Make Time For Your Future

Gary Silverman, CFP® |

Recently, I talked about “Your Number,” a process people use to try to figure out how much they’ll need to have saved up for retirement. Today I want to talk about the obstacles to getting there.
Probably the biggest problem in just about anything we want to do in life, including money issues, is just not getting around to doing anything about it. There are two parts to this. The first one is that we’ve just got other things to distract us. Jobs, families, and all the responsibilities in life (hopefully along with some fun stuff) all compete for our attention and time. 

Sure, you might want to get around to setting up your online Social Security access so you can see what income you might expect when you retire. But company is coming over tonight. And the car needs the oil changed. And your daughter just did a funny thing and wants your attention. And a client has an issue that just can’t be put off.

Yet somehow you play with your daughter, get the oil changed, satisfy your client, and have a good meal with friends. You were able to prioritize and plan all of those in between everything else you “have to” or “need to” do.  Still you don’t have an online account with Social Security, nor have you checked to see if your beneficiaries are listed correctly with your 401(k).

Here we see the problem of humans paying attention to what is in front of them in space and/or time. Retirement issues or those that don’t come to bear until we are dead don’t have an immediacy about them. What we fail to realize is that some aspects of the future are directly related to what we do right now. And that can lead to us getting around to them either never or too late to do much good.

Then, with money issues, we add other distractions. After all, we only have so much of it. Like our time, our more immediate money issues (even minor ones) take on a sense of importance and urgency more than deserved. We are paying more attention to the itty-bitty foothills right in front of us, ignoring the larger mountains down the road. That extra $2000 spent on this year’s vacation seems a greater priority than having $5000 to help with college tuition for your newborn (after all, she doesn’t need it for 18 years). We sip on the immediate gratification of our daily latte while our IRA goes into a drought.

This does not mean you need to be a miser; but you do need to be aware of the future trading off for the current pleasure. Knowledge allows you to plan, ignorance doesn’t. A farmer knows that feed must be ordered long before the livestock get hungry. Companies need to hire folks long before their services are needed. And your children need to master multiplication long before they understand why it matters.

Finding the time and resources to plan and prepare for the future along with taking care of the present is obvious right now as you are reading this. Unfortunately, tomorrow’s wants and needs will do their best to make this only a memory.

Gary Silverman, CFP® is the founder of Personal Money Planning, LLC, a Wichita Falls retirement planning and investment management firm and author of Real World Investing.