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How To Balance Living in the Now With Planning for the Future

Many of us worry that enjoying something now, like a vacation or a new pair of jeans, might mean missing out on a future of happy retirement. But the reality is more nuanced than that. 

February 25, 2022

Saving for retirement sounds sweet, but does it taste as good as the latte you’re craving right now? 

Many of us worry that enjoying something now, like a vacation or a new pair of jeans, might mean missing out on a future of happy retirement. But the reality is more nuanced than that. 

There is a way to live and enjoy the moment while still planning for your financial future. Here are some tips to help you balance these two important goals. 

Why is it important to think about the future? 

Planning for thirty, forty, or more years ahead can be daunting and scary. It can be hard to make decisions for an unknown future. Why should we plan for the future and worry about what’s to come when we can enjoy what we have now? 

Let’s take a step back to Psych 101 and talk about delayed gratification. Delayed gratification is the natural impulse to prefer an immediate reward even if the future reward is bigger, more exciting or more favorable. 

We see delayed gratification at play all the time when it comes to spending. Should you enjoy a spendy night out now or put that cash into your retirement account where you won’t see it for decades? 

For many of us, the impulse to spend now on a delicious dinner outweighs saving for retirement. 

In the context of delayed gratification, it makes a lot of sense that one in four Americans have no retirement savings. 

But it’s important to face reality: The far-off future isn’t that far off, and if you don’t have enough saved, you may struggle in retirement to maintain the lifestyle you’ve had during your working life. 

If you haven’t given much thought to saving, it’s never too late to start. 

How to plan for the future

When you’re balancing living in the now with planning for the future, the question shouldn’t be, “Which is more important, present or future?” They’re both equally important, and you can enjoy living in the now while still having an eye on retirement savings. 

Here are a few strategies you can implement to help you get in the right mindset for saving. 

Sticking to a budget

Without a budget in place, you have no idea how much you can afford to save and spend each month. 

Start by creating a realistic monthly budget. Include line items for daily things you may love, like eating out or a favorite fitness class, but don’t forget to add a line for retirement savings. 

Once you’ve created a roadmap, it’s easier to know where you’re headed when a paycheck rolls in.

Paying yourself first

Now that your budget is in place, pay yourself first. 

What does that mean? Regularly prioritize contributions toward savings and retirement accounts. These accounts will pay for your future, and filling those buckets first each month ensures you won’t skimp out on the contribution. 

To make things easier for yourself, you can even create automated savings or transfers, either through your bank account or employer. When your paycheck hits each month, the transfer immediately sends a predetermined amount to your retirement or savings account. That way, you won’t even notice the money leaving your bank account, and spending it isn’t an option. 

Similarly, your employer may have a pre-tax retirement contribution plan set up. In the case of a 401(k), this means that you can sock away some percentage of your paycheck before taxes are taken out. 


Taking advantage of “free” money

What do we mean by “free” money? Lots of workplace retirement plans offer perks like matching your pre-tax 401(k) contributions up to a percentage of your paycheck. Other companies may contribute to your retirement account whether or not you contribute, though this is rare. 

If you’re not putting money into your 401(k), you might be missing out on the money that would come from your employer. The average employee leaves about $1,336, or 2.4% of their salary on the table annually. 

Make sure you’re taking full advantage of your employer-sponsored retirement plan. 

Saving for mid-term goals

Retirement may be decades away. That is some seriously delayed gratification. It’s understandable if you can’t find the motivation to think that far into the future. That’s why creating some mid-term savings goals could actually help bolster your retirement planning. 

Have a dream vacation in mind or plans to buy a car? Add this financial goal to your budget and set aside a little each month to meet it. 

You’ll probably feel accomplished when you achieve the goal, which can strengthen your delayed gratification muscle. 

To save for a car, down payment on a house, or another big purchase, you may need to forgo some day-to-day splurges or impulse purchases. With that example and positive experience in mind, it might be easier to see the long-term payoff of retirement savings. 

Staying flexible

At some point, you may exceed your budget and fail to make a savings goal. Life happens, emergencies happen, a night of out-of-control spending happens. 

However, just because you make a mistake, it doesn’t mean you should throw out your budget or savings goals. Instead, try to stay flexible and learn from the mistake. 

When we get down on ourselves, it’s easy to ignore progress or abandon a personal goal entirely. Learning how to plan for the future is a balancing act — it’s natural to lose balance every once in a while. The key is trying to find that balance again instead of abandoning it altogether.

Figuring out how to plan for the future can be especially hard if you’re held down by credit card debt. That’s where Tally† comes in. The credit card payoff app can pull all your outstanding balances into one place, making it easier to organize and plan. Plus, with its smart payoff tools, you may be able to pay down your credit card debt faster. 

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