Stop saving for your future? Bear with me while I explain.
I’m all about the future, in fact, I secured my financial retirement before I focused on my income for today. However, I just learned why saving for your future may be holding you back.
It was another amazing TED talk. If you’re not taking advantage of all the wisdom on TED.com, start immediately! This particular talk was by Keith Chen and it was about language. Turns out, the language we speak, not just the words we say, apparently have a dramatic effect on how we save for our future.
Keith referred to our language as a “future speaking” language. If you’ve ever taken a foreign language (which means you’ve made it through high school), you know that verbs in different languages are conjugated differently. What I didn’t know is that not all languages have future tenses. Some non-future speaking languages use the same terms for today as they do for tomorrow.
How does that affect saving for the future? Dramatically, turns out. For those who use the same language for what’s going on today as they do for what may happen tomorrow, their futures have on average a twenty percent improvement across the board. That means, for example, that their future health is better because they’re thinking about their health for the future in the same way they are thinking about it for today. Keith uses the example of cigarette smoking: a “future speaking” language will sacrifice the negative effects smoking is going to have down the road for the immediate satisfaction that smoking brings today. Those with non-future speaking languages think the same way about today and tomorrow so they are twenty percent less likely to smoke seeing the effects as immediate.
Now let’s consider saving. In our future speaking language, retirement is somewhere in the distance. In fact, our language can make that ultimate event seem and feel very far away indeed. So for us, it becomes difficult to save money today for some down the road benefit. The non-futures, on the other hand, see the effects as immediate and their savings metrics are around twenty percent higher than ours.
Because of our language, “we disassociate the future from the present – the future feels like something more different and more distant from the present.” Futureless languages, on the other hand, feel about the future in the same way they feel about the present. Futureless language speakers tend to be some of the best savers in the world!
How can we benefit from knowing this? We won’t become non-English speakers, certainly, but we can change our thinking. We can begin to think about and recognize the future differently. We can stop saving for our future, and start focusing on the benefits today’s actions bring to us.
Personally, I recognize the overall improvement in my habits when I think differently. Not buying that blouse or another pair of shoes doesn’t become a sacrifice or feel like a deprivation, rather I see it as exercising important saving muscles and learning that all I have is all I need. I see that I’m actually benefiting my income, my savings, my health, and even the planet simply by consuming less.
It’s an interesting tie-in to another recent awakening. I like to have chunks of cash to invest quickly in property flips. I was trying to find new income streams for investing when I finally realized that simply spending less was a way of making more. It may seem basic and I’m sure we’ve heard this “strategy” many times, but for me it wasn’t real until that moment in time when I was really focused on finding more “spare” money to invest. So I slowed my spending dramatically. In fact, I didn’t buy anything for three weeks as a test. I carried neither cash nor credit cards for those three weeks and it became very obvious how quickly I pull out cash to buy little things that pop more often than I realized. I highly recommend you try the same experiment. Very informative.
The point of this article – stop saving for your future. Stop focusing on the future. It seems far away which makes it less significant than it should be. The future will be here before you know it. Know that, then put it aside and simply focus on today’s best behavior. Be your best today – do your best today – take care of your health today – save all you can today – and tomorrow takes care of itself.
Thanks, Keith Chen, for some powerful savings information.