How Many Unproductive or Dead Assets do you have in your Personal Life?

Posted on February 1, 2017



Few will debate that 2016 was the year of the disruptors.  Whether it was the proliferation of industry disruptors such as Uber and Airbnb or political disruptions such as Brexit and the Presidential elections, the past twelve months have brought unprecedented levels of change, confusion and at times, disorder.  To some degree, the fruition of the political disruptions taking place in the United States and Europe is attributed to the stagnation of wages and personal income across the western world.  According to research conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute, close to 70% of people in 25 advanced countries saw no increase in their earnings between 2005 and 2014.  This translates into roughly a half a billion people whose earnings have languished for a decade.  Whether political solutions can reverse this trend remains to be seen.  It may be in fact that the western world is only in the early innings of what will be an elongated quagmire of stagnation.  If that is the case, it is time for individuals to examine and streamline our lives in the same manner as a small business owner of corporate CEO.

How many unproductive or dead assets do you have in your personal life?  Logan Green, the CEO of the #2 car sharing company, Lyft, foretells an inspiring vision of the transportation revolution he sees taking place in the United States.  For most people, the automobile is the second most expensive asset they own and correspondingly entails their second largest debt expense.  Green points out that the average vehicle in the U.S. is only utilized 4% of the time.  This means that your most expensive asset is lying dormant 96% of the time.  Imagine if you were a business owner and your second most expensive asset was unproductive 96% of the day?  You would probably be out of business!  Yet, millions of people wake up every day to go to work in order to finance an asset that adds no value to their lives 96% of the time.

Which is why companies such as Uber and Lyft have experienced prolific growth rates over the past several years.  For some people in urban areas, Uber and Lyft have become their primary means of transportation.  For others, it allows them to put their automobiles to greater use and supplement their incomes in their free time.  Their dormant automobiles are now revenue generating resource.  Eliminating a dead asset from your personal life or increasing the productivity of that asset by even 15% can result in huge dividends.

Real estate is another example.  I know an empty nester couple that resides in a three-story house.  When asked why they continue to hold on to such an expensive house in the suburbs that is far from their work they explain that they need the extra room for when their kids come to visit.  The kids come to visit once a year during the holidays.  In other words, for 51 weeks out of the year, this couple continues to finance, clean, heat and cool rooms they do not need.  What’s more, there is an opportunity cost for holding on to a house with so much wasted space.  Instead of supporting empty rooms, they could be funding more vacations, paying off debts or even retiring early.  Now consider all the people with second homes?  They visit their beloved lake or beach homes 6 – 10 times a year and much of that time is spent cleaning, mowing the grass and doing everyday repairs.  For the same amount of money they allocate to twelve mortgage payments every year, they could be frolicking in Europe and taking an African Safari.  Like Uber, share economy websites such as VRBO and Airbnb are opening up new opportunities for homeowners on both sides of the business.

Two years ago brought in a turnaround specialist to examine my life.  That specialist was myself, and for months, I conducted an inventory life looking for ways to streamline my life and garner greater levels of efficiency and productivity.  After years of juggling multiple jobs to finance multiple mortgages, car payments, and a slew of other cinder blocks that were dragging me underwater, I can breathe again.  Like so many other Americans, my work generating income has remained stagnant, yet I have more discretionary income than I have had in twenty years.  With a new level of agility, I am able to take advantage of opportunities, rather than be inflicted with opportunity costs.  Just like the business world that is learning that flexibility and responsiveness are essential ingredients to sustainability, we as individuals must become nimble and agile in order to live the good life.