Every now and then when I’m commuting to and from my little house in Brighton to the big city, I get stuck in a traffic jam. I work really hard to avoid these, commuting during the off-peak periods to miss the mess. But sometimes it’s unavoidable. Life happens.
The last time I was trapped on the highway, going slower than a kid heading to the principal’s office, I was surrounded by people who could not accept that they were stuck. I was listening to a good book and sipping something cool so I was chill. Others couldn’t stand idea of going nowhere.
There was the guy who, impatient to get to the next off ramp, drove up the inside shoulder and then tried to cut across all lanes of traffic. He succeeded in ticking off a whole bunch of folks who refused to let him in and he watched helplessly as the tide of traffic took him past the cut-off. The woman in the lane beside me had her head on the steering wheel. When she looked up she looked like she was going to cry. No doubt she had somewhere important to be.
Thing is, no matter how upset, how stressed, how overwrought that woman got, she wasn’t moving any faster than I was, chilled out in my living-room on wheels, listening to a story and sipping slowly. Yes, I had somewhere to be too, but winding myself up wasn’t going to get me there any faster. Some days you crawl.
The same is true for money management. People get themselves all worked up because they’ve waited too long to save for the future and then they want to step on the gas and make up for lost time. When interest rates are low, as they have been for so very long, they feel like they’re stuck in traffic. Some, like the guy on the shoulder, decide to zoom up the inside lane, picking investment options they’re neither familiar nor comfortable with to boost their savings.
But there’s no need to get desperate or bash your head against the steering wheel. If you’re late to the savings thing, don’t make it worse by over-reacting or by believing everything is hopeless. Taking it slow and steady is going to eventually get you to where you want to be. You might arrive late to the retirement off-ramp, but you’ll get there, in one piece and with your sanity intact.