How short-term thinking affects long-term investments

Richard Flax

Richard Flax

We live in uncertain times.

On one hand, Brits are battling the rising cost of living and higher stress levels, balancing complicated lives. On the other, we have convenience at the tap of an app, dramatic increases in quality of health and life expectancy, and brands looking to serve our every need - except when it comes to wealth management. 

Right in the sweet spot of this dynamic are Generation X. The children of the baby boomers have the greatest opportunity in human history, are happier than any other age group, but in their droves are failing to plan for their financial future.

What is driving this short-termism? Why, when they are mastering the present day, do they ignore the future? What needs to change and how can the wealth management industry help? 

In a new report, Moneyfarm has investigated the short-term thinking that currently jeopardises the future of almost 40 million UK adults financially. We have identified three ways this thinking impacts long-term investments.

Our research highlights that today almost a quarter of Britons don’t plan for their long-term future, at all. And a further quarter plan less than six months ahead.  

This illustrates just how endemic short-termism is becoming. Seven in ten Britons have no plans for retirement. Eight in ten are not yet planning to purchase a house. 

This behaviour and way of thinking impacts financial tendencies too. When plans are made, on average, most people do save money towards them. However, these people are only passively saving. They have the intention to save but instead enter autopilot mode and expect this intention is enough to make a change. 

Over half of people don’t save at all, and simply try to reduce their spending. There is clearly a good intention, but converting this into real behaviour isn’t happening as there is clear confusion for consumers for the best place to invest their money. 

Psychologically, it can be a struggle for anyone to keep motivated when trying to achieve long-term goals, particularly when more immediate priorities come into play. 

The here and now overtakes our intention to act on our plans for the future: almost half of Britons claim that everyday responsibilities are the biggest barrier to attaining their long-term goals.  Plans are forgotten when attention is shifted towards what is happening in the present. 

This is reflected in the UK’s financial planning. 

On one side of the coin, 43 per cent of respondents do regularly save towards an objective, with 15 per cent on automated standing orders and 28 per cent moving different amounts of money into savings each month. 

However, turning to the short-termist side of the coin and 57 per cent of people simply try to reduce their spending to save, with one in five not saving any money whatsoever.  Almost a quarter of respondents are more concerned with spending money on the now rather than saving.