I'm not a patient person, just ask the personnel in the lab at my hospital. This lack of patience carries over into my financial life. Many financial goals, such as paying off student loans, becoming a millionaire, eliminating a mortgage, acquiring a sum of money for a college education, or reaching financial independence require literally years to accomplish. Smart financial management, like maintaining an appropriate weight, is literally the sum of thousands of tiny decisions over the course of your entire life. Sticking to something for decades requires a rather large dose of patience, and that makes it hard for people like me.
A lack of patience can lead to all kinds of financial trouble. For example, if your investments have not performed as well as you had hoped, you may abandon them just in time to realize you have sold low. Likewise, you may get sick of depriving yourself of the fruits of your labors (in order to reach financial goals) and splurge on expensive stuff like a wakeboat. For me, I just get frustrated that it takes so darn long to reach my goals. I can't believe I make as much as I do and STILL have a mortgage. Or that I've been working hard and saving for years and I STILL have to go to work. Or that it's already mid-summer and I still haven't maxed out my 401(k)s for the year. Do you ever find yourself getting impatient? I bet you do. Today's post contains five strategies I use when I'm feeling impatient financially. Share your favorite in the comments section below.
# 1 Life Is the Climb, Not the Summit
I have been climbing for a long time. Non-climbers often think people ascend mountains in order to reach the summit. But the truth is that the best part of a climb is almost never the summit. Occasionally it is, such as Teewinot in the Tetons, but usually the best part of a climb comes long before you reach the summit. In fact, I often only spend a few minutes on the summit of a mountain I have spent all day trying to reach.
I don't go climbing to stand on the summit. Neither do I manage my finances just to reach my goals. I also enjoy the feeling of moving toward the accomplishment of those goals. If you learn to enjoy the actual process of budgeting, investing, making a plan, and spending intelligently, it will be a lot easier to be patient.
It also helps to remember what you're going to do after you achieve your goal. If I had my mortgage paid off today, it probably wouldn't change a single thing in my life. I'd still go to work. I'd still save and invest each month. I'd do all my same hobbies and hang out with all the same people. If I'm not actually going to change anything when I reach a goal, why the impatience to reach it? Or as my wife would say, “You just want to call Dave Ramsey and scream that you're debt free.” Sounds dumb when you say it out loud, doesn't it?
# 2 Distract Yourself
Have you ever lost yourself in a monotonous task by thinking of something else? I often do this while on a long run. In fact, a surprising number of the posts on this forum have been conceived while I was out running. I actually hate running, but I do like that it keeps me in shape to do the things I really enjoy. If you're frustrated that you haven't reached financial goals that you are on track to eventually reach, then feel free to distract yourself. Spend your time thinking about your patients or your next vacation or your last vacation or whatever. Personal finance and investing isn't so time-consuming that you even have to think about it every month, much less every day. Readers may be surprised to learn that I often go weeks at at time without writing a post and months at a time without looking at my investments. This website gives the appearance that I'm always doing personal finance and investing stuff, but that's not the case. If you're fixating on this stuff more than I am, you're going to drive yourself nuts. Get a hobby or go work on your relationships or serving others or whatever makes you happy.
# 3 Break It Up Into Smaller Chunks
If you wait until you reach your huge massive financial goal to celebrate, you only get to celebrate once. Why not celebrate once for every $10K in student loans you pay off or every $100K in net worth you achieve? Mountains are climbed one step at a time, but if you keep moving, eventually you'll get there. Sure, you might not have become financially independent this year, but you did pay off the car, start a 529, and get your insurance sorted out. Well done!
# 4 Focus On Other Financial Issues
If you're getting impatient with one financial goal, switch your focus to another. Leave your investments or insurance on autopilot, and go work on your estate plan or asset protection or budget or whatever. Mix it up and when you come back, things will be fresher.
# 5 Live Your Ideal Life Now
This is probably my most important tip, and also the one I need to pay the most attention to. The reason you get impatient is that you aren't doing exactly what you want to be doing. Why not examine your life, figure out why it isn't your ideal life, and then take steps to make it closer to your ideal life. For example, I think I'd rather work 10-12 shifts a month, and no overnight shifts than the 15 shifts including 3 overnight shifts I currently work. That would be my ideal. If I were financially independent, that's probably all I'd work. Maybe instead of feeling impatient, I should just do what I can to live my ideal life now. How could I do that? I could plan to work longer, cut spending, or even save or give away less. There is nothing to be impatient about when you're doing exactly what you want to do. Just like with budgeting, the key is to set a budget on which you don't feel deprived, because if you constantly feel you're sacrificing something, you're far more likely to give up.
Patience may be a virtue, but there is more to it than simply hiding your impatience. Take these steps and you'll find it easier to stay the course with your financial plans.
What do you think? Do you find yourself impatient to reach your financial goals? Why or why not? What do you do to avoid failure due to impatience? Comment below!