The Real Costs of Procrastination

Procrastination is defined as "putting off, delaying, or deferring an action until a later time." All of us may be guilty of this from time to time, whether it be putting off a household chore, not touching base with someone you haven't talked to in a long time, or not taking action on something that is important.

Many times in my career, I have witnessed people who have no wills in place, who wait to invest their cash, or who wait to discuss with family members where important items are kept, or discussing their final wishes.

Case in point, a married client with five children (two from a prior marriage) told me at our last meeting that he was planning on getting a new will written. However, that was the same statement he had made during the previous four or five meetings we had over the course of the last eight years. Sadly, he died unexpectedly and had an old will in place from the first marriage, which did not reflect his current wishes. The months that followed took a devastating toll on the family. The children were no longer speaking to each other the last I spoke to a family member about five years ago.

Another individual, who inherited his assets from his parents, felt he was a rich man. He wouldn’t think about what the future might hold. He had several desired home repairs done. He bought a new Harley Davidson. His best friend got into financial trouble, so he gave him some money. Cruises and expensive trips were normal. Every time we spoke about his spending habits, he would always tell me he knew he had to slow down, and he planned to. When he called twice in one month requesting money and discovered his nest egg had dipped below $100k, reality finally set in. He began to ask me, “What am I going to do?” He would say, “Why didn’t I stop spending so much when I told you I would?” I feel certain that if his deceased parents could have known how he would handle his inheritance, they would have set up a trust for this man to control such behavior.

My last example of procrastination is a story of a 70-year old client who died. He and his wife had “his and hers” investments and savings. While he did have a will, he had told no one where his investments, savings, and some debts were. For ten years prior to his death, he would tell me that he planned to write everything down and put it with his will. For ten years, he said he would make sure someone knew where his things were. I realized he had not done this when his widow came to me for help. I supplied her with a list of his accounts that I had been given at our meetings. His widow was still finding hidden stock certificates four years after his passing. He had reinvestment accounts at numerous locations for stocks he owned, but did not hold the certificates. There were accounts at nearly every local bank. Her final years were stressfully spent worrying about leaving things in good order for their children.
The outcome of procrastinating is rarely good and can take a toll on our health, our careers, our friends, coworkers, and family. The costs associated with procrastinating are large and very real.

Here is an article that was published in Psychology Today. Joseph Ferrari, PH.D, an associate professor at DePaul University in Chicago, and Timothy Phycol, Ph.D., an associate professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, discuss why we procrastinate. The article tells so much about this human trait.