We live in the present.
It's part of our genetics, says Dr. Brad Klontz, a certified financial planner and financial psychologist. "It's why we were able to survive as a species," Klontz said. "We're actually wired to enjoy the moment now and to consume as much as possible."
When you think about saving for your future, you're actually going against your entire biology.
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But there is a workaround: Establish an emotional connection to your savings goal. Really imagine yourself enjoying a secure retirement with plenty of money. Or picture yourself settling into your dream home.
It's more than just a TV-psychologist gimmick. In fact, a study Klontz conducted saw people's savings rates soar by up to 73% when they got fully and emotionally engaged in why they were setting money aside.
Here's how to get around biology to reach your goals.
Worth 1,000 words
We are wired to keep things the way they are. It takes work and effort to change. "If you can get clear about why you want to save, why it matters, who you're saving for and execute while you're excited about it, it can have dramatic effects," said Klontz, who's also associate professor of practice in financial psychology and behavioral finance at Creighton University Heider College of Business.
The good news is that you can leverage enthusiasm over something you want and use it to help you get there.
Just picture it.
Search for images that spark an emotional response, says Carrie Rattle, CEO and founder of New York-based Behavioral Cents, which provides financial coaching and therapy.
"A picture can help you zero in on what will make you really happy," Rattle said. People aren't always able to conjure the vision on their own.
Images that reflect your emotions can work. Find pictures of people in hammocks, walking on the beach or whatever shows your perfect day in retirement. If you want to pay down debt, a person jumping in the air with joy or looking serene and unworried might motivate you.
A vision board helped Jackie Beck, a personal finance blogger in Phoenix, take the trip of a lifetime.
Beck created a digital travel board on her computer so she'd be sure to visit places she has always wanted to see. "I added pictures and kept thinking, when are we going to make it happen?" she said. "If you see it regularly, you make it happen," she said.
Sure enough, about a year after starting a board on Africa, she and her husband got on a plane and flew to Kenya. The board helped spur her to plan, research and talk to people for recommendations.
The law of attraction
It might seem a bit woo-woo, Rattle says, but here's how this works.
Perhaps you want a green apple, Rattle say, so you focus on that every day. "Some people say if you hope for one, the universe will give you one," she said.
Another interpretation says that once you start focusing on your goal, your awareness sharpens.
If you know where you're going, you start thinking about how to get there. Maybe you'll go to the supermarket more often or visit a nearby farm.
Voila, there's your green apple. It may have started with visualization, but it ended up in your hands because you spent time thinking about how you might actually get it, and you did the necessary work.
If your dream is a trip to Italy, start researching and deciding where you'd like to go once there. Countryside? City? You might list museums and churches you'll visit or foods you want to try.
Next up is your nuts-and-bolts process. Let's say you need $5,000 for the trip, which is five years away. This means saving $1,000 a year. Break that down to a monthly or weekly amount, Rattle says.
This way, you know exactly what kinds of changes you need to make, such as taking lunch to work every day. Remind yourself when you save $10 on lunch that it's going for your trip to Italy.
Whether you use paper or a site like Pinterest to create your board digitally, put it somewhere you can see it regularly, Beck suggests. "Maybe your fridge, your desk or inside the medicine cabinet," Beck said.
Goals are very easy to set and then forget about, Beck says. The vision board helps you keep it top of mind.
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