Ask most people if they should be saving for the future and they’ll answer with a resounding “yes!” Ask them if they are, and they’ll scuff their toe in the dirt, look away and clear their throats. Despite all that has been written about how important it is to save, we don’t.
Matthew Rabin of Berkley University has won awards and opened up new territory in understanding why people put off planning for the future. Simple: it requires a tremendous amount of time and effort. To make matters even worse, the immediate costs of ignoring the future are so insignificant that it’s easy to do. Hard to plan, easy to ignore: it’s a recipe for procrastination.
Of course, once we start getting a little closer to retirement and it suddenly dawns on us that building a nest egg requires years for investments to appreciate, we look back with 20/20 hindsight and say, “I wish I hadda …” Now it’ll take thousands of dollars a month, instead of the hundred or so, to achieve the same end.
Is there an answer to the conundrum? Sure. How about saving because we should? We brush our teeth because we should. It takes months or even years for a cavity to show up so the pain is way down the road, but we still brush our teeth every night. Why, because we know we should and we’ve made it a habit.
Here’s to making saving more like brushing your teeth and less like something only smart people do. If we change our mindset about saving, and if we start to establish the habit early for our kids — before the shopping bug bites — we can kick procrastination to the curb.