Money Motivation

Motivation is a funny thing. When you have it, it’s great, but when you don’t, it’s tough to get it back. Some people are just naturally more motivated than others. And some people have to watch Chariots of Fire on loop and cover their office with inspirational posters that say things like “Believe in You” to ever get anything done.

So how do you stay motivated to save and invest? First, you should understand that there are two basic types of motivation:  extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is what we usually think of as the carrot or the stick. Your motivation comes from an external promise to give you a reward or punishment—think bonus for hard work or jail for committing a crime.

Intrinsic motivation is the opposite. It comes purely from an internal drive—you aren’t trying to gain anyone’s approval, but there isn’t anyone waiting to give you a pat on the back either. Intrinsic motivation is why you workout, learn a new language, or give to charity. You do these things just for you.

And that’s where you have to pull the motivation to save. Unfortunately, saving is not a one-time decision. You may be reading this post thinking, “Yeah, saving is a really wise thing to do. I’m going to do it.” But the next time you want to buy something outside your budget, motivation wanes and saving drops in priority.

So how can we reduce the number of times we have to decide to save? Automate. Each year, decide what percentage of your salary you will contribute to your 401(k) and let it ride. Decide how much you can contribute to an IRA, divide that number by twelve, and set a monthly draft. The same process goes for any other savings vehicle you wish to use—HSA, brokerage account, or even just a regular savings account.

We know it’s good for us. We even have wise investors like Charlie Munger saying, “Spend less than you make; always be saving something. Put it into a tax-deferred account. Over time, it will begin to amount to something. This is such a no-brainer.” But it’s still a challenge to stay motivated, so eliminate the number of times you have to draw from that intrinsic motivation.

A financial advisor can tell you “good job” and provide a little extrinsic motivation, but the day-to-day drive has to come from within. And since we know our intrinsic motivation is fickle, automate your saving to achieve greater success.


Josh Norris is an Investment Advisory Representative of LeFleur Financial. Josh can be reached at