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  • Entrepreneurs

    The Problem with Delayed Gratification

    In another thread, Jonathan Clarke indicated that he's about delayed gratification and I agree with him -- to a point. Like many, I have worked hard and driven cheap cars, enjoyed camping holidays, eaten out on vouchers, etc. whilst those around me drove lived in large houses, driven BMWs, taken luxury holidays and dropped into conversation that £100 for a meal out is fair value...! 

    However, once you've trained yourself into the delayed gratification approach (reading Affluenza, the Aussie one, will help), it actually becomes quite hard knowing if, how and when to reward yourself.

    How long should you delay your gratification for?

    And how much is enough? 

    As it happens, I've recently tempered my view of delayed gratification a little and am OK with rewarding myself a bit more: A few years back I witnessed a coach load of retired American tourists struggle to enter the ancient Italian site of Pompeii. The city is more than 50 acres and some of these poor folk couldn't even walk up the path to gain entry into the site. It made me question for how long I should delay my own gratification. I haven't yet come up with the exact answer yet, although I resolved to not leave things to late to enjoy them. After all, there's nothing comical about watching an old man struggling to contort himself into his shiny red supercar.

    Regardless, at the end of the day it's my opinion that "time is the new money and experiences are the new possessions". And that unlike money, you can't get time back, so the question remains:

    What and how long are you delaying your gratification for?



    Great post.  Until 2008, I had no need to exercise delayed gratification.  My wife and I had a very simple rule.  If we achieved our cash flow savings budget, we could spend the rest.  

    In 2006, I modified our future assumptions in our business plans.  I will try to explain briefly. For fifteen years my wife and I agreed that if our net worth (excluding our own home) was 20 times our annual expenditure, and on the basis of past performance, we would be effectively retired.  

    In 2006, I had cause to modify that assumption to 30 years.  At that stage, we decided to increase the debt to equity ratio on our investments dramatically, and as a consequence, our outgoings increased much faster than we had planned (unknown territory).

    Since 2008, many "things" in our lives have become a lot older than the average age before 2008. By "things", I mean cars, furniture, all sorts of widgets.  But I have found that my own "gratification" came in the form of paying cash for a 8 year old Merc instead of taking a lease on a new one like the one parked in the drive six years old with only 12,000 miles on the clock.  Even my wife agreed that we will never again p*ss £30K down the drain so fast.

    My opinion is:  If you are investing or reinvesting more than 30% of your gross income, you are probably too tight fisted, and if your total personal expenditure is more than 70% of your gross income, you may not ever get any "delayed gratification" so you'll have to live with what you've got.

    Making the plans helps a whole lot. Of the hundred things everyone spends their money on, there are always choices, and it's making those choices that can bring forward delayed gratification.  The scope of my discussion obviously excludes unemployed or under-employed people who have no choice, and whose mandatory expenses equal their income.  For anyone on low income, please excuse my rose-coloured outlook on life.


    David, what a great post.  Thank you for starting it!Hmmmmm ... delayed gratification ... yes, I know it well!!

    I have learned that some of the best things in life are free ... like going for a long walk on the beach or reading a really great book.

    I do think we live in a society where people are judged on their clothes, their watch, their handbag, what car they drive.

    I think this comes a lot from this ridiculous worship of celebrities and trying to replicate their style.  I DON'T WANT TO LOOK LIKE POSH SPICE!!

    The greatest gift any of us have is health ... without it, all the wealth in the world is irrelevant.  

    Just think of Steve Jobs.

    So enjoy life and focus on staying fit and healthy.

    It is a very common story for a policeman to retire and last about three years before falling off the perch.  That is so sad.

    Spend quality time with our families - it doesn't cost much.  Little treats keep me going and also sharing success.  

    This weekend my sister and her son are staying in one of our holiday lets as a treat which gives us pleasure too!

