Overcoming Client Procrastination with Financial Planning

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Why do we put off taking action that is important to our financial health? In the past, I have explored some of the financial "emergencies" that can be avoided with planning or prevention. It’s easy to understand why planning is so important. It's less easy to understand why clients procrastinate on important things that are in their best financial interest and that of those they love.

Nine out of 10 people would agree that planning makes sense. Just knowing that we "should" plan, however, isn’t going to change most financial behaviors. We already know what needs to be done. The bigger question is why we put off doing it.

When we drill down, the answer to that question is almost always emotional. Our procrastination often has deep roots in anxiety, fear, and grief.

Many of those blocks to planning can be tied back to things we experienced earlier in our lives that were never resolved. For example, I once had a client, a business owner in his 50s, who had committed to contributing several thousand dollars a month to his retirement plan. He knew he needed to prepare for retirement; in fact, that was the main reason he had engaged my services. He himself had decided on the monthly amount. His business was thriving, and he could easily afford to make the payments. Yet he never managed to get around to sending them.

When we discussed this, he couldn't come up with any reasons for his procrastination. Finally, I asked him, "What does retirement mean to you?" He pondered this for some time and finally responded, "It means I die."

He went on to explain that every male in his family had died within two years after retiring. He didn’t want to retire, or even think about preparing for retirement, because he wasn’t ready to die. Retirement to him didn't mean moving into another phase of life; it meant the end of life.