Benjamin Franklin had his own intriguing method of decision-making. As Franklin himself explained in a letter to a friend in 1772, decision-making can be difficult “chiefly because while we have them under Consideration all the Reasons pro and con are not present to the Mind at the same time; but sometimes one Set present themselves, and at other times another, the first being out of Sight.” He continued “Hence the various Purposes or Inclinations that alternately prevail, and the Uncertainty that perplexes us.”
Franklin himself described his process as dividing a paper into two columns, labeled Pro and Con. He brainstormed all the reasons that could occur to him in the appropriate columns. Then, estimating their respective weights, when finding two, one on each side, that seem equal, he crossed them out. Franklin explained his system further, “If I find a Reason pro equal to some two Reasons con, I strike out the three.”
At the end of the process he is left with remaining arguments in either the Pro or the Con column, which represent his best decision – on either the Pro or Con side of the question.
Although comprehensive long term care insurance wasn’t available until 220 years after Franklin’s letter, perhaps it makes sense to apply Franklin’s 1772 decision-making process to the very modern question of whether or not to buy a policy?
There are several reasons that I think this approach merits consideration. The list – and the respective ‘weights’ of each item – are made from the point-of-view of the decision-maker. This forces the decision-maker to accurately access his (or her) own situation, as well as how important different items are to him only.
The empty lines on the piece of paper encourage the decision-maker to rack his or her brain for an exhaustive list of pros and cons, facilitating a more thorough approach than otherwise. This minimizes the chance that the decision-maker overlooks an important aspect of the decision.
Last but not least, the process of sitting down and making the list suggests that it is decision-making time, and that a decision will soon be made. This helps overcome procrastination, a common enemy of sound decision-making. Procrastination in LTC planning can result in well-meaning individuals postponing their decision until some choices become either unaffordable due to advanced age and/or unavailable due to declines in health.
What might some of the items be when the question is whether or not to purchase long term care insurance? Here are some thoughts:
(PRO) My children (and their spouses) will be relieved they don’t have to be my hands-on caregiver
(CON) The premium payments
(PRO) This policy will allow me to leave my money to my spouse and family, not spend it on caregiving
(CON) Like most insurances, I may never collect.
(PRO) The odds of collecting increase as I age, and are higher than 50%!
(CON) I hate the idea of buying more insurance.
(PRO) I don’t want my kids ever fighting over whether to spend money on my care, or to instead put me on Medicaid. The policy creates an immediate pile of money to be used specifically for my future care, making the decision to pay privately very easy.
Each person’s list, and the weight they assign to the items, may be different. Since none of us know the future, there’s no ironclad right or wrong decision. However, there is a smarter decision or a less smart decision when all the factors are considered.
I believe Benjamin Franklin’s approach facilitates a thorough treatment of the decision at hand. This minimizes the likelihood of a decision that one will regret. Isn’t that the hope of each of us, when we make a decision as important as whether or not to purchase a long term care insurance policy?