Time Will Tell

Jonathan Clements  |  December 24, 2016

IF WE COULD VIEW TODAY from 10 years hence, our behavior—financial and otherwise—would be entirely different. We wouldn’t flail around so much in the muck of everyday life, fretting and fighting about nonsense. Instead, we’d focus more on issues that matter to our long-term wellbeing.

Problem is, it seems this sense of perspective can’t be taught by schools and colleges. Instead, it’s learned only through experience. It would be wonderful if we could be wise at age 20, but wisdom often eludes us until much later in life, at which point we’ve had decades of unnecessary turmoil and missed opportunities. Here are just five of the things that time teaches us:

1. Today, we worry that stocks are a bad investment. Thirty years from now, we’ll wonder why we owned anything else.

2. The market may appear easy to beat, and we may indeed outperform the averages over the next 12 months. But we won’t beat the market over a lifetime of investing, and the harder we try, the worse our results are likely to be.

3. Ten years from now, nobody’ll care or even remember that we didn’t get the promotion. And that likely includes us.

4. That purchase we desperately want? It isn’t going to transform our life. In fact, a year after we hand over our hard-earned dollars, we will likely barely notice our latest purchase—and we might even regret it.

5. Our life may be important to us and to those around us. But let’s keep things in perspective: There are seven billion of us, so any sense of self-importance is a tad ridiculous. We should strive to squelch our inner self-absorbed teenager sooner rather than later—and approach the world with a shrunken sense of entitlement and a greater appreciation of others.

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