Why do we financially procrastinate?
THIRTY-four years ago, I sat next to a man who would become my father-in-law.
As the clock ticked gently and hypnotically behind me, it was a great chat with a wise man who said little.
What he did say had value, but of most note was a piece of paper he had above his piano keyboard and desk: “Procrastination is my greatest sin, maybe, just maybe, one day I will deal with that”.
I see that image pop up in my memory often.
Procrastination in financial planning is not good for us in many ways. On the one hand, as we take no action, the impacts can be extremely painful financially.
On the other, we feel even worse as we search for new socks on Amazon or check our little red likes on our social media to feel better. When the new socks arrive and you realise you are being stalked on your social media, the item that needed addressing still does, and your subconscious knows it.
This creates that negative feedback loop which makes you feel worse and which makes you procrastinate even more.
There is nothing appetising about a brown envelope unless it says – ‘open this quick, it’s a tax rebate’. There is nothing appetising about feeling stupid asking daft questions to a financial adviser who looks at you strangely. How many of you haven’t finished your accounts yet?
Therein lies the causes of procrastination and the poor mental health that comes with it.
I’ve often used the mnemonic FEAR as, Fantasised Experience Appearing Real, and used that to coach. If we are to imagine an outcome, why imagine a negative one?
Imagine it was a positive one? More on that in a moment as a solution.
The problem, and therefore the solution, comes from many areas (read the book ‘Emotional Agility’ by Susan David), but one is leaning away from a problem to protect ourselves and the stress we are under. Stand on a ski slope and tell me how that goes.
We need to lean into these problems and ask: ‘why do I feel that way’?
Because I don’t understand what I am doing; I might get it wrong; it may cost too much for the advice; who do I use; is there a better way to do this (overthinking and perfecting)?
When you lean in, you’ll begin to see the matrix for action to see the way out.
We know from a study done by HSBC that those who take care of their financial planning have much greater mental health. That isn’t a surprise given that it takes care of so many emotional needs and particular ‘autonomy and control’ something we have all lacked of late.
Seventy five per cent of those who sought regulated advice had higher, or above average, mental health as opposed to 42 per cent of those who hadn’t taken advice said their mental health has slipped below average.
Now to taking the action which creates the warm fuzzy feeling. Forgive yourself for procrastinating. We all do it.
If you know you have to take action at some point, leaving it two months equals nearly 1,500 hours of your subconscious poking at you and you still have to take action, as opposed to immediate action and ‘feel good’.
Motivation is everything, so, start by imagining the positive potential. You may be in a poorly performing and high charging pension or investment. Remember the column I did which showed the difference over just 20 years. One provided an income of £407 per week the other just £91. Another showed the near 50 per cent cost saving in life insurance by buying it correctly.
If we begin by imagining the upside, we pour water over the flames of fear which creates procrastination. Simply visualise how you will be at that point in your life when the financial plan has worked as best it could.
As for the independent financial adviser, just tell them your fears about looking daft or making mistakes. They’ll allay any fears about costs, and you’ll know straight away if they have the right culture and values, and if not, ring the next one.
Write the simple two-minute plan down, break into small pieces and start at number one.
:: Peter McGahan is chief executive of independent financial adviser Worldwide Financial Planning, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. If you have a financial question, call Darren McKeever on 028 6863 2692, email email@example.com or visit wwfp.net.