When I think back on my life, there are two main struggles that stand out. The struggle to be young, beautiful and thin and over-spending my money on clothes, shoes and anything with glitter. So much time was spent in constant striving to reach an impossible level of perfection. No doubt so much of my money was spent trying to fill that “unhappy” void with useless stuff that only left me temporarily happy. But, that’s a whole different issue in itself. Today I want to talk about how to manage your finances more wisely. There is undoubtedly a link between spending money and staying beautiful. However, that is not the link I’m talking about. This link between wrinkle cream and your finances goes much deeper and frankly can be solved a lot more simply. Well, maybe.
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It’s no secret that the beauty industry has majorly impacted the way we view ourselves every day. Not only is every photo we view highly Photoshopped and airbrushed, but now, thanks to filters, we are too! I’m guilty of choosing the #filter over #nofilter often because frankly the skin and eyelashes are amazing. All of these tweaks and changes leave so many people staring into the mirror dreading each new wrinkle and grey hair. What no one seems to tell us is that there are a lot of benefits that go along with aging and creating a plan for the future.
By nature, I am a person who loves to accumulate knowledge. A good portion of my younger years spent this talent soaking up all the best ways to be skinny while still having a nice butt (even before Kim Kardashian made it cool.) Now, I opt for books like Cameron Diaz’s The Body Book and The Longevity Book. These books are designed to teach specifically women how their bodies work, how to take care of them and how to love life (and food) while you do it. One major thing I learned from The Longevity Book was that middle age for us used to be the end of life. Our ancestors were lucky to make it to 40. Now it’s too often views as a massive inconvenience.
This fear of wrinkles and old age has lead to a lot of people living in a state of panic when it comes to the aging process. The funny thing is, those who embrace growing older get the chance to live an average of 7.5 years longer! That means more laughter, more memories, more chances to travel. It means more of everything.
So what am I getting at here? The big problem with the fear of aging means most people are spending their time trying so hard to make time stand still and that can lead to serious repercussions in life. Especially when it comes to learning to manage your finances and plan for the future.
In the animal kingdom, they don’t often worry about aging or what’s to come. They simply prepare for it. There are many great things that make us stand out from the animal kingdom…our anxiety about the future isn’t one of them. You don’t see squirrel kicked back chowing down on nuts and seeds with the hashtag YOLO carved into the tree behind them. No way, man. They are scurrying around, staying busy and planning for the winter ahead. Yet, they really seem to have lots of fun. Jumping from tree limb to tree limb, running on telephone wires and occasionally cheating death with a fun game called, “Don’t Be Roadkill.”
The human kingdom lives a little differently for the most part. For some the future means fear, anxiety and worry. What we don’t know can drive a person totally crazy. That’s why it’s so important on the things we do know and to plan for the future accordingly. We do know that in 2014 there were an estimated 46.2 million people over the age of 65 living in America.
Yes, life will be cut short for some, but the truth is most people will make it to retirement. Even worse, of those who make it to retirement, most will do it with insufficient funds. This means, in old age, when people should be allowed to kick back and relax and breeze through life, most people are having to cut back, trim the fat or continue working to get by. Then again, is skipping retirement that bad of an idea? See why some people don’t even know the word “retire.”
We also know the average American household carries $137,063 of debt. The average credit card debt is around $5,000 and actually jumps to $6,000 for those aged 65 and older. So for the people who are reaching retirement age, not only are they doing it with less money saved, but 3/4 of Baby Boomers are still actually owing money by the time they retire. Yikes.
So what about the people who embrace old age and live 7 years longer? Are they doing it with 7 more years of debt?
A study conducted at Stanford University found via MRI scans that some people when prompted to think about their future selves had their brain’s react as though they were thinking about a total stranger. This makes sense, since we don’t know who we are going to or what we’re going to look like, but the truth remains that we will still be ourselves. Then there was another group of people who saw their future selves as part of themselves. An entirely different part of their brain was activated. So, what significant difference did this make for each of these groups of people?
The second group, those who were more connected to their future self, were better at delayed gratification. This makes sense since they are most likely keeping their future self in mind when making every day to day decision.
To take the study even further, they looked at people around the age of 54. It was noted of each person’s savings, how they manage their finances, total wealth as well as all their assets. No surprise, those who related to their future selves more closely, found themselves in a significantly better financial state.
So what happens when you give people a visual aid? Another study by Stanford decided to do more than leave it to people’s imaginations. Instead they created avatars that looked like each study participant. Some were given a young avatar, resembling the person at their current age. A separate group was given avatars that looked like them but were aged to be about 68 years old. These groups were then asked a series of financial questions. Some dealt with the ethics off making money and others were more focused on building a savings and managing finances.
The group that was given the visual of themselves at the age of 68 chose to create a savings plan that was 30% larger than those who saw themselves in present time. These studies just go to show the more you embrace old age and connect to your future self, the better off you and your finances will be.
So what can you do now to try and help improve your financial situation? How do you connect more with your future self if and enhance your ability to withhold gratification? I have taken some ideas from my own experience, from The Longevity Book as well as The Marshmallow Test a book about delayed gratification and all it’s benefits!
If you are worried about the financial shape you’ll be in when you hit retirement, then it’s crucial that you get started right away! If you have no idea where to start, you can take advantage of some of my free helpful budgeting and finance posts or take advantage of my Fun Sized Budget Bundle:
Whatever current financial state you are in, it’s super important to take charge. Personally, we started kicking ourselves into financial shape with Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. It’s a worthwhile investment that can help you save your finances as long as you can delay gratification and plan for old age. Remember this quote: “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” – Earl Nightengale'Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.' - Earl NightengaleClick To Tweet