Have you ever heard of time preference? It’s not a concept that’s commonly referred to, but it has been researched and studied in economics for centuries, linked to things like consumer behavior and interest rates.

You’re probably more familiar with the opposing concepts of immediate rewards or delayed gratification — time preference refers to which of these ideas you’re more inclined to prioritize. Your time preference plays a significant role in how you approach money, influencing how you manage your wealth, save, and invest, and the financial decisions you make for the present and the future.

Understanding your time preference is an important part of financial planning, as it impacts your risk tolerance, investment horizon, and overall financial well-being.  

High Time Preference

High time preference thinking focuses on the present and immediate gratification. If you have high time preference, you’re a ‘today person’ driven by the desire for short-term rewards. A high time preference mindset often involves impulsive decision-making, where the allure of instant benefits is prioritized over long-term considerations. 

Perhaps you stop by a store, intending to purchase one item, but leave with several unplanned, more expensive purchases instead. Or maybe you receive a bigger bonus than anticipated, and quickly decide to spend that money on a big-ticket item instead of thinking about how that money can benefit you in the future.

If you’re an impulse buyer who doesn’t think much about how your purchase will impact your future finances (or you may think about it, but it doesn’t stop you from buying what you want), you have high time preference. You may find it hard to resist spontaneous impulse buys and delay your immediate gratification for potential future gains.

Low Time Preference

Low time preference thinking focuses on a patient and forward-thinking approach to making decisions. If you have low time preference, you’re a ‘tomorrow person’ who prioritizes your long-term goals over immediate rewards.

Putting off large purchases until you have the extra money rather than eating from your savings; budgeting and committing to growing your savings and investments for a more comfortable future; focusing on retirement planning and long-term financial security — these are all low time preference behaviors.

If you have low time preference, you’re likely disciplined and strategic in your money management. You’re probably more willing to sacrifice some short-term, instant gains and practice delayed gratification to help you achieve greater future, long-term gains. 

High Time Preference vs. Low Time Preference

High time preference can get in the way of effective financial planning — it can be difficult to save, invest, and plan for the future. Your spending habits can make it hard to strategically manage your money and build wealth over time. 

Because you’re focused on immediate gratification, you may spend more impulsively and save less. This can impact the wealth you accumulate, and it may take longer to reach financial security and your long-term goals.

Your high time preference may also move you towards favoring shorter-term investments that can expose you to higher financial risks. You may prefer seeking out quick investment returns, rather than focusing on the long-term benefits of investments. This could impact your overall financial stability in the long run. 

On the other hand, there are several advantages to having a low time preference mindset when financial planning. If you have low time preference, you’re more focused on your long-term financial goals and the longevity of your financial well-being.

Low time preference promotes more consistent savings habits — you’ll be more likely to stick to a budget and be disciplined in your savings. You prefer to regularly contribute to savings to help lay the foundation for long-term financial security and stability.

With a low time preference mindset, you also understand the importance of investing in the long term to help grow your wealth over time. You prefer to take the time to consider your investment decisions, and you’re more likely to adopt strategies that promote long-term financial health and stability and help you weather short-term volatility and market fluctuations. 

Can You Shift Your Time Preference?

It’s important to have a balanced approach when it comes to financial planning and consider both your short-term and long-term needs. However, a low time preference mindset enables you to make more thoughtful decisions that prioritize long-term benefits and help foster financial stability and security throughout your lifetime.

Your time preference isn’t a fixed characteristic — you can influence it through a conscious effort to change your mindset. Here are some strategies to shift your time preference:

  • Educate Yourself: You can increase your financial literacy to better understand how your short-term decisions can have long-term consequences. Being aware of the benefits of delayed gratification can help you not only be more prudent in your financial decisions, but also adopt a more future-oriented mindset.
  • Set Goals: Establishing clear financial goals can provide a purpose for long-term planning. Think about what you want for the future, and where you’d like to be financially. With specific objectives, you can prioritize future success over any present desires.
  • Plan Consistently: Sticking to a budget or following a financial plan enables you to be disciplined in your journey to reach your goals. You can regularly review and adjust your budget and plans as needed, which will reinforce the habit of thinking strategically about your long-term financial well-being. 

How Five Pine Wealth Management Can Help

When you understand the value of long-term benefits over immediate rewards, you can cultivate a more balanced time preference. Finding a balance can help you build your financial resilience, grow your wealth, and achieve your financial goals.

At Five Pine Wealth Management, we can work together with you to help you find the right balance between your short-term and long-term goals. Our holistic financial planning approach takes into account your unique circumstances, values, and objectives to create a strategy that’s custom-tailored to you. Life changes, and we’ll revisit your plan regularly with you to make sure you stay on track to reach your financial goals. To see if we can help with your financial journey, email or call us at: 877.333.1015 today.