I Wish I Started Earlier

I Wish I Started Earlier

If there is one thing that virtually everyone agrees on financially speaking, it’s that they wish they started planning for their finances earlier.

This is true not only in personal finance but also in life.  Think about it.  Here’s a list of things that most people wish they had done sooner:

  1. Invest for retirement.
  2. Save for college.
  3. Buy life insurance.
  4. Put a budget together.
  5. Eat healthier.
  6. Get in shape.
  7. Start a business.
  8. Learn a new skill.
  9. Read regularly.
  10. Quit smoking.

Honestly, this list could go on and on.  We know inherently that it’s smart to do all of these things sooner rather than later, but we don’t.  Why?

In a word: Fear.  Before you dismiss this idea, remember that fear has a lot of disguises.  Ignorance.  Procrastination.   Perfectionism.  Laziness.  Guilt.  Unknown outcomes.  Fear of failure.  Voluntary distraction (TV).  What will other people think?

At its core, no matter the struggle, most of the above tasks can seem overwhelming.

If you’re overweight, we immediately focus on how long it’s going to take to get in shape.  Or maybe even worse, what if we start and then fall back into our old habits?  What will people think of us then?

If you have credit card debt, it often feels easier just letting it linger.  All the while, the bills pile up until it becomes unmanageable.

You know you should get your arms wrapped around the new goal, so guilt is present.

We know inherently that waiting and delaying only worsens almost any problem.  There are hardly ever circumstances in life where waiting is helpful.

Taking action can be scary and daunting, to say the least.  That’s why you should focus on making just a one-percent-decision.  (After all, that’s what this website is called.)

If you’re out of shape, decide to take a 20-minute walk tonight after work.  Order the side salad instead of the fries.

If you have credit card debt, make it your mission to save $50 or $100 dollars this month in another account to start some semblance of an emergency savings account and thereby reducing your reliance on your credit card.  Having a small emergency cushion will make your track to get out of debt a little easier.

If you want to start saving for retirement or college, start by opening an account and funding it with $50 or $100 per month.

If you’ve been wanting to start a business, launch a website and see if you can get a few paying customers on the side while you maintain your day job.  It’ll only cost you about $75 for a domain name and hosting for a year.  Turn the TV off in the evenings and get to work building your exit plan.

If you want to quit smoking/drinking, decide to have one less smoke/drink than you’d ordinarily have.  Building up your tolerance to make decisions makes the process much less overwhelming.

Think about it, if you signed up to run a marathon and hadn’t run for a while, you wouldn’t walk outside on day one and try to run 26 miles.  You’d start by running one or a few miles, or even walking one mile if you had to.

Why do we feel like we need to make monumental shifts right out of the box?  It goes back to guilt.  Guilt makes us feel like we’re either all-in or all-out.  But making consistently good decisions requires training – one decision at a time just like training for the marathon.

Building your decision-making-endurance will mark your way toward making wholesale changes in your life.  And making a one-percent decision can take the pressure off and you’ll feel a sense of victory just for having taken a very small action.

Don’t focus on the overwhelming feeling of how far you have to go or to making wholesale changes.  Instead, commit to making one small decision at each decision point and before you know it, you’ll see significant progress.

2 Replies to “I Wish I Started Earlier”

  1. Yep. The closer I step towards 50 the more often I hear myself saying, “I should’ve…” But as long as I take the necessary steps now, and NOT put off what needs to be done, then at least I can say I DID do something.
    There’s a saying I heard once that has always stuck with me, “If you live long enough, you are going to have regrets. And the ones that nag at you the most are the ones where you knew you had a choice…”

    1. Whiskey, very wise words. I love that quote and it’s so applicable in so many areas of life!

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