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what motivates you?

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On one of the posts that I highlighted from last year , E.C. from not living on ramen commented:

it’s much harder to maintain motivation when there’s really no end in sight

I think she’s right. I’ve mentioned a few times that I find it hard to get motivated about investing for retirement - it’s just too far away. For those that are in debt, you have a concrete goal at hand, but that too may feel like a long way off.

I’m a naturally lazy person, so I work with this tendency by making as much as possible automagical. This also helps with motivation as it cuts out the need for great piles of it. I also treat my investment accounts as untouchable - both my pension (which really is untouchable) and my stocks and shares ISA (which is actually instant access). Mentally, I almost completely ignore those pots of money as far as my day to day living is concerned. I stay motivated to save and invest by taking the easy way out and removing any requirement for motivation.

But, what about you? Do you have any tricks that you use to stay motivated and work for the bigger picture? Do you find this sort of thing easy, or difficult? Let me know in the comments.

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16 comments for “what motivates you?”

  1. Some days it really feels like there’s no end in sight on Micah’s loans. I guess what motivates me is knowing that we’re going in the right direction. Or occasionally feeling it’s horribly futile. One reasons I started reading PF blogs was to help keep me on track.

    Posted by Mrs. Micah | May 19, 2008, 4:00 pm
  2. I have a fairly crummy job, that is enough motivation by itself. I would like to retire early and not have to worry about working. Eventually I will leave my part-time job and probably find a good one(im in college). I don’t know what my motivation will be then.

    Maybe just try to make saving automatic, like have money drafted out of your account at the beginning of the month so you never really see it. Then you won’t have to worry about motivation so much, but lack of motivation is the downfall to a lot of things like businesses and such.

    Posted by David Carter | May 19, 2008, 4:37 pm
  3. @Mrs Micah:
    Well, in the bigger picture Micah can’t have that much longer before he’s finished his PhD and earning somewhat more money. And the right direction is so much better than the wrong one. It’s not remotely futile, eventually you’ll pay them off.

    You might find that if you have a job that you enjoy, you won’t be as bothered about retirement. Or not. But you never can tell.

    Posted by plonkee | May 19, 2008, 7:44 pm
  4. I’m experimenting with a new idea I read about. I’m trying to improve my motivation by focusing on my personal narrative. For example, instead admitting that I’m perfectionist that often creates excuses to avoid projects, I’m focusing on what I want to be: a perfectionist that finishes projects, ignores distractions, and is always making measurable progress.

    I think this would be applicable in a lot of situations. Instead of thinking about overwhelming piles of debt, you could remind yourself that you’re doing the right thing (fulfilling contracts), living responsibly, moving in the right direction, making future goals possible instead of impossible dreams, etc.

    Posted by Aaron Stroud | May 19, 2008, 7:54 pm
  5. I think my motivation is I’m only 26 years away from when I want to retire now (just turned 39).

    I do love a good number crunch so spent a bit of time running scenarios on retirement site calculators.

    Compound interest is a very motivating factor for me too, as is, like you, making it automatic.

    Posted by debtdieter | May 19, 2008, 8:47 pm
  6. @Aaron:
    That’s an interesting idea, I’d love to know where you read it. Funnily enough I’m the exact opposite of a perfectionist - close enough is always good enough for me.

    26 years feels like a long time to me, it’s certainly long enough for compound interest to produce some great results. I like number crunching from time to time, but sometimes it’s almost a pity that we can’t speed things up so I can find out what happens at the end :) .

    Posted by plonkee | May 19, 2008, 9:13 pm
  7. I got the idea from Tyler Cowen’s Discover Your Inner Economist. He has a chapter on “The Dangerous and Necessary Art of Self-Deception.”

    I’m almost finished reading the book, so I’ll probably have a review up in the next week or two.

    Posted by Aaron Stroud | May 19, 2008, 10:04 pm
  8. hmm, I’ve never really felt the need to stay motivated in this regard. I can’t quite make it automagical, I have savings in different countries, but it is just something that gets done, like getting up and having breakfast: somedays I don’t feel particularly inspired by my weetabix but I know if I miss it I’ll be gnawing on the chair leg by 10am. My bimonthly money manoeuvring is just something that I go through.

    Posted by Looby | May 20, 2008, 12:41 am
  9. I constantly remind myself of what my life will be like once I achieve my goal, have it written down and look at it often and really take pleasure in achieving the small steps towards achieving it.

    Posted by Rachel @ Master Your Card | May 20, 2008, 6:45 am
  10. @Aaron:
    I’ll look out for your review.

    I think you’re a better person than me, I procrastinate so much that it’s a wonder anything ever gets done. I think yours is a great attitude to have.

    Goals are certainly really helpful if you want motivation. I like the idea of writing things down and looking at it often.

    Posted by plonkee | May 20, 2008, 11:14 am
  11. Part of my issue is I really need to redefine my goals in life, where I want to go, what I want to do, etc. The more goal oriented I am, the more likely I am to be motivated with my money and what I do with it. And like others, I’m going back to writing down my goals and even making posters of things I want to do, places to go, etc.

    I need the visual reminders.

    Posted by bouncing betty | May 20, 2008, 2:11 pm
  12. OK clearly I completely misrepresented myself because I am the Queen of Procrastination, especially when it comes to dull work related tasks! I just find money managing easy enough.

    Posted by Looby | May 20, 2008, 7:41 pm
  13. Like everything else, I have my good days, and my bad days.

    On the bad days, when I run short of intrinsic motivation, I’m not above using extrinsic motivation in the form of cautionary tales, or even inciting just a bit of envy. Sadly, I don’t have to look far to see what happens if you don’t have a retirement plan, a la my parents. Conversely, my good friends’ parents are excellent examples of what happens when you’re on top of money management, long and short term, and I remind myself that I want to be secure and free like them. Sure, I want it NOW, but the sooner I get to work and the better I plan, the sooner I’ll get to reap the rewards. Or so I tell myself.

    Posted by Msminiducky | May 21, 2008, 5:38 pm
  14. Fake it til you make it, baby. :) Actually, I find keeping a to-do list is quite powerful - crossing things out shows forward momentum.

    Posted by deepali | May 21, 2008, 6:41 pm
  15. Faking it is great - I use that tactic probably more that I should. :)

    Posted by plonkee | May 22, 2008, 8:54 pm
  16. Honestly what motivates me is having my dream. Every night I number crunch and see what I need to be able to save a month to do it, that motivates me to keep going. Though, I do need to learn more about investing and pensions too…

    Posted by Frugal Trenches | May 26, 2008, 12:28 pm

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