Why talk about habit? And what does that have to do with financial planning?
Turns out – everything!
Everything we do is a habit. Our brains are designed through evolution to conserve energy. What better way than to turn our actions into habit so we don’t have to think about them … how difficult life would be if we had to think through everything we did!
Cue — Routine — Reward
Interestingly enough … habit can be changed … for the better. You can’t extinguish an old habit (not saving enough) … you can only change it. Your routine is the same – you simply change part of the routine to be an automatic routine (save just a bit more on auto pilot).
Changing this habit of not saving enough is, in my opinion, the easiest habit you have to adjust through a small change.
Your Cue: You want to be able to do something in the future.
Your Reward: You won’t have to get up and go to work.
Routine … that connect the two: set aside money (work = money; no work = no money … savings = money = no work).
Since retirement is common for everyone … I’ll use that as an example.
Many people have goals, but they don’t reach them. Why? They don’t crave the results … and they don’t believe. People crave not having to have to work yet don’t set up a habit, or routine, that would eventually lead to just that … not having to work.
How do you apply this? By setting up a Crave to Not Work Anymore Fund … and automatically put money into it. There’s a sense of accomplishment … you can see the fund working (even when balances go up and down … contributions still help your Craving fund grow over time).
Guess what … the people who do this simple step are more likely to not have to work anymore someday, than those who don’t.
The above is the first step … the hardest for many. But then our brain gets lazy again … “That box is checked” mentality. The next step is to slowly adjust the automatic savings part so there is enough to actually Not Work Anymore!
We don’t get healthier in a day. We don’t lose weight in a day. We don’t have to make huge sacrifices to build your Not Have to Work Fund in a day either … slow adjustments in all three cases over time are successful. And those who do come out ahead of those who don’t.
And getting our minds out of lazy habits, by making a simple adjustment each year, is why I remind people to assess what they are doing each year. And then we can go back to habit after the short assessment-adjustment cycle. (Retirees also have an assessment-adjustment cycle but theirs is reversed in that the discussion is about sustainable spending versus sustainable saving).
Over time I see people believe they can retire … and then do. This is why I believe the saving habit for retirement is a “Keystone Habit” related to your personal finance. “Small wins” over time help you feel accomplishment.
So … Invent your tomorrow … and then make it happen.
The Power of Habit … Why We Do What We Do by Charles Duhigg
PS. The financial example above is my example as to how Duhigg’s concepts may be applied in the realm I work in. The concepts he goes through may actually be applied to all areas in your life.
PPS. The Appendix “Reader’s Guide to using these ideas – has useful tips and process to apply the ideas easily.