20 Years Ahead

Dear Dr. Per Cap: 

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to get a better handle on my finances. I try this every year, only to get sidetracked after a few months. 

Any tips to help me stick with it?


Losing Focus

Dear Losing Focus,

One reason people struggle with New Year’s resolutions is because they don’t think long-term. It’s natural to think more about the present than the future.

Here’s what I want you to do: Imagine sitting down and eating lunch with yourself in 20 years. That’s right – picture yourself a little greyer, a little longer in the tooth, looking a little more like your parents, while sitting across the table wearing a t-shirt that says, “I Love My Tesla.”

Maybe you’re eating in a McDonald’s of the future staffed by robots serving up plant-based burgers and chemically engineered French fries that never go soggy.

Meanwhile, your outdated electric vehicle that your kids or grandkids laugh at because the battery weighs more than a grand piano, has dropped you off while it makes you a few bucks doubling as an autonomous Uber taxi until you’re ready to leave.

Who knows? Maybe it’ll make enough to pay for those Big Macs that now cost 50 bucks apiece. Or maybe you’ll pay with bitcoin – a little or a lot depending on how that game plays out.

Either way, visualize trying to explain to your 20-year-older self why you fell short on your finances back in good old 2023.  Tell this person that they’re still renting an apartment because you didn’t buy a home, even a tiny home, when they were still kind of affordable.  

Explain why they’re still paying for those IMAX tickets that you put on your credit card to see “Top Gun: Maverick” in the summer of ’22. While you’re at it, try explaining why Tom Cruise hasn’t aged a day in over two decades.

Maybe they’ll ask about any per-cap money the tribe paid out and how it would be worth a fortune if you’d invested more of it. Maybe they’ll want to know why you didn’t buy more life insurance when you were younger and healthier.

You get the idea. Think more about the long-term financial consequences of the decisions you make today.

Here’s one more tip when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, and specifically falling short of a goal which happens from time to time:

Research shows that people who are really hard on themselves over a failed goal have a tough time resetting and trying again. Likewise, folks who are too easy on themselves and blow off a goal will often repeat their missteps. 

The key is to be somewhere in the middle – not too hard on yourself, but not too easy. That’s the winning attitude that’ll keep you moving forward.

Ask Dr. Per Cap is a program funded by First Nations Development Institute with assistance from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. For more information, visit www.firstnations.org. To send a question to Dr. Per Cap, email askdrpercap@firstnations.org.