Updated: Nov 15, 2019
“Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow” – The procrastinators unintended mantra
Every year millions of Americans face the end of the current year and the ushering in of a new year. Every year these same people wondered how it went by so fast. For many it’s a time of reflection and a time to take account of the progress one has made towards one goals. According to many published studies however, only about 3% of Americans have any written goals, financial or otherwise. Should it be any surprise then that most Americans will fall woefully short with retirement readiness? Sadly, in good part due to procrastination, many Americans will be forced to work longer, abandon dreams, settle for less, or worse, become dependents on their children and the government for financial support. This is definitely NOT the American Dream my dad taught me about.
Most Americans desire a life and a future that they can be proud of. They sincerely want to set goals, have a plan and move ahead, but something disturbing seems to get in the way. What is that sinister villain? – Financial Procrastination.
Right here in The Woodlands, Texas our firm serves an affluent community of well educated professionals where I have been surprised to learn that at least 50% of our community does not have a basic will. When asked about this most basic and important document the comments we typically receive are, “been meaning to get around to it”, “yes, that’s been something we have been wanting to do”. I recently worked with a business owner who was educated at an Ivy League school and who earns more than 500K per year and I was told that he too had been meaning to get his will done. When asked how long he had been thinking about it he paused, grimaced and confessed, “I guess about 10 years now”.
A recent survey by Financial Engines was done to better understand financial procrastination found that more than two-thirds (68 percent) of adults age 55 or older admit to procrastinating on retirement planning. On average, those surveyed said that 25 was the right time to begin planning for retirement. The participants of the survey then confessed they started planning many years later than they said they should have.
The top five reasons survey respondents cited procrastinating on retirement planning:
worried about being taken advantage of
not sure how to go about it
believed it was too difficult
I am convinced that fear plays a huge part in the procrastination conundrum. Some studies suggest at its root, procrastination is almost always based on fear, and figuring out how to beat that fear is the key to abating procrastination over the long run. Furthermore, we humans are creatures of our instincts and emotions, and as such we usually end up doing what we “want to do” versus what “we need to do”. The basic equation looks like this:
C < (I + E x F) – Our cognitive (what we know) is less than the sum of our instincts plus our emotions as multiplied by our fears. Fear of failure, fear of making a mistake, fear of looking bad, fear of being take advantage of, fear of any number of things. Yes, our fear can paralyze you and I and can cause us to stymie and stall any advancements that we want and need to make toward our financial success. To succeed and to overcome procrastination, our cognitive (what we know) must be greater than the sum of our instincts plus our emotions as multiplied by our fears…. So how do we face down procrastination, the robber and destroyer of financial dreams? We start by first becoming aware, and by applying several simple but important concepts that few people ever master.
“Mark Twain is quoted as saying, 'If your job is to eat a frog, eat it first thing in the morning, and if your job is to eat two frogs, eat the big one first,'” – Few people ever understand the actual cost to their retirement due to their Financial Procrastination.
Ever wonder why some people seem to get so much more done than others? The answer is they have a SYSTEM. A SYSTEM is an acronym for “Save Your Self Time Energy and Money”. Consider the time-tested principle of the Eisenhower matrix illustration below. Dwight Eisenhower lived one of the most productive lives you can imagine. Not only can his matrix help you deal with Financial Procrastination, it can help you ensure you are spending your time on what matters most to you. It’s not enough to be busy; even the ants are busy…. it’s what you accomplish that matters most.
Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, serving two terms from 1953 to 1961. During his time in office, he launched programs that directly led to the development of the Interstate Highway System in the United States, the launch of the internet (DARPA), the exploration of space (NASA), and the peaceful use of alternative energy sources (Atomic Energy Act).
Before becoming president, Eisenhower was a five-star general in the United States Army, served as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, and was responsible for planning and executing invasions of North Africa, France, and Germany.
At other points along the way, he served as President of Columbia University, became the first Supreme Commander of NATO, and somehow found time to pursue hobbies like golfing and oil painting.
Eisenhower had an incredible ability to sustain his productivity not just for weeks or months, but for decades. And for that reason, it is no surprise that his methods for time management, task management, and productivity have been studied by many people.
His most famous productivity strategy is known as the Eisenhower Box and it’s a simple decision-making tool that you can use right now. Eisenhower’s strategy for taking action and organizing tasks is simple. Using the decision matrix below, you will separate your actions based on four possibilities.
Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).
The great thing about this matrix is that it can be used for broad productivity plans (“How should I spend my time each week?”) and for smaller, daily plans (“What should I do today?”).
My encouragement to you today is to take seriously your financial future and give it the time and attention it deserves. Find a SYSTEM that works for you and work it. Procrastination is one of the major threats that we all face in our journey to achieve financial peace. Our American Dream and the future that you and I deserve is what’s at stake. I challenge you to act today to secure the financial future that you and your family deserve. What action can you take right now to secure your families financial future?