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Shock Treatment to Break Your Financial Procrastination

Shock coilsCollege breeds procrastinators.

At no time of my life did I put more things off until the last minute than my first few months in college. Every hour something new would entice me to put the books aside and enjoy the other, more exciting things college had to offer.

The pickup hoops game at the gym.

The late night pizza runs.

The cute girl one dorm over.

Time and time again this would happen, especially early on in my college life. As a result of my attention to anything unrelated to studies, I would often find myself starting papers at 11:00 pm that were due the next afternoon. Talk about putting your back up against a wall. It was an all night scramble of writing, filled with Mountain Dew and Ho-Hos.

“Fairly quickly” is the answer to the question “How long did it take you to develop a more disciplined attitude?” Had to…my freshman GPA (and ultimately my graduation) was depending on it. I realized there was no way I could maintain those negative patterns of time management and succeed at that level of education.

Procrastination creeps into all areas of our life. We put off dealing with relationship issues, work assignments, our spiritual health and even kid problems. Perhaps in no area does it rear its ugly head more so than in the world of personal finance. What is it about money that keeps us from confronting our difficulty with managing it?

Are you a personal finance procrastinator? Ever said any of these things:

“I’ll do the bills later. (It will be fine if they are late.)”

“It will get better when I get a raise.”

“I’ll just rely on Social Security when I’m older.”

“I don’t have a problem with overspending.”

“I’ll just pay the minimum on my credit card debt.”

“I don’t have any money left at the end of the month to save.”

“I’m doing OK by myself…I don’t need help.”

“At least I’m not as bad off as they are.”

“My situation is so bad I don’t even want to think about it.”

“Why do I keep running into these same problems over and over?”

If you have said any of these things, you might be a personal finance procrastinator.

Question is, if this sounds familiar, how can you be snapped out of your malaise? Time for some shock treatment.

The Powerful Component of Time

Time is by far the biggest component to building wealth. The more time a person can be financially healthy and spend time saving and investing their money, the more prosperous they can become. Every day you put off dealing with your finances is another day wasted in this pursuit. If you don’t believe that, then don’t glaze over these powerful examples.

If an individual made a one-time investment at age 30 of $5,000, that investment could grow to $108,622 in 40 years assuming a conservative annual return of 8%. If, however, that investment were put off for just five years, the total in that same time frame would be reduced to $73,926.

If you were to start at age 30 with a $5,000 initial investment but instead continued to invest the same amount per year until age 70, you would have amassed a whopping $1,403,905 (again assuming an 8% annual return). Procrastinating on starting this investment pattern for just five years would reduce your total amount at age 70 to $935,510. That’s a half-million dollar difference!

Maybe there isn’t $5,000 a year in your budget to invest. Perhaps you can only afford $150 per month. That’s OK because even small amounts can really add up. If an individual begins to invest $150 per month at age 20 and those investments grow at an average of 8% per year until age 70, they will have built up a hefty $1,189,759.

If those numbers don’t shock you into some action I’m not sure what will.

All it takes to win at personal finance is some initiative and consistent effort applied over time. That’s a gentle way of saying, “Get started now and be disciplined!” A prosperous financial future is waiting for you.

How do you fight against procrastination? What financial decisions have/did you intentionally put off because you didn’t want to deal with them? What was your biggest distraction in college?

Image at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  1. Great title! You really “coined” what I want a piece of the message of our new site to be about!

  2. Great post Brian. I used to be a massive procrastinator with my finances. I have since learned that is does nothing for you.

  3. I’m definitely a procrastinator at heart and have to constantly find ways to fight it. The biggest trick for me is to automate as much as I possible can and set hard deadlines for the rest if I really think it’s important. If I don’t have a deadline then I’ll just keep pushing it off until it becomes a real problem.

    • Automation is great Matt. I can see that helping in many situations. I do not like putting things off to the last minute. I always seem to get things done but hate the tension buildup when I’m pushing through it.

  4. MoneySmartGuides says

    I’m lucky in that I’ve never been a procrastinator with my finances. I credit my high school economics teacher that taught us the power time has over money. Once I realized this concept, I made it a point to prioritize my finances so that I could get the most invested in the market as quickly as possible and to let time work it’s magic.

    • I didn’t think I was a procrastinator with finances for the first ten years of my marriage. Boy was I wrong. There are many things I should have been doing that didn’t become obvious to me until much later. Thankfully, we realized it and don’t play around anymore.

  5. I used to put of reviewing my credit card statements, sending off the payment with only the minimum amount needed. That’s why I’m still struggling to pay off my CC debt (thought it’s almost gone)! The very first time my card was rejected was an eye-opener for me.

  6. I think my biggest mistake ever was how much time I spent just paying the minimum balance on credit cards. I don’t even want to think of how much money was wasted because I put off what I should have been more aggressive paying. In college I was pretty focused actually. A big change from how I was in high school. Great article!

    • Paying the minimum balance is the exact trap credit card companies are hoping people fall into. That’s mostly how they make their money, on the interest generated because the card is not paid off each month.

  7. Shannon Ryan says

    I can’t tell you how many people wished they would have started investing when they were younger. But they didn’t think they need to because retirement was so far off and there were more important things to do with their money. Now they see what that cost them. Hindsight is always 20/20.

  8. John S @ Frugal Rules says

    Good post Brian! I was a crazy terrible procrastinator in college and I paid for it, but thankfully I grew out of it. I try to automate as much as possible and simply keep myself accountable to getting things done and find that generally works well for me.

    • I agree John that accountability is a huge issue here. I think it’s difficult for people to establish that with their personal finances. We are accountable to companies and such for making payments on time. But perhaps we need to take it a step further and find another trusted individual we can share our financial challenges with if we are having trouble in this area.

  9. Kim@Eyesonthedollar says

    I was LASER focused in college. Yes, I was that student that all the procrastinators hated. I would have to say my worst obstacle was a dead beat boyfriend that I spent way too much time trying to hang on to!

    I used to ask almost all those questions all the time. Until you really face the music, it never gets better. We never paid bills late, but we paid lots of them without even really looking because it was too hard to see the balance. That’s when automation does not work well.

    • I developed that focus as well but it took about a full quarter of college for it to happen. Now I hate to procrastinate. I’m always planning my lessons at school a week in advance and try to do so with this blog (although I would admit to finishing this post last night at 11:00). 🙂 Been a tad behind this week.


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