Of the big five lessons that need to be unlearned about money, I think time perhaps is the biggest missed opportunity.

Why? Simply because the biggest trap of time is that you always think you have plenty of it – and because of this, tend to miss out on one of the biggest opportunities to grow wealth almost effortlessly – as it’s time that allows your money to make money for you in the world of investing.

In Australia our government had the incredible foresight to introduce superannuation – meaning those who start work are putting away 9.5% of their income into investments to support themselves in retirement.

It has been proven however, that 9.5% will not be enough to fund an adequate and dignified retirement – and for many will only cover about 30% of living expenses.

So why is time, which seems at face value, a pretty hard thing to master and to unlearn? I believe because it goes to the very heart of us being human – and our unwillingness to acknowledge our own fragility and ultimately mortality.

Sounds deep? It is. Too often we want to live in the moment (which is not always easy), enjoy ourselves now, and let tomorrow figure itself out.

I know I certainly did. I spent my 20’s acquiring the things I wanted, and chasing the experiences that defined my view of what a good time was. Quite frankly, I don’t regret it. What I do regret however, is that I did not have the foresight to tuck a little away and invest it along the way.

When I think of the all the clothes, shoes, cars and stuff I spent my money on, I wish I had that little birdy on my shoulder telling me to tuck 10% of it away. Not in a bank account, but in an investment account. To be honest, I don’t think I even knew what a managed fund or a stock was then, or how to access them.

It was the early days of the internet, and the wealth of information and easy access was not there. I did not have family who knew anything about it, and it certainly was not taught at school or university.

And so I missed one of the biggest easy wins in my life when it comes to money. And time passed, as it always does. Children arrived, and nature kicks in, wanting to give your kids everything you can. This becomes the focus financially, and again, time passes, and the opportunity to make my money work for me slipped further behind.

I guess my awakening to the unlearning of time came during my 40s. And perhaps that is when most of us finally start to understand that time moves quickly, and that we don’t have all the time in the world. It’s certainly been that way for me, and many of my friends.

This is why I have dedicated myself and my company to awakening and helping gen X Unlearn Money in time – to be able to prepare for the last third of their lives – and be able to live it exactly the way they want it.

But there is still time to change habits around money and start investing. It all begins with an awakening that we should be doing more – but what exactly?

While I explore that in much more detail in our fifth unlearning pillar – action – a quick guide to get you started should include:

  1. Saving enough income to cover at least three months of living. The experts all say six months, but the reality is, that’s a hard task when many of us have massive monthly expenses. Three months gives you enough peace of mind that if the worst happens you can hustle and make other arrangements.
  2. Checking your insurance, wills and estate planning. If time does run out early, will everyone you care about be okay? I believe the best way to do this is through a quality financial adviser. I pay my adviser a retainer of $200 a month. For that I get the best deal on insurance, wills and estate planning and the knowledge that if anything happens to me or my husband, he will be the first phone call to make.
  3. Starting an investment account. There are so many ways you can do this now. I prefer managed funds to individual stock buying. You can buy them through mfunds on the ASX, go to the managers direct or access them through a financial adviser in a variety of ways. Having worked in the finance industry for more than 23 years, we have deep connections in the sector and suggest you spend a few months of 3-5 minutes a day getting across professional investing – not so you can do it yourself (unless you want to), but so you can understand it enough to have confidence that you are putting your money in the right place for you.

Of course, when money is tight this plan is not going to be done overnight. And that’s another thing about time we all need to unlearn – start now anyway, even if it’s seems impossible. Because whether it takes two years or 10 to get to the part where you start investing outside of super, the time will pass anyway.

For time stops for no man or woman.