Scarcity: Don’t Let it Steal Your Retirement

scarcityScarcity can be a big problem in all kinds of situations, including retirement.
You’re busy (at least you were before quarantine anyway). There were meetings to attend, important emails unread, and looming deadlines that seemed more and more impossible with each passing day. You had absolutely no time to yourself, and you did everything in your power to just keep your head above water.

And then your car started to make a noise. You ignored it.

Then it started to shake a little when you accelerated. You ignored it. After all, you just didn’t have the time to worry about it.

It didn’t go away. In fact, not only did it not go away. It just got louder and started shaking more violently, until finally it made a horrendous sound and stopped running altogether.

And, you got stranded on the side of the road and needed to call a tow truck, wait for said tow truck, get over to the shop, get a rental car, and you generally spent a lot of that precious time.

If you would have just taken the car to the shop when you heard that first strange sound, you probably would have saved yourself some money. But more importantly, you would have saved yourself a ton of time…that resource that you were trying to gain by ignoring your car’s issues in the first place…

Scarcity: Don’t Let It Steal Your Retirement

What you just experienced in the intro above are the effects of scarcity.

While it may seem counter intuitive, when we have very little of something, we often make choices that impair that precious resource even FURTHER – often by choosing to gain some of it in the short term, which inevitably steals away even more of it in the long term.

Scarcity mentality can be experienced with:

  • Time
  • Money
  • Food
  • Relationships

Today, we’re obviously going to talk about money (sorry to all of you that were holding out for relationship advice…that will have to come from another blog on another day!).

How Could a Scarcity Mentality Be Impacting Your Retirement?

“The stock market is tanking… I should sell and cut my losses”

“I’ll never be able to retire”

“I just can’t seem to get ahead. I guess I’m destined to be poor”

“I sure wish I could afford that…but it’ll probably never happen”

Talk about doom and gloom, right?! I call this the Eeyore syndrome. It’s the “woe is me, I’ll never amount to anything” mentality.

While most of us don’t talk to ourselves like this all the time, these thoughts definitely creep into our heads once in a while (admit it – even I have thoughts like this occasionally!). And, the more we keep thinking this way, the more likely it is that these thoughts actually come true. This is the phenomenon that few truly understand, but it can be best described as the law of attraction.

In its most basic form, those that think positively about the future typically reap a positive result, and those that think negatively get a negative result.

Your Self Talk and the Likely Results

Let’s say that you commonly tell yourself, “I’ll never be able to save more for retirement” and then you find yourself with a year end bonus. What do you do with it?

Based on your self talk, do you think you’re likely to hop online and open a retirement account?

I don’t think so!!

Instead, you might devote the money to some other more immediate and “pressing” need.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing evil about spending a few bucks and taking care of a broken front door or paying for private school. But you can’t deny it – you had the chance to start a retirement fund and because of your self talk, you never even considered it as an option.

Now what if you instead told yourself, “I will add to my retirement account by the end of the month”. That bonus would already be deposited and growing with the market. And quite honestly, it would probably be joined by another couple of Benjamins as well.


Because when you start to think positively and adopt the abundance mentality, your mind begins to work overtime for ways to accomplish what you’re setting out to do. To make more money, you’d probably start:

  • Selling stuff that you have around the house
  • Doing odd jobs for neighbors and acquaintances
  • Cutting things out of your budget that you didn’t even realize you were spending

Related: Saving in the Nick of Time: A True Story of Starting Late and Successfully Saving for Retirement

It’s Not All Mumbo Jumbo Magical Thinking

I am hoping I haven’t lost you. The idea that what you think about is what comes true is not mumbo jumbo magical thinking.

It is an idea put forth by Sendhil Mullainathan, a Harvard economist and winner of a MacArthur grant and Eldar Shafir, a psychologist at Princeton University and described in their book, “Scarcity: Why Having So Little Means So Much.”

Pros and Cons of Feeling Scarcity

Mullainathan and Shafir argue that feeling scarcity can sometimes have a positive and also a hugely negative impact:

Positive: Scarcity focuses the mind on pressing needs.

Negative: Scarcity causes extreme stress and creates a drive to focus on meeting short term needs instead of figuring out long term solutions. Worse yet, study after study detailed in their book prove that scarcity can also actually decrease intelligence and will power — the very things you need to overcome scarcity.

What Can You Do to Change Your Mentality?

Alright, so if negative self-talk is only perpetuating your scarcity mentality, what can you do to change it? How can you start thinking positively and impacting your life with an abundance mentality?

Scarcity is focused on the necessary. The urgent. If you have no money in the bank and your transmission goes out, what do you do?

  • Some would buy a new car on credit.
  • Others would get their car fixed by putting the charges on a credit card.

Both get you through the moment, but they’re also setting you back even farther financially.

Those with abundance mentality would first think, “Do I really need this car right now? Are there other options that could get me around?” Next, they’d begin to brainstorm, “How could I get this car fixed for far less than the $3,000 quoted by the mechanic? Could I get a used transmission from the junk-yard? Could my friend and I install it ourselves?”

The possibilities are endless – when you have abundance thinking that is.

So How Do You Get There?

How can you make the abundance mentality your initial response when it’s so easy to believe the lie of scarcity?

It’s all about what you’re putting into your mind. It’s the old computer programmer adage, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

If you’re constantly watching the news (ie. garbage), talking with your friends about the “looming stock market crash”, or scrolling through your social media app of crap, your chance at reaching an abundance mentality are slim to none.

Instead, start listening to audiobooks about winning, read success stories and autobiographies of heros, and limit your friends to only those that encourage, speak highly of others, and are winning in their own lives.

Through this, you’ll have :

  • positive thoughts,
  • you’ll begin to speak positive phrases, and
  • you’ll eventually start to take positive action.

Abundance mentality can’t be shifted overnight. It takes years of intentionality. But once you start making that shift, your success in life will rise exponentially.

What You Can Do Today to Make a Great Tomorrow

In addition to improving your mental programming, there’s one other thing that can help rid you of your scarcity mentality. Take a look at the simple graphic below:
This is known as as Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important principle. When you’re facing an issue, instead of immediately reacting to it and making a rash decision (like going out and buying a new car on credit), draw out this grid and be honest with yourself as you fill it in with your recent issues.

If your goal is to fund your retirement and get back on track financially, your busted transmission won’t be considered urgent and important. You’ll find a way to shift it into the not urgent/important category. Instead of a $3,000 repair bill, you’re going to find a way to delay the repair for 2 weeks, and you’re going to get it done yourself for just $800. Oh, and instead of paying for it with credit (thereby pushing you further away from your retirement goal), you’ll find a way to come up with the cash.

BOOM! Now you’re winning!

Set your long term goals, change your programming, and always check yourself before taking a drastic action. Soon, you’ll be well on your way to an abundance mentality and a future of tremendous success. Best of luck to you on your journey!

Related: How imagining your future can help you achieve it.

A Written Retirement Plan is a Pretty Good Way to Shift Away from Scarcity

The NewRetirement retirement planning calculator is an extremely detailed tool that can help you set goals for retirement, find possibilities for achieving those goals and keep track of your progress — all ways to overcome the effects of scarcity. Get started today.

NewRetirement Planner

Do it yourself retirement planning: easy, comprehensive, reliable

NewRetirement Planner

Take financial wellness into your own hands and do it yourself retirement planning: easy, comprehensive, reliable.

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