There is one characteristic of human nature that is causing the high amounts of consumer debt that the majority of North American’s hold. What is it? It’s need for instant gratification.
Why save to buy something when you can borrow the money and have it now? The problem with buying now and forgetting about it is that it catches up on you sooner or later. Before you know it, the minimum payments will be more than you can handle.
A (sub) prime example is the current housing crisis going on in the U.S. Due to the accepted “buy now now now – ask questions later” lifestyle, some people were buying way more house than they could afford. Instead of saving for a down payment and obtaining a mortgage within what they could afford to pay, people went for the bigger more expensive house that their income could barely cover even with the low initial mortgage rates. As it typically does, instant gratification caught up on the over leveraged homeowners. Now, there is a record high number of foreclosures on the market.
Building lasting wealth is a slow process. Yes, there are some who seem to “strike” it rich all of the sudden, but more often than not, the wealth is due to hard work and commitment over time.
Examples of how delayed gratification can build wealth:
- Education: Getting post secondary education instead of trying to make fast money out of high school. I don’t need to tell you that post secondary education results in higher salaries than those without. However, being a “forever student” can obviously hinder wealth.
- Long Term Investing: Doing your research into a sound long term investment strategy instead of jumping in and out of whatever stock is “hot”. Case in point, how well do those high turnover active mutual funds perform relative to low cost index funds/ETF’s?
- Retirement Contributions: I always hear people around me questioning why they should they save for retirement today when they could be hit by a bus and not see tomorrow? Sure, it’s true that could happen, but what if the more likely happens and tomorrow does come? Will they be ready? Contributing early and often along with long term compounding growth is an easy way to retire wealthy.
- Saving: Living below your means to save for consumer items instead of living paycheck to paycheck (or beyond). From the Millionaire Next Door, most of North American Millionaires do not look like millionaires at all!
- Real Estate: Buying rental properties at a good price for the long term instead of flipping properties to get rich quick. Not only does flipping properties increase risk significantly, the profits are taxed at a higher rate!
- Business: When starting a business, spend quality time building the foundation (ie. the business plan). Even though compensation is low at this stage, it will pay for itself many times over as the business grows. Ever wonder why there are so many “Make $10k/month working from home” ads? It’s smart marketers preying on human “get rich quick” nature.
When I was younger, my parents always used the cliche “good things happen to those who wait.” Maybe they were onto something.