Just last week I posted about how I had identified an opportunity to make money investing in Japan, but never took action. The inaction cost me some decent, quick returns.
Sometimes we do encounter opportunities that can make us some extra money. Helping the bottom line can be a great thing. However, sometimes we decide to turn away such opportunities.
With the college basketball Final Four concluding this month, this reminded me of a situation where I took that opposite approach. In that case, I had a money making opportunity in front of me, related to the Final Four, but I rejected it. Despite mixed opinions on how I handled it, I still think it was the right decision.
The Money Making Opportunity
The scene was back in the early 1990’s, in college. It was tournament time, and my school – Indiana – had just advanced to the Final Four. For those who might not know, Indiana was an absolutely basketball-crazed school at that time. It was a different era, with Bob Knight commanding the team to frequent Big Ten championships and NCAA tournament appearances. The school had won 3 National Championships with him, and many people were hoping this would be title #4. Students and alumni alike were fired up.
As I recall it, a lottery of sorts was held to determine who would obtain a “claim card” for Final Four Tickets. I rushed over to Assembly Hall with a few guys from my fraternity, and we were hoping our luck would be good. As it turns out, it was indeed good – we got the claim cards!
The guys who got the cards with me were fired up. We could drive all day to Minneapolis to get to the game, and then make a choice – either watch the games, or try to sell the tickets we get after redeeming the cards. Those tickets, we thought, could be worth serious money. For college students, it was a nice choice – watch your school compete in the Final Four, or collect some cash!
After getting the claim card, it dawned on me that I would have two exams early the next week. If I recall correctly, I had 2 tests the following Wednesday, while the championship game was on Monday.
I didn’t want to be unprepared for the exams, and knew that the guys I was going with had no exams and were going to totally live it up on this epic road trip.
The first games (semi-finals) would be Saturday, and if Indiana lost, we could drive back. If Indiana won, we would have to stay for the game, then drive all day and get back late Tuesday night. Of course, the guys wanted to stay until Tuesday morning no matter what happened to Indiana, so that’s the way things were going to go.
The opportunity to sell the tickets was clear. We could make money, and watch the games right in the heart of the action. It could be a lot of fun. However, I’d be far less prepared for my exams than I felt comfortable with.
What to do? Get the cash and fun experience, or be boring and poor – but prepared for the exams?
Ok, so based on how I set this up, you know what I did. I turned down the opportunity to go.
How much money did I lose? Well, when the guys came back, they claimed to have sold the tickets for $800 each. Apparently the seats were that good. I chose being well-prepared for 2 exams instead of $800 and a really fun road trip.
Of course, the 2 clowns that went on the trip also ended up gambling away nearly all of their windfall at some Minnesota Indian Reservation casino. Ha!
When I told people about my decision at the time, some jaws dropped. “WHY????” is what I heard more that once, when I said I chose to turn down the experience so I could study more. A few people said they would have done the same things, though they were clearly in the minority.
The thing is, looking back, I still totally think I made the right move at the time, given all available information. This is also different from how I skipped school about 5 years earlier to see an Opening Day game. Maybe I matured
Sometimes the cost of making some extra money exceeds the benefit. In other words, one can be penny wise and pound foolish.
One example might be taking a job that pays you 25% more, but requires an extra hour of commuting each day and more business travel. You’re turning down a lucrative money-making opportunity, but in doing so you’re making a decision that’s best for you.
My Questions For You:
What would you have done in that situation? Would you have taken the road trip for the money and fun opportunity, or would you have stayed back and done the responsible thing, and forgo the money and fun?
Have you encountered any such situations of your own, where you turned down opportunity to make more money that others might have gone for?