Why aren’t we planning ahead?

Time to read: 7 minutes

We live for the now and spend in the moment. But somewhere out there, beyond the shiny feelgood of today, our future selves are waving their arms around trying to get our attention. Find out what yours is saying and why your long-term financial happiness depends on it.

It’s our human nature

You, me, the next random person you see on the street. We all do it. We just can’t seem to help ourselves. When it comes to our finances, it’s so tempting to have it all today. Get the reward now rather than later. Choose immediate gratification over long-term satisfaction.

The numbers say it all. According to our research, 1 in 3 people agree it’s better to spend money on enjoying life now than saving for retirement.1

It’s how we’re wired. There’s even a fancy name for it that’s used in behavioural economics – temporal discounting. So it must be true.

Our future selves would say that we can evolve to think more long-term. But then there’s also the cultural influences to consider. 


Here and now temptation is everywhere

Millennials are a great example of a ‘have it now’ generation. Born between 1980 and 2000, they are the first generation of digital natives, with access to all the information they need at the press of a button or the swipe of a screen.

So, on one hand they’ve got a world of financial information, education and advice at their fingertips. And on the other, there’s the pressure to compare, copy and compete with everything they see through the eye of social media: 

  • Faultless selfies
  • Better holidays
  • Smarter mobiles
  • Designer clothes
  • Cosmetic tweaks
  • Faster gaming
  • Cooler cars 
  • Extremer extreme sports


Having come of age under the cloud of the global financial crisis, a time of low wages and very low interest rates, it’s not difficult to see how they could be swayed to spend rather than to save. And of course, they’re not the only ones.


Our long-term satisfaction brain thinks one thing…

It’s not as if we’re not switched on about our potential financial future. The prospect of an ageing population, rising healthcare costs and long-term low interest rates are all things that are on our radar.


71% of working age people believe retirees will have to spend more on healthcare costs in the future

74% of working age people believe levels of national debt mean there will be less support for the elderly

53% of working age people think low interest rates mean they will have to work for longer 2


…but our short-term gratification brain thinks another

Ultimately, it’s not a lack of education, available information or professional advice that holds us back. It’s us. And our habit of short-term thinking makes it very personal. 

Because we find it difficult to share our thoughts and worries about money, it’s easy to lose perspective and develop a skewed view of our finances. 

Some people feel ashamed, believing their Facebook friends are infinitely richer, happier and more successful than they are. Some folk feel disconnected, thinking investing for the future is something other people do. Others are afraid to rock the status quo, finding new opportunities more threatening than exciting.

It can be easier to believe our own excuses rather than change the way we think:

“My dad never told me about financial planning, so it’s not for me”

“I started a pension, but I need the money more for my kids”

“I’m too busy to do it now, but I’ll speak to someone about it later”

“It’s boring and I’d rather watch Bake Off”


The benefits of money talk

Excuses, excuses, excuses. If you can stop making them, you can start enjoying the benefits that come with talking about and engaging with your long-term finances. 

And we’re not just talking financial benefits, there are personal wellbeing benefits too.

  • Achieve your goals
    Once you stop worrying about whether you can keep up with everyone else’s life goals, you can actually focus on your own. From holiday adventures to new business endeavours - once you know what you want, you can put a financial plan in place to make it happen.
  • Dial down your stress levels
    When you bottle something up, it can cause an immense amount of stress and anxiety over time. Especially when it’s to do with your finances. By taking the lid off and engaging with the financial content, it’s there, it’s real and it’s ‘dealable with’ - relieving the pressure in every sense. 
  • Improve your relationships
    Most things in life are best when they’re shared, and your financial plan is no exception. Being open about your finances with your better half kicks those money misunderstandings into touch. You’ll benefit from another perspective and be able to make informed decisions about what you both want going forward.
  • Learn from others
    There are all sorts of saving and investing tips and techniques waiting for you out there. The more you talk about money matters with family, friends, forums and financial professionals now, the more opportunities you’ll have to share with and learn from others. 

    Talking of investing, we know it isn’t for everyone. There are fees involved and some risk, which means you may not get back what you put in. Yet despite that, it could also give your money its best potential to grow. If you know anyone who invests, why not ask them about how they got started.


Ways to start your long-term relationship

Like any first date, it can be awkward and embarrassing making the first move on your long-term finances. Don’t worry, your future self is cheering you on. Here are some profiles of great services, apps and tools to break the ice and get the conversation flowing about saving and investing. 

  1. Get some financial advice
    If you’re not sure how and where to invest your money, a trusted financial adviser could be a great place to start. With HSBC, you’ll get the same level of quality whether you choose our online, phone or face-to-face service. Our advice involves a one-off fee and financial eligibility criteria apply. 

    Great for: confidence and support

    Top tip. HSBC’s personalised online advice is no obligation, so you’ll only pay if you take our advice.

  2. Start a financial action plan
    Make your future self proud by creating a plan of action to make your financial life clearer and simpler. It will help you work out what your money is doing for you right now and where it might come from in the future.

    Great for: serious peace of mind

    Top tip. Start by making a monthly budget to see how much you can afford to save. 

  3. Use a smart app
    Your smartphone is your secret weapon when it comes to building an ongoing relationship with your money. Connected Money from HSBC is a brand new app that lets you see your accounts from different banks in one place. It has lots of clever features that help you keep track of your finances.

    Right now, the app is available to HSBC customers with online banking and an iPhone on iOS 10 or above. iPhone is a trademark of Apple Inc. registered in the US and other countries. 

    Great for: connecting to the bigger picture

    Top tip. Activate the ‘Discover’ feature to reveal what you’re spending your short-term money on every month.  

  4. Tap into online calculators
    Easy to access and free to use, you’ll find online calculators for everything from savings and investments to interest rates and retirement planning.

    Great for: quickly calculating rates and returns

    Top tip. Try our investment calculator to see your money’s potential compared to cash savings.

  5. Take the Work-Life Balance Quiz
    Your financial personality could affect the way you manage your money. So take our quiz and discover if you’re a Driven Achiever, a Budget Guru, or one of our 6 other personality types.

    Great for: seeing what makes you tick financially

    Top tip. Get your family or friends involved and see if you can predict each other’s financial personalities.


So, what do you think? 

Your future self is eager to know what you’re going to do next. Are you ready to make the move and step away from immediate gratification and stride confidently into long-term satisfaction? And don’t worry if you have a wobble or two along the way, you’ve got the best cheerleading team behind – and ahead of – you.


1 Source: HSBC, Future of Retirement: Bridging the gap, 2018 (PDF, EN)

2 Source: HSBC, Future of Retirement: Shifting sands, 2017 (PDF, EN)