“You’re going to die in 48 hours.”  If a doctor gave you that diagnosis, would your plans change for the next two days?  Absolutely, right?  You would be racing around like a madman (or woman) saying goodbye to family and friends and tying up as many loose ends as possible.

Now imagine that the diagnosis changed from 48 hours to 48 years.  My guess is that your sense of urgency just evaporated.  No need to rush.  There’s plenty of time to live life, spend time with family and work through your “To do” list.  That’s because for most things, time and urgency or inversely correlated.  That’s just a fancy way of saying that a whole lot of time equals not much urgency and vice versa.

That equation is true in sports, life, deadlines at the office and just about everything else you can think of.  Where it doesn’t always hold true, however, is with your money, where less time often translates into less urgency.  Given 48 hours to live, I’m guessing money would be the last thing on your mind.  You certainly wouldn’t swing by the HR department and increase your monthly 401(k) contributions.  But that is exactly the kind of response you should have after learning that you have 48 years to live.  The more time you have (i.e. the longer your life expectancy), the more money you will need and the more urgent it becomes to be saving as much as possible.  So if you plan on living for awhile, hurry up!  You have a lot of time and there isn’t a minute to waste.

A few practical applications:

  • Automate your savings in 2012 by having money automatically taken from your paycheck or checking account each month.
  • Calculate what you saved this year and increase it by 1% next year.  If possible, do the same every year after.
  • If older than 50, take advantage of the catch-up contributions allowed on your 401(k) and IRA.
My brain made me do it: How to avoid bad investment decisions.
The glass is half full