‘Ish Works

Lawyers use Latin to describe certain concepts.  They know the meaning of words will not change over time and they know there will be no new words introduced.  Not so much with English.

Our grand-daughter Kathryn visited with us a week or so ago.  She speaks a somewhat different version of English than I do.  Many words that I don’t know and more with meaning slightly different than mine.

It is wonderful.  Like watching flowers grow.  Pay attention to your world, there are many new things in it.  Some are interesting.  Like ‘ish.

Grandma “Are you hungry?”

Kathryn “‘ ‘ish”

Meaning a little.  I suppose hungryish is not a word.

Our problem is that we are trapped by Socratic logic.  True and not true are permitted, but the law of the excluded middle does not allow “‘ish.” In the middle.

I will be pleased to see this law fall into disuse.

There is a replacement.  Fuzzy logic is a 50-year-old idea with many applications in control theory.  The middle is allowed in it and approximate examples are treated as having meaning.  A log beside a campfire has chairness but is not a chair.  In control systems, the point where chair and chairness come together is capable of analysis and important, too

So it is with planning.  There is no right and wrong,  There is no yes or no.  Everything is ‘ish.  Things evolve.  Rates of return, savings, future income, future inflation, the cost of education, mortgage rates, length of lifetime, health …., everything is approximate in the short run and unknowable in the long run.  Do not get caught up in precision.  It is not available.

It is easier to generate precise numbers when developing a plan. Do not trust precise numbers. Look for meaning.

Do not overlook accumulated experience, though.  There are still things to know from history and ways to use that to adapt to the future.  The key is to keep track, compare and revise as necessary.

Two thoughts:

Mark Twain:  “The future does not repeat itself, but it rhymes”  There are things to learn but do not expect perfect compliance.

Damon Runyon:  “The battle is not always to the strong, nor the race to the swift, but that’s the way to bet.”  Old ways work on average, just not every time.  You will be unwise to ignore tendencies.

If you build an ‘ish plan, fluctuations in the market, or your savings, or your budget issues will not be so terrifying.  No plan is perfect.  Most plans are not even close.  Build a plan that relies on historic and present reality and get started.  Just do not count on the future to be exactly as your plan proposed.

The future does not pay attention to your plan when deciding how it should behave.  But then, the future is restricted to things that will make sense, you should be too.

.Our grand-daughter Kathryn visited with

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Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. Contact: don@moneyfyi.com  

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