Time is one of your most valuable resources when it comes to your finances but it can easily work against you. If you are going to be successful with turning around your financial life then you need to let time work for you and not against you.
HOW IT WORKS AGAINST YOU
If you are like me you always feel you have plenty of time or not enough time. When you feel you have plenty of time you are more likely to procrastinate and when you feel you don’t have enough time you end up putting off your tasks since you think it is too late to start. In either case, you aren’t taking action giving yourself less time in the long run to reach your goals. It also starts to get emotional too when you start to compare yourself against others who did take action and you start to stress out even more.
Every day you put off paying down your debt it is costing you. Each day that passes you are paying that much more in interest. Even when it comes to investing many say it is about time in the market and not about timing the market. Delaying paying off debt or saving can cause you to lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars over your lifetime and furthermore delay retirement or financial independence. These delays are seemingly resulting in many people dying with debt even.
At the end of the day, the #1 thing that hurts you is inaction because time will just keep moving along and you either lose potential money from investments not made or you lose actual money from interest you are paying on debt.
HOW IT WORKS FOR YOU
Quite simply, the best way to make time work for you is to act today. By acting today, you are maximizing the amount of time you have to address your financial matters. You don’t even have to do everything you want to at once. Just do something! Once you start acting you have momentum on your side which you can build on.
Each day, week or month you modify your behavior to spend a little less, save or pay off debt adds up as you repeat it. It can be a small action such as saving $5 a day and as David Bach points out in the Millionaire Next Door with his Latte Factor that can turn into hundreds of thousands of dollars if that is invested and you let time work it course.
You’re not going to earn your retirement or pay off all your debt in one day which is why I think people continue to put it off, however, you can always do something today that will go towards that goal of saving or paying off debt. Doing a little each day will go a long way to having big results.
By breaking down your goals it allows the small wins to add up each day and most likely add up to greater success than you originally anticipated.
Here is a quote by David Allen who summarizes this concept well.
“You don’t actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it. When enough of the right action steps have been taken, some situation will have been created that matches your initial picture of the outcome closely enough that you can call it “done.”
― David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
What typically gets us into the most trouble is not the big things but rather the small things. One small thing we do at a time is what gets us into to debt or holds us back from paying it off. The same applies to doing the small things that add up to eventually paying off our debt or saving enough for retirement.
DELAY GRATIFICATION (AND GAIN SO MUCH MORE!!!)
One virtue that is great to adopt is the ability to delay gratification. For every day you make the decision to conserve your money rather than spend it allows you to have so many more great days in the future. This is embodied by the famous quote you’ll hear many times on the Dave Ramsey show which is “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”
If you max out your financial resources today by spending them all you will find yourself limited as far as what you can achieve in the future. Then you won’t have anything and you have to work harder and longer. Even worse, when you decide to spend more than you have and dip further into your credit cards you might be able to do more today but it will only be that much more difficult to dig out of that hole tomorrow. At that point you’ve exhausted your resources only to be less comfortable in the future. Not a desirable plan.
The flip side of this is if you prioritize paying off debt now and focus on saving/investing you’ll find that life is still just as good because you are now in control of your finances. You’ve shifted around your priorities and it will only get better as more opportunities open up and allow you to further craft the life you want to lead.
How often do you read a story, maybe even like ours, where someone pays off a ton of debt or even much more impressive is retired in their 30’s? I use to be jealous of those stories since I wanted to have fun now and spend everything I had and then have a ton of money in the future. The problem is that I wasn’t having that much fun spending money and my behavior wasn’t leading towards an excess of money in the future. I was wasting my opportunities. I now find I have lots more fun since I am in control and have options.
People often get scared that their lifestyle is going to change for the worse when they start to save more or pay off debt. It is easy to get used to a certain lifestyle but if you are worried about the debt you’ve accumulated or the lack of savings then I guarantee that your life will be more fulfilling overall when you face those matters head on. You will find a sense of control and dignity that you didn’t have before and that is priceless.
Agreed! I think the Mustachian approach to treating debt as a pants-on-fire emergency is the best way to eliminate it. It’s all about getting it done *now* so you can be rich much more quickly. My only regret on my FIRE journey is that I didn’t start sooner.
Yes, I really like that approach and think it applies to a lot of things that are so easy to put off. The only benefit of me not handling money better sooner is that I have motivation to not repeat my mistakes. Plus I can’t say that if I never met Erin or didn’t have debt if I would be where I am at financially. Either way, all we can do is take all of the knowledge we have and start taking action now.