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Remembering to Forget –Amanda Vaught
I was intrigued by The New York Review of Books' recent essay on forgetfulness. I found it a very interesting way to approach forgetfulness as we age. I personally experienced a period of forgetfulness after a medical procedure last fall that required painkillers for a number of days. I was warned about the forgetfulness, but I still found it incredibly disorienting. And the not-knowing if I’d forgotten something made me question almost everything that I did remember. I found solace in this piece that forgetting was necessary and part of healing.
What does any of this have to do with personal finance? We often see clients who approach money the way that their parents did. I’d advocate that forgetting some of your parent’s approach is necessary to get ahead. Market conditions change, as do tax laws and retirement rules. More emotionally fraught, I also see this come up in inherited wealth. Not wanting to sell certain securities that the passed loved one had selected. Selling out of these positions is not about forgetting the person. It’s about your time horizon, risk tolerance, and your own objectives. Your loved one would more than likely want the funds to benefit you, not to become a drag on your own financial planning and circumstances.
I do find it problematic when people extrapolate what applies to an individual to whole societies, as they do in the Forgetfulness essay. A nice contrast can be found in two articles (linked below) which touch on how Black communities process the legacy of discrimination in ways that are much more complex than merely forgetting. First, the heirs to Bruce’s Beach showed how difficult it is for individuals to be beholden to society’s expectations of them. Ultimately they decided to do what was right for their family and individual circumstances. Second, the essay on the influence of In the Wake offers another alternative to forgetting – a way to rethink history that is heralding a new intellectual renaissance.
Finally, getting back to the individual, The New York Times this week has an in-depth collection of the myriad psychological biases that impact our decision-making with money. The human mind is certainly complex.
Two recent books build on an insight of Borges—that to live, it is necessary to forget.
The Bruce family won the return of oceanfront land near Los Angeles seized nearly a century ago. Their decision to sell for $20 million set off a different debate about reparations.
Everyone from Jeremy O. Harris to Min Jin Lee to Yaa Gyasi have claimed In the Wake as an influence. Hafizah Augustus Geter traces the ways the seminal work makes waves in American culture.
Our cognitive biases can get in the way of saving for the future, especially for retirement. Here’s how to recognize and overcome them.