Listening to the Wrong People

Hey, let’s start out this month with a question. Do you think it’s smart to rely on another person’s interpretation and understanding of a particular Benefit, or are you better served spending a little time reading up on it from the source?

I ask that because there seems to be an alarming and growing inclination to learn about Fund benefits through word of mouth. As a matter of fact, there is seldom a day that goes by where the Fund Office does not receive a call from a participant who has been misinformed.

First, let’s review the good aspects of listening to another person’s interpretation of how a particular benefit works.

Um…., I really cannot think of anything other than finding out about something that you did not know about. The caveat to that is to trust but verify. As you will read, doing one without the other could prove to be problematic.

Now, let’s get to the less attractive aspects of listening to another person’s interpretation of a particular benefit.

  • Inaccurate information and incomplete statements, and even sometimes entirely fabricated “stories” often cause innocent participants to take incorrect action.
  • You are the expert on you and even if you don’t know something, nobody can know what’s best for you better than you. (Mic drop!)
  • They’re not you and they don’t have to live with the decisions you make based on their purported guidance.
  • On that note, ask yourself this: Are those people going to open their wallet if you act on their purported guidance and it ends up costing you money or time? At best, you may get them to open their heart. But their wallet? Come-on!

    Stated differently, words are cheap, but they can turn out to be expensive.

Now, if your primary or for that matter, supplemental source of information about the various IBEW Local 697 Benefit Funds is other participants, you are kindly advised that you need to be very cautious of the fact that not everything you hear will be accurate. For all you know, you may be being spoon-fed a warped sense of Benefit Fund reality.

Make no mistake, I am not saying that this is being done intentionally. I hope not anyway. If it was that would not only be mean, but wrong as well as perverse.

The point is do you know that for sure.

How certain are you that the individual providing the guidance not only read all about the benefit in question, properly understood it and accurately summarized it when explained to you? How do you know that what they are explaining to you is not just based on something they heard and equally important, if their interpretation is correct?

Of course, they could be expounding on their own personal experience. If so, and again, are you being informed of all the facts? Did the teller of the story inform you of both sides of the story so what you are hearing is fully accurate? Or did they leave out some pertinent points so as to not appear like they don’t know what they are talking about in front of you?

Yes, we know. A lot of times it’s more convenient to use the “source most readily available,” (i.e., another participant) and quite often you cannot avoid unsolicited opinions. While that may be true, you need to decide which opinions and thoughts actually present value.

Getting Comfortable with Uncertainty

In the end, it takes courage, determination, and a little effort to seek the truth instead of the convenient.

So how do you do that? Well, if you don’t already have one already developed, you should consider creating some sort of filter to separate the “wheat from the chaff,” as they say. Or …., you could just go to the source of fact. Which for the Benefit Funds is the Summary Plan Description Book.

People, being a participant of the Benefit Funds, comes with certain intrinsic responsibilities. One of which is the responsibility to read and understand the various Benefit Fund programs so that you remain in compliance with Plan provisions and equally important, so that you are making decisions in a sufficiently informed manner.

Moreover, the various Benefit Funds work best when participants are educated. Not only that, but both an individual’s financial well-being and each Benefit Fund’s financial well-being are predicated on that salient fact. As such, becoming and remaining educated on all the Funds is critical. For that reason and because this is a Union, it could be argued that each of us has not only an ethical obligation to stay informed and participate but a voluntary responsibility to do so as well.

So, read your SPD’s and any and all correspondence. Attend monthly membership meetings regularly as well as any educational meetings. Lastly, believe about 15% of what you hear and verify the rest.