Just do it! Re-write the procrastinator’s playbook.


Jason Prowd  |  29th August 2018  |  7 min read

Key point
  • The opportunity cost of not investing can be high – as much as $70 a week between 40 and 65.
  • We’re wired to feel good about having money, but it doesn’t work the same way for saving and investing.
  • Make a small change now and overcome your natural urge to procrastinate.

Game of procrastination bingo anyone? This is where you fill in the squares with anything you’d rather do than that gnarly task you’ve been putting off – wash car, weed garden, tidy garage, followed by the pantry, then any wardrobe of your choice. Then play along and see how many you can complete before you just knuckle down and do that thing you’re avoiding.

We all procrastinate sometimes. Some put it down to laziness, for others, it comes from perfectionism – we daren’t even begin a task for fear the result won’t measure up to our impossibly high standards. In the end, there’s usually some kind of reckoning to ensure we bite the bullet eventually. I put off my taxes for a few years, not a great decision in hindsight.

The opportunity cost when you don’t invest

But what if the price we’re paying for procrastination is a missed opportunity? It’s harder to feel the pain and do it anyway when we don’t know what we’re giving up by stalling. That’s why I’m going to tell you just how much money you’re losing by not getting on with investing.

Let’s say you’re 40 and have $10,000 to invest. Tuck that money away for 25 years, earnings say 7% per year, and you’ll have $54,274 when you turn 65.

But delay investing for just a day and you’ll have $10 less, by a week $70 less – once you’ve delayed by a year you’ll be $3,513 behind, as each day you delay you miss out on your money compounding. In effect each day you don’t invest is costing you at least $10—that’s money you could have if you act now.

Add to the amount each month and you’ll be even further ahead.

The promise of money vs the real thing

Doing something about that $10 a day you’re missing out on should be a no-brainer. But it isn’t. Our reactions to money under these circumstances can be confounding as psychologist and broadcaster Claudia Hammond explains in her excellent book Mind over Money The Psychology of Money and How to Use It Better.

Hammond tells us that having money stimulates an incredibly powerful reward system in our brain. Money in your hand gives you a natural high as it comes with a hit of dopamine. Unfortunately, the promise of a big pile of money in the future doesn’t deliver that same dopamine dose. So as you hear about that investment windfall, it’s not going to bring the same heady excitement you’d enjoy if I handed you a fat wad of $9,000 in cash.

And this is why we’re all world-class procrastinators when it comes to money. That and a misplaced trust in our future selves to somehow overcome these brain barriers. As Hammond puts it “Yes, we will start saving, we tell ourselves, but not yet. We tend to believe that although we’ve not been good at saving up to now, we’ll be better in the future. Surely in the future, we’ll earn more, spend less and save more?”

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Trick yourself with the 10-minute rule

Let’s say your reluctance to invest comes from this same blind spot Hammond identifies in slack savers (hint: it probably does). Her adviceto start small and simple. And that’s just what I’m going to suggest for your all-new investing approach – the 10-minute rule to bust procrastination.

All you have to do is spend 10 minutes getting your investment journey started. How you choose to spend that time is up to you. It could be you’ll read a couple more insights from Morningstar Next. Comparing the pros and cons of property and shares as investments can get you up to speed on the merits of different asset classes. Or learn about having your budget investment-ready with my 5-step guide.

If you’re someone that prefers action to reading, make a call, email or SMS (people still use those right?) to get the ball rolling. Follow up with that friend or cousin who was raving about their financial adviser and investment portfolio at a Sunday BBQ.

Rip up that scorecard and just do it

When you’ve done your 10 minutes, it’s up to you whether to keep going. After you’ve asked about that adviser, commit to spending another 10 minutes to get in touch once you’ve got their details.

But the killer thing about the 10-minute rule is you have to just do it. Right now. Time to shred that procrastination bingo scorecard for good, and take the first steps on your investment journey without delay.

— Jason Prowd leads Morningstar Next: ready-made investment portfolios. Discover more here

© Morningstar Investment Management Australian Limited (‘Morningstar’) and any related bodies corporate that are involved in the document’s creation. Whilst all reasonable care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of information provided, neither Morningstar nor its third-party providers accept responsibility for any inaccuracy or for investment decisions by any person on the basis of the information included. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Morningstar does not guarantee the performance of any investment.  Any general advice has been prepared without reference to your investment objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider the advice in light of these matters and if applicable, the relevant disclosure document before making any decision to invest. Refer to our Financial Services Guide for more information.

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