By Chris Hanson

Just about anything, maybe even simple static electricity, can cause commuting problems on the MBTA. Frequent delays, breakdowns, and a few years ago a driverless train has commuters at wit’s end. We know the cause of these problems—decades of little investment in new equipment and preventative maintenance. It will take a while to fix America’s oldest subway and a lot more than a nickel shortfall made famous by the Kingston Trio’s “MTA” song. When it happens, though, Boston will be even more wicked pissa than it already is.

How about having a wicked pissa financial plan? Does it need preventative maintenance or a complete overhaul? Before your plan looks like a Red Line clunker, let’s consider some steps to get back on track.

  1. Write your goals down—If you don’t know where you’re going, how are you going to get there? Charlie, made famous in the subway song, at least knew where he was going; he just couldn’t afford the nickel fare. Writing goals down make it more likely you’ll achieve them.
  2. Collect Data First—When to retire, sell your home, or invest a nest egg are major life decisions, yet many people make those on an arbitrary basis. Consider all the relevant information, and then decide. Don’t cause a breakdown or delay by taking the “easy” route. There are no easy routes on the T or in life.
  3. Board the train—You know you’re behind, and the fear of bad news causes inertia. That doesn’t make much sense because it only costs you valuable time. Kicking the can down the road is tantamount to just standing on the platform as the doors closed. The train is going to leave whether you like it or not.
  4. Think long term—The long-term appreciation of the stock market is fascinating but it will always be a bumpy ride. One thing you must not do is give into human’s innate recency bias. Remember all the market skeptics in 2008 insisting the market would never go up again? Oh boy, were they wrong. I bet some people were critical when Park Street Station opened in 1897; they might have said mass transit was a waste of the city’s resources. The T expanded to become the economic lifeblood of the city.
  5. Talk to your spouse—I often wondered about the relationship between Charlie and his wife. Every day she would go down to Scollay Square Station, which is now defunct, and hand him a sandwich “as the train comes rumbling through.” Why didn’t she just hand him a nickel so he could get off the train? Maybe she liked him out of the house! Talk to your spouse now. If that doesn’t work, get things moving on your own. Many couples keep their money separate; it’s ok.
  6. Hire a qualified conductor—Many parts of financial planning are more complex than you realize. Maybe you don’t have an aptitude for financial concepts or maybe you understand some things. Don’t be insulted, the Wicked Smart Investor attended grad school with many bright people but finance wasn’t their strong suit. A qualified advisor can help you run “what if” scenarios and manage your emotions.

In the end, YOU are responsible for putting yourself on the right track during the commute. Maybe it is the orange, red, blue, green or silver line. Commit to investing the time into planning and don’t worry about the costs. It may be less costly than you think, certainly less costly than MBTA overhaul.