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This week’s blog is inspired by our political leadership since I can’t seem to go anywhere without being reminded of the ticking clock in Washington. Once again, by putting off a decision until the last possible minute, its impact on all of us will be much greater than it should have been.

We all know that it’s easier to put off today what we can do tomorrow, but oftentimes we are simply taking a manageable situation and turning it into a crisis. If you look around, examples of this are not hard to find – and might even be happening in your own life.

A detrimental mistake I see people making at an early age occurs when they are just entering the workforce. The euphoria of earning (and spending) your first “real” paycheck may overshadow the importance of enrolling in the company 401(k). However, the combination of compound interest and time is a compelling reason to start saving early. If you start at age 25 and save just $20/ day and earn 6% interest, you will have amassed over $1.2 million at age 65. If you wait until you’re 35 and save $25/day, you will have $450,000 less to spend in your golden years.

As your career continues, retirement may seem a distant concern, so ensuring you are on track to get there is easy to put on the back burner. You need to take the time to make certain you are saving enough and your accounts are properly allocated at least annually. If you wait until you are ready to walk out the door before seeking financial advice the road to retirement may become even longer.

In retirement, if your spending is putting your financial solvency in jeopardy, many times making at least a small change can immediately make a large impact over time. The only thing you will accomplish if you ignore the situation is making it worse. Be honest when examining your needs versus your wants and wishes. It is a lot less painful to spend fewer dollars eating out, traveling or on gifts for your family than it is to get by on Social Security alone.

I often joke that when I am overwhelmed with the scope of a task, I like to “eat the elephant one bite at a time.” This is a good saying to keep in mind if it feels easier to put off or avoid making a financial decision. The ability to reach your goals may feel impossible at times, but procrastination may only ensure it is more difficult to achieve them. Just ask Congress.

Christine L. Carleton, CFP®