I was listening to the news the other morning on the radio, and what I heard should have floored me, but it actually didn’t surprise me. Approximately $3 billion worth of cancer drugs are being thrown away. The story checked out. CNN reported on the same study the radio announcer mentioned.
If you’ve ever had someone you love—or you yourself have to go through chemotherapy—you know how expensive those drugs are. Most of them come in one-dose vials, but the dosage is such that oftentimes not all of a vial gets used. The rest gets tossed. The study found that the big pharmaceuticals that manufacture the drugs make about $2 billion on this excess. The other billion goes to the hospitals that mark up the treatments. The insurance company gets charged, and of course that bill is passed on to us consumers through higher insurance premiums. Oh, and we also get dinged more in taxes because of it as well, the study found (but didn’t specify exactly why).
I’m a financial strategist. I work with agents who work with everyday folks to help them handle their money more efficiently so that they have a nest egg they can rely upon.
So, I listen to this information, and I think “what a waste.” And that got me thinking about wasted money. We like to spend on our toys, our parties, even our coffee (if you spend $5 a day at Starbucks on the way to work, you spend $25 a week on coffee or $1300 a year). Finances charges on our credit cards or bank loans, including our cars and mortgages eat away at our monthly income in larger chunks than most people are aware of.
But the biggest wasters of our money, I think, is the gargantuan bureaucracy that we support, daily, with our over-burdensome taxes. I have heard it said that bureaucracies love to take our money but they continually cut our service. So we wait in long, tedious lines at the DMV, or we spend an hour on hold with the IRS to get some help. And then when we get to the front of the line, if we don’t have the correct information, we’re told to come back. It’s incredibly frustrating. But we have to pay more in license fees and taxes, pretty much every year, to support the system. And since I started with cancer drugs, I have to say the FDA, the bureaucracy that is charged with making sure the drugs we take are safe, can take years to approve drugs for cancer. It’s big business, cancer and its drugs—billions of dollars worth, but that doesn’t excuse any waste that occurs supporting those bureaucracies—both governmental and corporate.
It is our health and well-being that these bureaucracies are supposed to be watching out for and helping—not lining their pockets with our tax dollars and our medical insurance premiums and deductibles.
But because this all started with cancer, a very scary medical condition, I have to step back from this rant and ask, what, exactly, is “unnecessary”? Those cancer drugs are certainly necessary. It is vital that we pay some taxes; that’s what keeps the infrastructure of our country in tact—and that allows us to keep moving along in our daily lives. It’s the excess that bugs me. When I was growing up, my family didn’t have much. Waste was a luxury we simply couldn’t afford.
It bugs me, a lot, when I hear about people’s money being wasted. Pretty much everyone I’ve ever helped works hard for their money. They don’t want it being thrown away—wasted—because someone else was careless.
Bureaucracies that carelessly spend our hard earned money need to be reined in. And I think that’s the key word, “careless.” I don’t think anyone who is trusted with someone else’s money should ever be careless. My clients have always trusted me to make decisions that are in their best interest. They certainly don’t want their financial representatives playing fast and loose with what’s theirs, and they would be rightfully truly angry if they found out that agent or advisor was unnecessarily wasting their money. That’s never going to change. I think the key is that all of us in the financial services industry need to take the time to really educate the person on what will help them according to what they need. Anything more is wasteful. Anything less is dangerous.
I think that’s good advice for both cancer drugs, bureaucracies, and the financial industry.