay on, pet, and yell at when a cheese stick theft has occurred.