The year is 2014, the time is 10 am, and the date is the 17th of May, the day I was born. A few days before my 21st birthday I was asked an earth shattering question, do you want a party or do you want cash? I am not really one for parties and celebrations so I opted for the money instead. I don’t remember the exact amount but it was substantially more than I had ever received from my parents. This timeless saying came to mind, “The problem is not the amount of money but the problem is how to spend it”.
I have always been one who derives joy from looking good. So… I proceeded to a number of stores and bought clothing and shoes. Yes, I blew the money on clothing and shoes. I can picture some of your faces cringing at my terrible decision. However, Drake said “You Only Live Once”. Thinking back 6 years, with the information I have accumulated now, my decision was a tad bit naïve. Putting some of that money in some investment vehicle would have yielded me much better returns.
This brings me to the crescendo of my article. July is National Savings Month. This initiative was established by the South African Savings Institute to encourage a culture of saving in South Africa. Interestingly, South Africa’s savings rate has shown a downward trajectory since January 2019. Whilst the economic climate is not conducive for savings (recession, Covid-19, repo – rate decreases), could it be that the lack of savings has to do with decision fatigue?
According to Jory Mackay, Decision fatigue is defined as the deterioration of our ability to make good decisions after a long session of decision making. In the US, it was found that prisoners who had parole hearings in the morning were 7 times more likely to be granted parole than prisoners who had parole hearings in the evening.
To counteract this, Jory Mackay has highlighted 5 things individuals can do to prevent decision fatigue. Firstly, individuals need to simplify the decisions they make in a day. Secondly, individuals need to set difficult tasks for early in the day. Thirdly, focus on momentum and not willpower. Fourthly, make the critical decisions when you are motivated. To end it off, rest.
Now, how do we relate this to savings? Firstly, create debit orders on your accounts to circumvent the idea of making timely monthly contributions. This is also good for rand cost averaging (topic for another day). Secondly, if you are uncertain about debit orders, create alarms on your phone for your monthly contributions. If there is a loan that you are paying, request that your creditors send you the statement every month on the same date. If you are one for stocks, like Warren Buffet has admonished, only research companies and industries that you understand. Create an emergency fund to limit decision making around where the money will come from when in an emergency. Lastly, plan your budget well ahead of time and stick to it.
The logic behind this theory lies in reducing the number of decisions that you need to make in a day. Not only is this tiring but the likelihood of making the incorrect decisions rises as the fatigue sets in.
Create consistent and good money habits. Plan ahead of time and stride forward.
Happy Savings Month