A 20 Year Perspective on Procrastination

by David Hemler, CFP®
Many years ago, before I became a professional advisor I attended a financial planning seminar. One of the first things I learned was how procrastination can factor into our financial outcomes. It is certainly human to put off today what we believe can be done tomorrow. Especially when we really don’t relish any pleasure from that thing we are putting off doing. Now that I have added twenty years of living to the mix I see many examples of this procrastination factor and its impact in the world around me.

As a citizen, I’ve noticed government leaders procrastinate fixing some items that sensibly appear in need of repair while at the same time appearing to devote much energy proclaiming they have fixed other things that frankly didn’t seem to be broken. There are many examples that we can find in this arena and this isn’t necessarily the forum to even begin that conversation.

As a husband, son, father, and grandfather, I sometimes fail to exude the energy necessary today to do something that I should have done yesterday. My wife waited for me all last summer to weed the garden. It will be on my to-do list again this spring. And the weeds that sprout in the garden while unpleasant to look upon won’t likely cause me any real lasting damage. On the other hand, my procrastinating a call to my insurance agent and getting my homeowners insurance aligned to the renovations to my property may be quite damaging if something unexpected and out of my control were to occur. Putting off a visit with my attorney and having her update my legal documents could also be disheartening to my intentions. And so life goes on.

As a financial planner, I’m frequently left to explain the impact of procrastination as it relates to our financial reality. Procrastination leaves many without enough to retire, parents without enough for their children’s education, and investors without the proper allocation to weather the storms.

What is the point? To revisit the importance of carry through. For me, carry through comes in the form of a “to-do” list. With each list, I can see what I have contemplated and desired to accomplish. Both the big things, and the not so big things, end up on my list. It’s my way of tending to the necessary items. Sometimes the items move from one day’s list to next month’s, and then to next year’s list, only to be there many years later, and that’s quite alright, most times. However many things, the most important, have been crossed off and this brings me much comfort.

Life is always moving and changing. Priorities change and what appears to be permanent is often temporary. As an advisor, it gives me great satisfaction to understand my clients’ views and to help them prioritize what it is they need to accomplish. We work together over the years, moving forward and crossing off the items on their list. By helping them to manage procrastination, they get to pursue a better overall outcome five, 10, even 20 years later and beyond.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor, member FINRA/SIPC.