Can You Afford to Procrastinate?

Mr Life CEO - Can you afford to procrastinate?

So I came across this really entertaining TED talk about what its like inside the mind of a master procrastinator.

Towards the end of the talk, Tim presented a screen full of boxes that each represented 1 week of a person with a typical 90-year lifespan — to encourage everyone to realize how limited the time we all have to accomplish our goals.

Being curious, I wondered how many of those boxes have I expended. So, taking a 52-week year, I whipped up a Google Spreadsheet to get a visual of where I am today — unknowingly, creating my own DEADline Countdown clock 1If you want one, just click on the link, login to your Google account and save a copy. Just input your birthday and let the spreadsheet show you red..

A color range has been added just below the “Year” labels. In short, we should be at our most productive up to the end of the “golden zone” — the “Golden Years”. From age 50 onwards, the dark red zone, our physical and mental states would probably start going downhill. It just gets worse as we enter the grey, “Twilight Years”. Ultimately if we’re really “lucky”, we’ll be in our worst form in the black, “Dark Years”.

I’m 34 this year and the result?

MrLifeCEO - Deadline Countdown Clock

First question in my head: What have I accomplished?

Consider that I’ve already used up more than a third of my life and more than a quarter of my most productive period — I’m still not rich, nor am I famous, powerful, influential or wildly successful.

You know what? Every week, should I open up this spreadsheet, I will lose one more box to the red — and there’s no taking it back!

As the feeling of dread washed over me, I realized, that’s probably Panic Monster taking the stage right there!

Alright, come to think of it, at least I’ve learnt to walk, talk, finish my education and obtain a bachelor’s degree, then manage to get employed and stay employed all these years until I’ve got a pretty decent salary now. I married a beautiful wife, am debt-free and well on my way with my financial independence journey.

Gotta to give credit to my Rational self for keeping the monkey at bay for the last couple of years, otherwise I would’ve got nothing to show for it.

When you think about it, the topic of procrastination actually shares many similarities with the struggle to achieving early financial independence.


Procrastinating Freedom

Retiring Early (R.E.) is freedom that most people would love to achieve. However, here’s probably how it goes for the majority.

There’s the Rational Decision Maker, who thinks it’s a good idea to take 3 steps forward in life by

  1. Doing something to retire early
  2. Finding out where all that hard-earned money went each month
  3. Saving more money

Then there’s Instant-Gratification Monkey who takes 7 steps backwards because it loves

  1. Having Starbucks everyday
  2. Eating out
  3. Buying Stuff, most of the time on credit
  4. Owning the newest set of wheels
  5. Getting the latest mobile phones every year
  6. Buying the biggest house it can possibly obtain a mortgage for
  7. Signing up to lots of subscriptions because yeah, it thinks you’ll need it

Most people will somehow let this monkey roam unchecked — to drink those Starbucks, to buy new gizmos, cars and Stuff that end up being tossed into a corner of that big house where a maid is hired to prevent everything from collecting dust. Days become weeks, weeks become months and months become years.

And where’s Panic Monster in all of this?

Soon these people will turn 65 and will have access to their CPF Life monthly payouts.

Before we get to that, here’s how everyone’s chart would look like at 65, overlapped with where I am today.

MrLifeCEO - Deadline - Retire at 65

So Panic Monster doesn’t usually show up for most people who work till they enter the dark red, “Panic Years”, which is close to 55 years of age. That’s when they will have to make the transfer to their CPF Retirement Accounts (RA) from their CPF Special (SA) and Ordinary Accounts (OA). The lucky ones will have enough to reach their Full Retirement Sum (FRS), whereas the unlucky ones will barely be able to meet the Basic Retirement Sum (BRS). Either way, the monthly pension payouts would be a drastic dip from what they’re used to having.

Panic Monster wouldn’t be of much use then.

By 55, most will already be past their golden years and would’ve lost their earning power. No amount of hard work is going to match the amount that they could’ve made 10 years ago, much less make up for all that lost time that could’ve been used for compounding.

So they continue working until they finally realize they have to cut back on their living expenses — because there is no way their pension could keep up with the ravaging monkey and their bodies are not as strong as they used to be.

Life just passes by, with nothing to show for it. They would’ve missed out spending their lives on things that truly matter — time with their children, time with loved ones before they are gone, time achieving things they’ve always wanted to do.

They would’ve wished they hadn’t let Instant-Gratification Monkey take control of the limited time they have on this Earth.


What Do You Value In Life?

F.I is exactly one of those goals that doesn’t have a near-term deadline.

It’s not like rushing to finish a thesis. You can’t do it like Tim by compressing all that effort towards the last leg of the journey. Why? Because it’s not just effort involved, but money as well — which will be a lot harder to come by later and if you had been allowing Instant-Gratification Monkey to run wild. The only choice — continue working for less just to make ends meet.

F.I. when combined with Retiring Early (R.E), or F.I.R.E., on the other hand is different.

Retiring Early is understanding the limitations of the human condition. Yes, we may live to 90 and beyond — but what are the years that really matter? The Golden Years? Or the Twilight Years and those after?

Not all of us will be CEOs, win the Toto lottery or happen to chance upon a large inheritance. Even if we did, we all have to find out what it takes to achieve a sustainable and balanced in life — because all things in life are limited.

And just what is this balance?

It is to accumulate enough to fully fund your lifestyle — forever. The earlier you do it, the more of your golden years can be reclaimed.

For me, I value my golden years more than all the material things money can buy — and I want to retain as much of it as I can for my own use. That’s where my DEADline Countdown Clock comes into play. It’s to give Panic Monster some muscle and to remind me that I don’t have 90 years, but less than 15 of those golden years left to achieve that balance — so that I can move on to things that truly matter to me.

What about you?

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. If you want one, just click on the link, login to your Google account and save a copy. Just input your birthday and let the spreadsheet show you red.

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