    Money is most enjoyed when shared around.  Develop an attitude of gratitude.  Be grateful for the challenges as well as the good times, as the challenges that are overcome are what take you closer to your goals.  Try and enjoy "the moment" as the present is all any of us have.

    Vanessa, I totally agree with you. I'm not into redecorating my own house every season, fancy cars & clothes etc. But I do like a nice 2 week family holiday.

    After ploughing a lot of cash & time into building a portfolio I'm now nearing the happy enough phase. A bit more money and time will be on creating those family experiences as enjoying life is the real goal.

    Absolutely fantastic question.


    Was talking about this tonight with the wife as we were going through our plan for next 12-24 months.  I'm 40 and wife 33, and we have just felt like this year we can start "enjoying a bit more".   We had the small house, the crap cars when we were investing our money rather than "enjoying it" whilst both in full time jobs.  Have always had that dilemma about looking after tomorrow, but not forgetting today as who knows how many tomorrows we have. 


    Best thing you said is about time being the new money.   I live by the mantra that the best thing money can buy is time.  I have a 3 1/2 year old and a 1 1/2 year old and we both get to spend loads of time with them every day, whereas my friends leave in the morning before kids get up and get home just in time for bed time.  You can NEVER buy them years back, Never.


    I gave up the day job 3 years ago, and my wife (who was made redundant when pregnant first time) got made redundant when pregnant with our 2nd.   The satisfaction of saying "so what,, you hated the job anyway" vindicated the decisions we made.  No, we couldn't increase our lifestyle as we had a wage to replace.  It's only now we can enjoy  a bit more  as we have replaced the incomes and built up.  We both work in our buisness but have time we could only dream of in day jobs.    I've worked today, I've also spent time with the kids, had a squash lesson and a squash game ,were I used to be tied to a desk.


    Can't think how a super flash house or car could give me more pleasure  but it's nice to have regular meals out and the odd shopping trip as a reward now and again.  Lifes too short.  We will hit our portfolio goal end of this year, we then concentrate on debt repayment, but not at the expense of enjoying our lives.  Like everything, balance is key.




    Again, echo other comments. Very good post in its theme.

    As Steve Jobs said, Life- No one gets out of it alive!!

    We  all think that we are going to live till were at least 80 yrs old and still be as fit as when we were 40.

    Generally by your mid 60's you have mobility or certain health problems, and getting around in later life gets harder for all of us.

    Enjoy your time on earth, you can't buy back time, so make the most of it and please, please, please fellow landlords don't be too greedy in trying to screw the last penny out of people at times.

    Be cool but care for goodness sake. Don't you feel happier when you are generous with your time or money. I do.


    The best thing about delayed gratification to my mind is that while we're delaying all that gratification, we are learning about life.  Maturing. 


    And while we're learning about life and maturing, we're learning that it doesn't really matter and that the best things in life are free.


    When I was young, I used to get really upset and pout-y about the stuff I didn't have, that I saw others having, and wondered "why not me?!"  "Why has life dealt me such a pile of poo, that I live off jumble sales and can't afford a car and... and.. and..." 


    I wish I could go back into my own past and put my arm around myself and I'd say:


    "It doesn't frickin matter!! All these people with their cars and their clothes and jewellery and stuff... It's all just shallow.  You'll see.  One day you'll look back on this and know that it doesn't frickin matter.  You'll be happy because you've got a successful marriage, three lovely kids, live in a peaceful and good enough home, have a car and whatever... but mainly love:-)  You'll be able to come back here* and blow all this lot out of the water - if you want.  But you know what?  You won't want to, because you'll know by then... that it doesn't frickin matter."

    [*Not sure why, but I picture myself in a car park!]


