Back and Forth
By: Tom Fletcher, CFP®
I don't know about you, but I can't stand the thought of sitting motionless in automobile traffic and being unable to do anything at all about it. I guess my biggest beef is that it is a complete waste of my time. John Napolitano will frequently remind you there are only 168 hours in the earthly week. If you back out sleeping, eating, exercising, etc. from that total, those commuter hours spent in the car can add up to be a significant percentage of one's free time. Back when Alex lived in my neighborhood, we used to commute together. Though it was true, we often joked that I spent more time with Alex during my week than with my own family.
My first year working at U.S. Wealth, I decided to try bike commuting to get to our Braintree office. My reasoning was I could be more efficient by skipping my daily workouts and also be able to get to and from work at a predictable time each day. I tried this several days a week for most of one summer and I admit that I became slightly petrified of the commute. I had no idea so many buses and cars drove through Dorchester each day. Throw in an ambulance or two, a throng of pedestrians and some drivers paying more attention to their cell phones than keeping out of the bike lanes, and it became downright dangerous. When the season was over and after a couple of near misses, for fear of not making it home for dinner one night, I reluctantly decided to scrap the bike commute idea for good. I think that made my wife pretty happy.
While I was furiously studying for my CFP® course and examination a few years back, I became tired of finishing dinner with my family, then heading into my study, closing the doors and becoming a hermit the rest of the evening while I studied investments, estate planning and cash flow analysis. After thinking it over, I realized that by taking the subway, I could study a couple of extra hours each day while commuting each and not have to keep my eyes on the road. This solved the productivity issue and as a bonus, I was also able to get in a walk each day to and from the train. Fast forward to the present, and I'm still on the train to Braintree each day.
There are downsides to the train of course. For one, it's the MBTA. A couple of years ago during the winter from hell, my one way commuting times could reach 2 hours or more. Given the choice, I eventually hopped back in my car for a few weeks until things sorted themselves out. Traffic almost felt good to me at that point. A couple of other notable issues about riding the train - you can't pick who's going to sit next to you, it's impossible to understand what the conductor says over the loudspeaker systems, and how is it that I seem to always get to the station just as my train is leaving?