I overhead a young person say, “This whole ‘financial planning thing’ seems so…far off. Like, it’s for this person I haven’t even become yet. Part of me thinks, just do it. Start being financially responsible. But another part of me says, ‘Relax! There’ll be time for that later. You’re not even dating anyone! You’re only in your mid-20s!”
Here’s what I wanted to say to that young single person:
I’d like you to meet someone: You—all the versions of You.
There’s obviously “Present You” (i.e., the person you are right now).
This is the You that gets most of your attention. That’s not a bad thing since “Present You” is the only You with the power to make choices. (“Past You” is long gone and “Future You” hasn’t arrived on the scene yet.)
Let me guess what “Past You” was like.
I bet “Past You” used to play with toys. (How am I doing so far?). Also…I’m guessing that “Past You” had at least one bad hair year and that staying up till midnight was a rare treat.
Maybe you look back on “Past You” with nostalgia. But here’s what’s almost certain, “Present You” has very different desires and activities than “Past You.” I doubt toys are a big focus now. And I’m sure your hair looks amazing all the time. Also, it’s probably rare for you to be asleep before midnight.
My guess is that if you spend much time thinking about “Past You,” it’s mostly to wish you could change certain choices you made or didn’t make…because of how those decisions affect “Present You.” (Who among us doesn’t wish for a few “do-overs.”)
Then, of course, there’s “Future You.” This is the person you’ll be 10, 20 or even 30 years from now… (I’m tempted to add “when you look and act just like your parents,” but I won’t say that because that would be cruel).
Because “Future You” seems so unknown and mysterious, you give most of your time, energy, and attention to “Present You.” That’s normal and natural.
But here’s what I want you to consider: One day “Future You” will be “Present You” and 2023’s “Present You” will be “Past You.” (You may need to re-read that sentence slowly.)
Take it from me. Your “Present You” in 2043 will look back on the person you are today. And when that happens, what you don’t want is 2043’s “Present You” looking back on the person you are right now and wishing for a do-over.
So, go ahead and fast forward in your mind 20 years. Try to imagine 2043’s “Future You” looking back at 2023’s “Present You.”
Are there choices you’re about to make…or actions you’re not intending to take that you’ll regret? Will you be wishing for relational do-overs? Occupational or financial ones?
Here’s the interesting thing: I’ll bet you could sit down right now and identify 80% of the things you know you don’t want for your future. 80%!
Given that fact, why not list those things right now and start making some wise choices? That’s like your “Present You” giving your “Future You” a do-over 20 years in advance!
That’s how you avoid regret. It’s how you can be sure your “Future You” will forever be grateful to your “Present You.”
One last thing…as far as avoiding regrets in retirement, let me offer you this: I’ve got a free (and fascinating) little “test” that can help you see in minutes what kind of retirement income plan would best align with your own unique personality. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you a free link.
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