    That's the real reason why god, if you like, gave us delayed gratification - so we could learn, in a lifetime of waiting(!), that we don't need a lot of gratification after all:-)


    I don't foresee myself, David, struggling up that hill or into that Ferrari, in my old age, because I've learnt through delayed gratification that I don't need those things:  period!  I suggest... you may find... that the people you see doing those things... are the same people that actually, never learned to delay their gratification... and now here they are, pathetically, desperately, still trying to gratify themselves:-)





    Author of The Complete Guide to Property Strategies and The Complete Guide to Property Investing Success
    Learn more at http://www.completepropertysuccess.co.uk

    I also post property updates on my Facebook Page

    "It is the small decisions you and I make every day that shape our destiny" Anthony Robbins

    Wonderful posts for all!  Thank you.

    That's the real reason why god, if you like, gave us delayed gratification - so we could learn, in a lifetime of waiting(!), that we don't need a lot of gratification after all:-)

    So true Angela!  Taking pleasure in the simple things in life blows Ferraris and yachts into the ether.  Having friends and love is the greatest wealth of all.  There are many wealthy people who have everything that money can buy, and talent, but they are still unhappy.  

    Wealth can be found within not in external material things.


    This is a great post and very interesting to read.

    I would say; live for the moment, live in the present, not the past or the future.

    Why delay gratification when the clock is counting down?

    You never know when things are going to go wrong and you maybe wish you had done things before.

    Look at all the trouble in the Middle East that you see on the news, it reminds me that we should be living each day and cherishing each minute with our loved ones. 

    The world is a fast changing place and nobody knows what is around the corner.



    I think it's about balance ... enjoy your life, but accept that if you want to invest in a business or property, you're going to have to make some sacrifices to do that.  If you want the luxury home / cars / holidays / jewellery etc, you may not have much left over for investing!

    I have lots of friends on really good money in good jobs, who spend big, but who also have a repayment mortgage and a company pension.  

    When they retire, their biggest expense - their mortgage - will disappear, and and they will have a decent pension to draw on.  

    Equally I have friends who can't afford the Wilmslow mansion, Porsche 911, Maldives holidays ... but want to keep up with the Joneses ... it's these that can have problems because their spending is out of control compared to their income.  

    Personally, I get a real sense of achievement from property investing, and either paying off some mortgage debt, or investing in my properties, or bolstering our cash pot ... month-in and month-out.  

    It makes me feel like every month we 'move forward'.  

    But, my 2 kids need their dad NOW, and their childhood is happening NOW ... so living TOO frugally, or working TOO hard, would be a mistake in my view.  We've done enough in terms of being sensible by building a property portfolio, and a successful business.  I do think it's terribly sad when you see / speak to wealthy people who don't seem to be able to enjoy their money.

    When we go shopping, it's nice to know that I can afford to buy a new Fred Perry T-Shirt ... pair of new shoes ... maybe a new briefcase ... books ... Mrs Fay is the same (thankfully she prefers 'High Street' to Manola Blahnik!).  

    Plus the kids can have the toys / clothes / treats they want (within reason!). I don't pine after a Ferrari / Rolex / mansion ... so it never really feels like I am delaying any gratification at all.  

    I have friends & family who never seem happy with their lot, and who could spend any amount of money they were given ... never being content with what you have seems to me to be a recipe for unhappiness.

    Stephen Fay ACA

    Stephen Fay FCA
    'The Property Tax Specialists'

    Great post Stephen.  Yesterday, I took Dylan, my precious Bengal tiger cat for a walk.  

    It was a sunny afternoon.About half and hour into the walk, I came across some long grass.  The sun was shining and it was warm, bordering on hot. (Shock, horror!).

    I sat down in the long grass and Dylan crashed out next to me.  It was completely quiet and peaceful.  

    I "drank in" the moment and it seemed Dylan did too.

    I took a few moments to count my blessings and to thank the Universe for everything in my life ... the good things and the many challenges.  

    Worth sharing Carl Sagan's brilliant video "Pale Blue Dot" in the context of this discussion.  It certainly helps put things in perspective, including Rolex's, Ferrari's, greed,an the desire for power and material possessions.