Contain, control, suppress, manage.
Photo: Ben Thai. Source: Maxpixel
That’s how fire professionals look at managing a blaze, whether it’s a building fire or a laptop on an airplane. The first priority is to make sure the fire doesn’t spread to other vulnerable places – places that could contribute more material and would increase the danger.
Fires are especially dangerous in airplanes, where people are packed closely together, and the heat and fumes can quickly be overwhelming. We all use more and more portable electronic devices, but the lithium batteries in our laptops, tablets, and phones are subject to thermal runaway. This can be caused when the battery cells accidentally mix together. Lithium is highly reactive. That’s why new batteries come in special containers.
iPhone lithium battery. Source: Wikimedia
That’s also why airlines now tell you to let the flight attendants help you find a lost cell phone during their pre-flight safety announcements. Several times this year, passengers have dropped their phones, straightened up their seats to look for them, and crushed the batteries – releasing the phone’s electrolyte and starting a fire. This can be especially terrifying at 36,000 feet!
The same thing can happen with our personal finances. We get into a vulnerable position and something goes wrong. Then things start to spiral out of control. We’re short of cash, so we delay paying a bill. That bill goes to collection and we get late notices, which is depressing, and we avoid dealing with finances altogether. But those bills and financial issues don’t go away, they just get worse. The problems just accrue and expand. And we can’t use fire gloves and a containment pouch to suppress the dangerous object!
That’s why it’s important to contain, control, suppress, and manage our finances. Contain the financial danger by contacting the creditor. Control our situation by making a plan. Execute the plan, over time, reducing expenses where you can. And then come up with a long-term solution. That’s how to keep small fires from spreading to four-alarm blazes. And it’s the way to manage our money as well.
Because fires are dangerous, and they only stop when they’re out of fuel, out of oxygen, or extinguished. Let’s not allow them to get out of control.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Charter Trust Company
“The Best Trust Company in New England”