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An Ounce of Prevention . . .

Oct 28, 2019
By: Karen A. Mitchell
Financial Institutions

It seems like every time I bring my car in for an oil change, what should be a $65.00 expenditure ends up being $1,000. Somehow the tread on my tires is not quite right or the front brakes are showing signs of wear (last time it was the rear brakes). Inevitably I’m left with the decision to fix the small problem now or wait until I’m stranded on the side of the road, speed-dialing AAA. Miraculously, this last oil change cost me only the $65.00. The other inspection points were “in the green zone” not the cautionary “yellow zone” or the dreaded “red zone.” I was very pleased and naturally bragged to friends and family about this last oil change. 

Fast forward a couple weeks. Summer has turned to fall, and the overnight temperatures are now a little too brisk to go without firing up the furnace. As I do nearly every year, I have my HVAC technician do an annual cleaning and “tune-up.” Sure, there were some weird noises the first few cold nights, but I figured it surely was nothing that couldn’t be fixed with the $79.99 tune-up. Boy, was I wrong. The tune-up revealed that the blower motor and exhaust motor were “near catastrophic failure” — decidedly “red zone” territory. “No problem,” I thought. “They can replace the motors.” But wait! Further inspection revealed a leak in the air conditioning coil. Simple fix? Not exactly. Effective January 1, 2020, new environmental laws have essentially outlawed my existing air conditioner because it uses R22 refrigerant. So now I’m left with a very pricey decision to make. Do I spend a significant amount of money on a “bandage” to fix a 25-year-old furnace (I would have bet money it was only 15 years old) to hopefully keep it running through the winter? And likewise, do I roll the dice on my outlawed air conditioner? Or do I do the responsible thing and replace them both now?

I’m a “manage the risks I know now” kind of girl. I sleep better at night knowing I’m not in the “red zone” on my brake pads and that my furnace will survive the next polar vortex. As a result, I try to stay ahead of life’s ups and downs by doing my preventative maintenance and addressing potential “catastrophic failures” before they happen. Yes, sometimes it may cost more (or way more) than I originally intended, but I also know that my furnace installation will be much cheaper this Saturday than in the middle of January at the height of a polar vortex. Furthermore, the inconvenience will be on my schedule, not decided for me at a later date, and it most likely won’t involve checking in at the local Holiday Inn because I don’t have heat.  

Life is about managing risks. Taking a forward-looking approach can eliminate — or at least reduce — very real and costly events. Being risk aware can provide the knowledge needed to make informed decisions, particularly with “roll the dice” sorts of decisions. I most certainly was unaware of the new law effective January 1. That fact, in and of itself, was a game changer. Considering the entire set of circumstances and identifying known and potentially unknown risks help reduce the potential for catastrophic failure in the future, allowing for smoother travels. We all know that when the car is in the green zone, the furnace is likely to be in the red zone. That’s the way life goes — one never-ending heat map. The goal is to keep more items in the green zone so the few items in the red zone can be effectively dealt with before they wreak havoc with the future.

Enterprise-level risk assessments are preventative maintenance for businesses. Having a heightened level of awareness will lead to better decisions and warmer futures. Contact your relationship executive for more information.


Karen A. Mitchell
Senior Manager, Risk Advisory Services
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