When does something become important?
Consider the life domain of exercise and fitness. For some of my friends and acquaintances, back in our twenties, "being fit" simply wasn't a priority. It just wasn't all that important at that point in life. However, now that they're in their forties and fifties, not being fit is a having a significant negative impact in their lives. Perhaps they've developed high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or maybe they're just not all that happy with how they look in the mirror.
All of a sudden, fitness is important.
Except now they've got 40 and 50 year old bodies that struggle to handle the training required to get fit. Many struggle with obesity--ironically, a stealth product of years of "training" in the habit of not exercising. Many will earnestly begin an exercise program, only to hit a wall of knee, ankle or other joint problems.
Not making fitness a priority turned out to have a cumulative impact. It compounded over the years. Each year it got harder to build a habit of regular exercise and harder to train without injury. Which made it harder still to build a habit of regular exercise.
So, when did fitness really become important?
Apparently, it became important well before you thought it did.
Consider another major life domain: retirement. I'm sure all readers here at Casual Kitchen have friends or acquaintances who didn't really begin thinking about retirement until they were in their forties or fifties--after many years of never really building a habit of saving money.
When someone never builds a habit of regular savings, that person, by definition, runs a high expense line relative to income (think of the exact opposite of my Extreme Savings post). Worse, many of these expenses are likely to be fixed expenses in the form of a large mortgage, car lease payments, other debts, etc. These are difficult-to-escape expenses, and they make adopting a serious savings habit still more difficult. Jacob Lund Fisker calls this "the lock-in" in his book Early Retirement Extreme.
Of course, the cumulative cost of postponing retirement savings is enormous. We've all seen those retirement compounding charts showing how much less a younger person needs to save per month compared to an older person in order to reach a certain money goal. A 25 year old saving $1,000 a month at, say, a 6% average annual return, will accumulate a million dollars by age 55. A 45 year old, however, needs to save $6,000 a month to get to a $1 million by age 55.
That 45-year-old needs to save six times as much every month, without having built any history of regular savings, and with a likely high and largely fixed expense line. A person considering retirement for the first time at age 45 faces a profound challenge--a far greater challenge than the 45-year-old considering exercise for the first time.
So, when did this life domain become important?
Once again, well before you thought it did.
Readers, share your thoughts!
Read Next: Tips vs. Strategy
How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.