Financial Procrastination Takes its Toll
By Margaret O’Meara, CFP®, AIFA®
William Shakespeare, as everyone knows, is the most famous playwright in history. His plays have been translated into every major living language, and it’s said his works have been studied more than any but the Bible. For centuries, people have loved him for his wit and his wisdom.
I’d like to share a bit of that wisdom in this letter. Shakespeare never actually wrote about finances, of course. But I’ve found many of his lines contain important financial lessons. So, I’d like to share a quote and the lessons they impart.
Hopefully, the Bard’s words will make these lessons even easier to remember.
“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”
The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 2, Scene 2
In this scene, a jealous husband is planning to take revenge on another man who intends to seduce his wife. He resolves to start early rather than wait, reasoning, “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”
The lesson here is on the importance of not procrastinating. Procrastination is one of the most common mistakes people make with their finances.
Here are some areas where people often procrastinate:
• saving for retirement
• creating a will
• filing their tax returns
• rebalancing their investment portfolio
• checking their credit score
• purchasing life insurance.
It’s easy to put off basic, every-day activities, too. Balancing checkbooks, paying bills...even using that $20 gift card you got for your birthday before it expires.
What’s the harm in procrastinating? Because when done too much, for too long, it’s easy to end up “a minute too late.” When that happens, you:
• don’t have enough for retirement
• don’t have your affairs in order after you pass away
• pay more in taxes than you must, or even incur penalties because you waited too long
• miss out on investment opportunities, or leave the door open for more investment risk.
You get the idea. On the other hand, being “three hours too soon” creates the opposite effect. When you start planning, start saving, and start acting long before required, you end up with more money for retirement, less money paid in taxes, more protection for your family, less headaches for yourself. More free time, less stress … the benefits of financial planning are almost endless.
If there are any financial decisions you haven’t made yet, or any phases of your life you haven’t planned for, don’t procrastinate. Start now. I promise it’s worth it. Borrow from the Bard. It truly is “better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”