Overcoming the ‘Too Late Now’ Mindset for Financial Bliss

If you haven’t been living the “perfect financial life” since your first day of adulthood, it’s easy to feel like it’s too late now! “I’m doomed, so why bother.” The pressure is real— we are bombarded with messages about how much we should have saved, how much we need to earn, and essentially told that we’re doing everything wrong.

I know that’s how I felt over a decade ago, when I was sitting in a cubicle, anxious to find an escape. In my mid-30’s, I felt too old to salvage the dumpster fire of a financial situation I had created. But luckily, I was desperate enough that I decided to do something dumb… I tried.

I learned that if you embrace the mantra, don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good, that change is not only possible but can be extremely powerful, at any age. Here’s my tips for overcoming the “it’s too late” mindset, and a little bit about my personal story, for those who like that sort of thing.

Realize You’re ALWAYS Old

The truth is, no matter your age, you’re going to feel like you’re old. After all, you’re the oldest you’ve ever been on any given day, right? I remember hitting my mid-20s and thinking I should have life figured out by now! In my mid 30’s, wow….I really felt old then! How could I be THIS old and not have saved for retirement?

In my mid 40’s now, I can look back and see what an absolute baby I was, in my 20’s and 30’s. I chuckle at those naive, albeit less wrinkled, past versions of myself. Old enough now, I recognize the trend and am looking forward to thinking about what an idiot I am today in 10 years.

Realize What You Already Have

First of all, you need to start with realizing you already have a ton of good things going for you, regardless of how bad the situation seems.

If you’re reading this, that means you have access to the internet, have basic reading comprehension skills in English, and good taste (hehehe.) You also have at least the slightest little spark of desire to learn and change.

You likely live in America, as that’s the majority of people who I reach. No where is perfect, but comparatively, the US is pretty good as far as opportunities for financial success. There’s structural things like bankruptcy protections, first time home buyers programs, financial aid, tax incentives for retirement saving, among lots of other things.

Now that I’ve gotten you started, I’m sure you can think of at least 5 more things you’ve got going for you.

Realize Today is Great

Another thing you’ve got going for you is that you’re alive TODAY, the best day to be alive. Not just because that’s basically all we’ve got, but empirically it has never been easier to be an investor.

Today, we have unprecedented access to information and educational resources to make informed financial decisions. Online platforms, financial blogs, and educational websites offer a wealth of knowledge on personal finance, investing, and wealth-building strategies.

Also, the barrier to entry for investing has never been lower. You used to have to find a broker, and pay them a lot of money to buy and sell investments for you. To work with a broker, they often required you to have in the ball park of $100,000. And the products they sold you were often jammed packed with fees that made them and investment companies more rich, rather than you. Now, we can just go online, open an account, and in a few hours, be an equity stakeholder with as little as $100!

Some of the most powerful investment tools we have today are relatively recent inventions. Index funds didn’t exist until 1975, ETFs came about in the 90’s, the Roth IRA in 1998 and zero fees have really only been widespread for the past 5 years. If you don’t know what all those things are, don’t worry, just know they’re freaking awesome, and then go look them up! All of these things make investing today light years better than the past.

Realize the Propaganda Used Against You

A significant portion of the financial information we’re fed is designed to play on our fears and persuade us that we need big help! Portions of the finance industry often push this narrative that accumulating a substantial amount of money is an absolute necessity and highly complex.

It’s crucial not to be swayed by the hype and critically evaluate the information you encounter. You hear things like: You can’t possibly retire with less than $10 million, have a kid, plan to spend half a mill. Or, not making 6 figures is extreme poverty! Know that is all a bunch of crap that will only serve to keep you stuck in that ‘I’m hopeless’ mindset.

Realize Life is Long

Akin to the always feeling old phenomenon, we fail to imagine that we will have a long life. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. That’s the hardest part of life, right? Not knowing our departure date. But for your finance’s sake, assume it’s going to be a long life. I’m not going to go into actuarial tables, but for most people reading this article, you probably have several years, if not decades in front of you!

The best part about investments (of time, money, positive habits) is that they compound. Clichéd yes, but look at it like planting a tree. If you plant a sapling, set it on auto-drip, when you come back in twenty years you’re likely to have an awesome shade and fruit bearing tree. In the meantime, you’ve been off living life, not even thinking about it. Those ten or twenty years in front of you that seem daunting now, will have seemed to fly by in hindsight.

My Story

I was in my mid 30’s when I got serious about changing my finances.  I had not one, but TWO completely financially silly degrees: a Liberal Arts undergrad and a Master’s in Social Work, and went into debt for both. I cashed out my small retirement plan, paying a 10% penalty, in order to quit my Social Work job, move and become a bartender. (Actually, that wasn’t such a bad decision.) I never imagined that I would ever be anything but poor.

As luck would have it, I ended up answering phones for a financial firm. Being in that environment, I learned financial terms, basic tax and investing concepts, and most importantly saw that money makes money. I finally got up the courage to open my first investment account. This was a 180 degree shift from my strategy of stashing $20 bills in a book.

The more I learned, the more I became focused, and made decisions that led to some growth. Slowly, I got out of debt, started increasing my retirement account contributions, maxing out my IRA.  I started to think of myself as someone who was ‘good with money.’

Fast forward 10 or so years, and I own four doors of rental property, have a plump retirement account, allowing me to leave my job to travel and pursue other interests. Such as, writing and helping other people to master their financial world!

Small Changes Paid Dividends Along the Way

It didn’t take me getting all the way to where I am today to start feeling the warm glow of financial bliss! Life gradually became more enjoyable and I had more opportunities open to me as I got my finances in order.

When I got out of debt I was freed up to start saving. When I got a good sized emergency fund, life became much less stressful. When I got the second income from a rental property, I was able to be more risk-taking at work. That led to me getting a manager position that paid more.

The point is, you get benefits from financial improvements you make even if you don’t make it all the way to some magical end point of full financial independence. Again….don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good!

Really, Any Age?

Okay, so 30’s turned out to not even be that late a start, in hindsight. But really, can anyone of any age make a change that really pays off?

Here’s my extreme example of it’s “never too late.” I have a relative in his late 80’s who thought that he had to carry a balance on his credit card for them to leave the account open. He wanted a credit card, as it gave him a sense of security. He didn’t realize he could use it, pay it off in full each month, and the account would stay open.

So, he had been paying a high credit card interest rate on a balance of a few thousand dollars for decades. This was money he did not have. He had also gotten into the habit of spending on the card without really budgeting, and the balance was slowly creeping up. With recent interest rate increases, the minimum payments had really jumped.

He had to start paying attention to what he was spending again and be more frugal, but he did eventually pay off the credit card. He has the discipline now to only put on it what he can pay for in full at the end of the month. He has a little more breathing room in his tight budget by not paying wasteful interest, while still having the feeling of safety provided by having a line of credit available to him.

He feels more empowered, and his good habit is now compounding rather than his bad habit. And his family worries a little less. All because of gaining one small piece of information and making some relatively minor behavior changes.

Invite Financial Bliss into Your Life

So there! Hopefully you have some good reasons and a few examples to get you to take some actions if you’re stuck in that “too late now” mentality. Start small, start anywhere, and more financial bliss just might find its way into your life.

Have you ever battled self-defeating mindsets like this in your financial journey? I’d love to hear about your experience and what worked for you? Comment below, share your story!

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