Keep Your Old Car Or Buy The Tesla?

Earlier this week a close friend of mine sent me a video, entitled “Is Keeping Your Old Car Better For The Environment?” It’s a solid analysis of an interesting problem, considering whether it is better—purely from an environmental standpoint—to keep your current car, purchase a new, more fuel-efficient gas-powered car, or purchase a Tesla. The guy hosting the video does a thorough job considering the data and comes up with an answer of: It depends, but for most people it will be either a) Buy a used gas-powered car that gets better gas mileage than your current vehicle (and doesn’t require new energy to manufacture), or b) Jump to the Tesla when you can. I highly recommend the video.

What’s most fascinating about this to me, though, is not the answers the guy in the video arrives at—which I tend to agree with and which may be the fairly good excuse many are already looking for to purchase a Tesla—but rather the five-word caveat I gave above: purely from an environmental standpoint. I’m interested in this because for many of our clients, the financial decisions they make don’t happen in a vacuum. Almost nothing happens purely from any one particular standpoint.

So, despite the title, this is not really a blog about cars (though I love blogs about cars and have written about my propensity for used ones a time or two in the past). This is really a blog about making financial decisions with an unswerving focus on your values. 

The first time this lesson came home to roost for me was shortly after I left public accounting to join Beacon. I had taken a significant pay cut, Amy was pregnant with Miles, and we were working hard to be intentional with our money. Someone invited me to participate in a six-week introductory program at a local Crossfit-like gym, which was great. Really enjoyed it. And at the end of that time, as you won’t be surprised to learn, they hoped to sell me on a full membership to the gym. The sales pitch was unassailable: “You’ve done this program, you know it’s really good for your health, and your health is priceless.” The membership fee they quoted was in line with this idea of “priceless.” 

Amy and I had a number of conversations about me joining that gym. I had loved the six week course, loved the instructors, loved the workouts, all of it. But it was really expensive for us at the time. Through those conversations and the benefit of time, two things happened: 1) We were able to recognize the sort of absurd, non sequitur logic of “your health is priceless, therefore money is no object” that had been used in the attempted sale, and 2) We placed my priority of being really, really physically healthy next to all our other priorities and values, and realized I would be totally fine being just plain old regular healthy. For us, the really, really came at a price that was too steep, because it would mean other, more important priorities would suffer as a result.

For better or worse, this sort of priority and value calculus is something we must engage in every day. Here are a few real world examples that come to mind immediately from my own life or the lives of friends and clients:

  • You have a priority of living really close to your work, but really-close-to-your-work real estate is really expensive and the larger mortgage could crowd out other important priorities.
  • You would like to cut your hours at work or find another job altogether but are wrestling with the financial impact of that decision. What if less stress now means you have to retire two or three years later?
  • You have the desire to stay home with your kids but you also have the desire to use your skills outside the home in a professional setting. How do you even go about making that decision?

As far as I can tell, there are no “right” answers to any of those questions. None of them exist in a vacuum. Just like you can’t really decide to buy a Tesla purely from an environmental standpoint, many if not most of the big decisions you make financially come back to this idea of values, and of doing the work to align your decisions with your values as best you can.

But HOW? Well, in short, I think it comes back to mine and Amy’s story above. Time and conversation. I used the phrase “priority and value calculus” earlier, but of course none of this can be solved by an algorithm. There’s no software that can give you a meaningful answer to the most important questions you face. Time and conversation, which implies patience and relationship—that’s the only way to make a go of this, and it’s a central reason for Beacon’s existence. 

Whether it’s a question about which car to buy, or where to live, or what job is most healthy, or how to navigate work in the home vs. outside—you will inevitably face questions which don’t happen in a vacuum. They involve an intersection of the values and priorities you have. If we can be a partner in the time and conversation required to navigate that intersection, please let us know.

Jared Korver
[email protected]

A product of small-town North Carolina (Carthage, to be exact), I’m proudly married to my best friend and co-adventurer, Amy. Together, we have two sons–Miles and Charlie–and could more or less start a library from our home. I love being outside, can’t read enough, am in the habit of writing haikus, and find food and coffee to be among life’s greatest treasures.