When I was a child, my mother would often say to me, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today!” It was one of those arbitrary rules that I would hear along with, “Don’t speak with your mouth full” or “Keep your elbows off the dinner table,” so I naturally rolled my eyes, as all children do. I would almost always choose to clean my home as if the queen might visit or complete an elaborate 1,000-piece puzzle as if I was competing in the Puzzle Olympics in order to distract myself from a chore that was unpleasant.
We all do this. The only difference as an adult, with important things like money, is that procrastination has consequences.
1. We have never learned to talk about it. Money and death are the two topics that we will avoid discussing and dealing with at all costs. There is so much information out here that we don’t even know where to start and making difficult decisions is nobody’s cup of tea. Unfortunately, the costs are too high when you delay important decisions for too long.
2. We blur the lines of what’s in our control and what’s not. Some of you may read this and say, “I don’t procrastinate! I just work really well under pressure!” Other sympathizers of procrastination often say it does not matter when a task gets done, as long as it’s eventually finished. Right? Well, it matters a great deal. For one, getting things done at the last minute only works for certain types of things like paying bills or doing taxes. But for other things, such as retirement planning, waiting until your 65th birthday isn’t going to cut it. And budgeting is not something you can do last minute either. Spending is something you can control now, while you still have money, or you will be wondering where it all went once your money is gone.
3. Ignorance is bliss . . . or is it? Financial procrastination is brought on by many things, but two of the biggest reasons are fear of uncertainty and the good old “ignorance is bliss” approach. If you are not sure where to start to get your finances under control, you will become indecisive and put things off as long as possible. A good place to start is by determining where you currently are financially and deciding where you want to be. Next, you need to create a plan (i.e., a budget) to assist you in figuring out what to do with your money.
Here are some action steps to take so that you can create better habits with money and get the most life out of your wealth:
• Set up an emergency fund, ideally 3-6 months of essential expenses.
• Create and stick to a budget.
• Contribute to a retirement plan.
• Maximize your employment benefits like 401(k) plans, flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts, and medical and dental insurance.
• Manage your credit score.
• Review your insurance coverages to ensure you have enough or if you are paying too much in premiums.
• Update your will and/or trust, especially if you have dependents.
The good news is that it’s better to be late in doing something than not doing it at all. To truly break the habit of procrastination with money, sometimes accountability and sharing the responsibility helps. I don’t always like it when my mother is right, but there is no better time than the present to start planning for the future.