The Flint, Michigan lead poisoning crisis has been heartbreaking to watch. It is difficult to imagine how the parents are managing the uncertainty of possible harm to their children.
In response to this critical issue, many news commentators have been interviewing civic engineers and other experts about similar problems. The consensus opinion seems to be that 30 years or so ago, the United States stopped investing in infrastructure improvements for bridges, roads, dams, and similar structures. The rationale given for the neglect is that many politicians wanted to use reduced taxes as a political platform. It was simply good politics to say “no tax increases” or “no new taxes.”
Some analogies from these public behaviors can be applied to our personal lives. What types of things do we defer — sometimes for years — that we know we should address now? Health issues come immediately to mind. Areas like losing weight, quitting smoking, getting regular check-ups, beginning an exercise program, and similar preventative measures are easy to put off. We decide flu shots aren’t worth the effort, and, instead of seeing a health professional, we look up problems online, and self-medicate with over-the-counter remedies. We hear and give the same excuses — too expensive, too hard to fit into the daily routine, don’t have a doctor or dentist, and if it gets worse, there will be time to take care of it later.
The same approach may be used when planning for how you are going to manage student debt, or how you can build that emergency savings account. Even more distance (and therefore seemingly more irrelevant) is saving for retirement. Many people leave retirement money (like an employer match) on the table because of a lack of understanding, or a belief that there is no hurry.
Like politicians up for election, many of us tend to concentrate only on what is right around the corner. Getting through college, finding a new job, buying that car, or moving to a new place. These are all valid short term goals, but that doesn’t mean you can neglect long term planning. Don’t ever stop investing in your own future. The infrastructure you build now and maintain throughout your personal life is critical.