| April 17, 2013

Study: Immediacy of society thwarts long-term planning

Technology and mobile media have made it easier for consumers to purchase what they want more quickly and avoid the wait times that were previously associated with certain activities. With the stroke of a key, individuals can shop online and secure overnight shipping, download coupons, book travel and get in touch with friends and loved ones. While there are a number of benefits to constant connectivity and immediate access to services and information, a new study shows that there is also an important drawback.

According to data from a new Northwestern Mutual study, the immediacy of society makes it more challenging for consumers to set and accomplish goals that require long-term planning. This is largely because people become accustomed to getting what they want quickly, which can diminish the patience and hard work that is necessary to accomplish long-term goals. The findings indicate that 31 percent of respondents think the immediacy of society – which is facilitated by email, texting, social media and mobile technology – is distracting, and another 69 percent said these portals make sticking to long-term goals difficult. 

"We’re living at a time of extraordinary progress and transformative change, where the tools we carry around every day allow us to do almost anything from anywhere at any time," said Greg Oberland, Northwestern Mutual executive vice president. "Still, many of the most important things in life can’t or should not be done at lightning speed. Having a long-term financial plan is a perfect example. There simply are no shortcuts for that."

Developing the patience for long-term planning

When it comes to certain financial actions, such as paying off credit card debt, building an emergency savings fund or amassing wealth for retirement, it’s crucial that individuals develop the patience to stick to a slow and steady approach. Becoming frustrated when they don’t see immediate results and then giving up can endanger consumers’ future fiscal health. To overcome these challenges, consumers might consider speaking with a credit counselor or financial advisor who can help them develop a consistent money management plan and hold them accountable for reaching their goals. Other small actions, such as automatically transferring a certain percentage of income into a separate account can also be instrumental in helping individuals avoid spending temptations and focus on saving. The same type of automation can also be helpful for paying down credit card debt. Setting benchmarks in smaller time increments – such as every three months – can also demonstrate to consumers that their small money management steps are paying off.

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