The Knuckle Dragging Challenge


In today’s world, you’d have to be living in a cave not to know you need to save for your future. Not investing is like smoking and being certain there are no consequences. Below are a number of reasons we’ve heard in the not too distant past why individuals chose not to invest;

I’m too young. I have to pay for my car and some other stuff. Maybe later on, I have lots of time.
I don’t trust anyone with my money.
I can’t afford it. It’s the government’s job to take care of me in my old age, that why I pay taxes. That’s why there is the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security.
I have a company pension plan; it should be good enough along with my government benefits.
You don’t make money in the stock market, it’s rigged for the rich. I have other financial priorities, like paying off debt.
Saving is lame, spending is fun. My parents have more than they need, I know what is coming my way.
My company doesn’t have a pension plan, maybe one day they will or I might end up working for a company that has one.
Why would I spend time saving? I don’t care that I’ll be broke in my old age because I likely won’t want to do much then, compared to now.
My house is my retirement, RRSPs are a scam because you have to pay tax when you take your money out.
I will never have enough anyways, so why try?
I’m too old.

We wonder why many don’t seem to take their futures seriously. With a bit of research, it turns out it’s natural to not think of your life in the future, and when we do try to think about it, we often see ourselves as a different person. Psychologist Daniel Goldstein, in a 2011 TED talk, spoke about the difficulty of imagining yourself as older. And though we are living way longer than the historical norm, the concept of getting old still isn’t real to many of us. The following study helps shed more light on this.

Children and adults are challenged with what is called cognitive shortsightedness - AKA the marshmallow experiment (check it out here). Young children are told they can have a marshmallow now, or if they wait a short time, two marshmallows. Most opt for the single marshmallow. Even as we age, most of us don’t ever grow beyond seizing the moment vs. thinking longer term. It turns out we have millions of years of patterning in our brains that could be making us choose instant gratification Vs. waiting even briefly for a greater reward. Essentially, reaffirming our knuckle dragging origins. 

About 70,000 years ago, in the age of hunters and gatherers, it is estimated that we survived about 30 years. There was no need to plan for the future; just getting to tomorrow was a big challenge; so hoard, or take whatever you can get your hands on now!  The instincts that we developed over millions of years that were intended to save us, now often inhibits us. Just looking back to 1966 when the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) began, the average pensioner collected CPP for less than two years.  

Improved diets and medicines have extended our lives in recent history. Unfortunately it seems our instincts haven’t kept pace with the advances in our life expectancy. So what are we to do? 

Fortunately, Homo sapiens have the ability to ask questions. If your vehicles wheels are falling off, hopefully you ask yourself if there is something that can be done before you end up in the ditch, or worse.  

If you think you may have a tendency to make short-term decisions and want a reason to change? Consider the risk of ending up having to go back to being a hunter gatherer in retirement. Staying curious and asking yourself the right questions are critical. Along with being honest and open minded about your decision making process.

It’s tough enough dealing with bad habits, but when they are virtually a part of our DNA, we need to be all the more aware of them.  Maybe we stand upright now because we need to see further, and the further we can see, the closer we are to choosing our own destiny.