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Straight Teeth and Smart Investing – Short-term Pain, Long-term Gain

Published -
February 10, 2023

I recently began an Invisalign treatment. For those of you unfamiliar, Invisalign is an orthodontic treatment that uses a series of clear plastic aligners (similar to mouth guards) to straighten teeth. The aligners need to be worn for 22 hours per day for 6-12 months. The challenge with 22 hours per day is that the aligners need to be removed while eating or drinking anything other than water.

I am one week into this journey to straight teeth and it has already been a challenge. Pre-Invisalign, I spent at least six hours a day eating, snacking, dining, and drinking coffee and the occasional beer or cocktail. My entire routine has needed an overhaul.

On top of dealing with a new routine, my teeth are sore, and it isn’t easy removing or refitting the aligners to my teeth. I haven’t figured out how I am going to handle lunch meetings or dinner parties or going out with friends. I feel like I talk funny now. I already miss chewing gum. On top of this, because I cannot easily snack, I am constantly thinking about my next meal.

Stopping the Pain

All of this has me daydreaming about taking a break, giving myself a day off to eat without sore teeth. I could enjoy slowly drinking coffee in the morning, snacking all day, and a night out at a restaurant with my wife, followed by a movie and a big bowl of popcorn.

The problem with this is obvious. If I take shortcuts to eliminate the discomfort and inconvenience, I will prolong the treatment timeline. I know this from experience from shortcuts I took long ago and am paying for now.

When I was a kid, I had braces. I didn’t like the headgear (do they even do that to kids now?), so I didn’t wear it as prescribed. I was given a retainer after my braces were removed but I didn’t like that either, so didn’t wear it. I was too immature and short-sighted back in junior high school to realize what I was truly sacrificing. I didn’t fully appreciate the tradeoff of short-term pain for long-term rewards.

Fast forward to today. If I once again take shortcuts, it could take a year or two of discomfort instead of the projected nine months. I’d much rather toughen up and get used to my new routine.

I cannot help thinking the discomfort of Invisalign is like what some investors feel during negative and volatile market conditions. I’ve spoken with many people over the years who cannot help but look at their account balance every day. From my perspective there’s an easy solution—just quit looking—but I know this isn’t so easy for many.

Long-Term Gains Over Short-term Discomfort

The key to investing and anything that involves short-term discomfort is to focus on the end result. Going to the gym at 6:00am isn’t easy but the results are worth it for those disciplined enough to stick with it. Going to college or trade school requires sacrifices, but with the focus on the long-term prize, the rewards can be great.

Taking a break from market turmoil by getting out of the market or buying an annuity will just make things worse down the road. Annuity sales set a record in 2022, topping the last record set in 2008. People are swapping temporary short-term discomfort for longer-term discomfort. Do you notice when the annuity sales records are set? During the worst of the market declines. What happened after 2008 for those who didn’t sell out and stuck with it? They were rewarded handsomely. I’ve heard from many who deeply regretted buying annuities or getting out of the market in 2008. They will likely end up working years longer or living on much less money in retirement.

A Trusted Advisor

I have complete trust in my dentist. I consider him as much as a friend as he is my dentist and I have no concerns that he would send me down a path that I couldn’t handle (although I may be more of a wimp than he knew). Just as important, investors should work with someone they trust to take a comprehensive view, and not just someone selling the product of the day.

Life is about tradeoffs, and everything comes at some price. If we only focus on our comfort today, we will most likely miss out on future rewards.  I’ve decided that when any negative thoughts enter my head about the current state of my teeth, I am going to think about my straight teeth enjoying a big juicy steak at a restaurant in a few short months.


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