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The majority of Americans do not plan for retirement, even though it is an essential part of their financial security. Here are a few suggestions for finding the motivation, or the energy, to start on your path to prosperity.
What’s at Stake
If you do not want to be among 80% of Americans who worry about income in retirement, and if you would like to create the wealth necessary for the peace of mind and the realization of dreams that you have for the second half of your life, you need to find the motivation to think ahead and take the right action now.
Why planning is important Research studies prove that planning is a very strong predictor of wealth. Annamaria Lusardi, a professor at Dartmouth College, came up with a few studies revealing that those who do not plan get close to retirement with half the amount of wealth than those who have done some planning – HALF! (Annamaria Lusardi, 1999, 2009; Lusardi and Beeler 2007, Lusardi and Mitchell, 2007, 2009; Ameriks, Caplin, and Leahy, 2003). Planners are more likely to experience a satisfying retirement because they have higher financial resources to rely on. Renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow put safety and security at the foundation of the Pyramid of Needs. This is just common sense. Spending every day of your life in retirement worrying about money is not going to be a satisfying experience.
Financial path to a successful retirement
Financial literacy is strongly and positively related to planning (the link to the study is at https://www.joycompass.com/resource/financial-literacy-and-planning-impl...). So, here is the FINANCIAL PATH TO A SUCCESSFUL RETIREMENT:
Motivation ⇒ Financial literacy ⇒ financial planning ⇒ wealth ⇒ successful retirement.
Motivation means activation or energizing of behavior. In other words, it gives you the energy to do something. Anyone can acquire basic financial literacy skills very quickly; the trick is to want to do it. Later in this article, I will help you understand your motivation style and show you how you can work with your motivation quickly and easily.
Why don’t people do what’s good for them?
Even though the financial path to a successful retirement is easy to understand, studies show that only about 10% of people have basic financial literacy (view the study at https://www.joycompass.com/resource/americans-financial-capability). Why?
1. Some people are not aware of the relationships in the FINANCIAL PATH TO A SUCCESSFUL RETIREMENT: Motivation ⇒ Financial literacy ⇒ financial planning ⇒ wealth ⇒ successful retirement. They might not be aware that people who plan end up with twice the wealth of people who don’t. They might mistakenly think that one needs money to make money.
2. Some people are aware of the importance of financial literacy, but they do not know how to motivate themselves to acquire financial literacy skills.
Since we have made the relationship between financial literacy and wealth and successful retirement clear, let us now figure out how to acquire the motivation necessary to get it.
How to motivate yourself to be wealthy and joyful in retirement
Motivation gives you the energy to do something. Here are the two steps towards finding your motivation to become financially literate.
Step 1. Figure out your overall motivation style: positive, negative or creative
If you are positively motivated, you are looking forward to reaping the rewards of being financially literate. If you look at the FINANCIAL PATH TO A SUCCESSFUL RETIREMENT: Motivation ⇒ Financial literacy ⇒ financial planning ⇒ wealth ⇒ successful retirement, you are excited to create the wealth and the success that can be yours if you become financially literate.
If you are negatively motivated, you find it unpleasant to miss out on the wealth you could have created (remember, you would only end up with HALF of what financially literate planners will have created). You might be worried that you’ll reach retirement poor and miserable. Imagine that you might not be able to afford the basics, let alone the comforts of life. Imagine the absolute worst case scenario and SCARE yourself into becoming financially literate. If you are scared already, you’re half way there – now you just need to harness this energy into the motivation to acquire financial literacy skills.
The third way of motivating yourself to become financially literate – in addition to the positive motivation of wealth and the negative motivation of financial distress – is being creative. Kids playact all the time: one minute they are a pirate, the next one a tiger. I say let’s give them some competition and play Sherlock Holmes for a few hours a month investigating new concepts and figuring out new information. If you can come up with other ways of having fun with it, more power to you!
Step 2. Tweak this until you feel you WANT to do it
Once you find your main motivational strategy (you can have another one as a backup, but you’re likely to rely on one primary strategy), you need to tweak it until it resonates with you.
If being Sherlock Holmes leaves you indifferent, think of another character that you like. Maybe it’s Ms. Marple. Or a chipmunk from Rescue Rangers that comes to your rescue. Let your imagination run wild!
If you’re negatively motivated but not driven by money, put it in the terms that are dear to your heart. “I love eating out, but I will only do it once a week in retirement, not twice.” “I love going on vacation, but I will be able to afford only one vacation a year, not two.” “I like buying gifts, but I’ll be able to get them only …” Find exactly what it is you like, and translate it into your terms.
Keep tweaking until you come up with the end result that resonates with you deeply. It should sound so good that you’re drooling over it. My primary motivation is freedom, and I started putting money aside in a 401(k) in my early twenties. I love thinking about having the foundation for freedom to be, do and have what I want. I love building up the funds that will help me be free to do whatever I like. My secondary motivation is creativity. I research financial topics because I love writing about them. It is so much fun for me that after I did some reading before going to sleep, I woke up at 2AM with this article already written (in my head) and I am just putting it down on paper now. I have a ton of energy as I’m doing it, and I will get up in the morning fresh and ready to go. This is the type of motivation that I would like you to tap into. The key is to harness the energy within you. It will take you on your path to wealth, which provides the foundation for a great quality of life in retirement. I am convinced that you can do it!