If you’ve ever planted anything—from a lima bean in a water soaked paper towel to a vegetable garden—you know that it takes time and the right conditions to bring anything from dormancy to fruition. It really doesn’t matter how anxious you are for that perfect tomato. It takes exactly as long as it takes.
The rest of our world has been cast with a vastly different set of rules and expectations. We want and expect immediate gratification. We expect corporate managers to do whatever it takes to deliver higher profits, even if it means forgoing research and development, long-term projects and business reinvention. We want and expect that the moment we place our bet on a stock that it will rise like the morning sun. We want our rewards now.
This mindset filters into government (Federal, state and local) which has allowed our infrastructure to crumble and our schools to make do with less while we busily focus on the now.
Personal finance is no exception:
“What’s the good of saving for retirement? I might be dead by then.”
“Buy insurance? That’s betting against myself!”
“Yes, I know my IRA is for retirement, but I can’t believe that the performance was so bad last month. It makes me nervous.”
“Put that money away for my kid’s college? But that means I won’t be able to go on vacation next year. And what if I need the money for something else?”
Most of us are conflicted when it comes to money because we must make choices; and like the menu at the local diner, there are just too many of them. We know intellectually that saving, providing, protecting, investing and planning are all good moves—worthy and important for comfort both today and tomorrow.
But we know emotionally that we want to enjoy the fruits of our labors now.
So on the battle rages.
Good planning takes into account what we need in the short, mid and long-term and how to proceed to make that happen. Yes, sacrifices, choices and decisions must be made—some more painful than others. But like growing tomatoes, it takes time (and a little help from Mother Nature) to produce something worthwhile.
There are no healthy workarounds. Case in point: companies have tried to trick nature’s cycles by chemically forcing growth in plants and animals. The impact? Ultimately forcing antibiotics and other chemicals into our food system and our bodies.
As we turn the corner into the New Year, take a breath. Life has an ebb and flow, a cycle with its own time frame. It takes 24 hours from one day to the next and no matter how hard we try, it cannot be more or less.
You want your planning to take the same attitude. Markets rise and fall, interest rates move at their own cycle, jobs come and go, health is here one day and challenged the next.
Instead of throwing your hands up in surrender, just take each step forward carefully. Remember that it takes time and attention to build a secure financial life just as it takes time and attention to build a full, rich and meaningful life.
Or the perfect crop of tomatoes.