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RRSP Season: Today Guy, Tomorrow Guy and Other Important Lessons From Seinfeld

02/25/2013 07:34 EST | Updated 10/01/2013 04:21 EDT

Seinfeld fans revere the TV sitcom's fifth season. The Puffy Shirt, the Lip Reader, the Marine Biologist; they're classics.

The season also gave us one of Jerry's great show-opening monologues, about his constant internal battle between Night Guy and Morning Guy.

The bit goes like this: Jerry always stays up too late because he's Night Guy. Getting up after five hours' sleep? Oh, that's Morning Guy's problem. When Morning Guy gets up, he's groggy, exhausted. He hates Night Guy! Night Guy always screws Morning Guy!

There's a lesson here, as Canadians contemplate the end of another RRSP season.

Too many of us are ruled by instant gratification. Spend it, don't save it. Acquire stuff and things, RIGHT NOW, because consumption is the way to happiness, right? We're Today Guy. Retirement, the long view, money for our kids' education? Oh, that's Tomorrow Guy's problem.

If you grew up on a farm, you intuitively get that you can't consume everything you produce. If you don't save seeds, you can't plant future crops. Every nut-saving squirrel alive on this planet, right now, understands this.

Not that everything should be about Tomorrow Guy. It's all about balance. Jerry liked staying up late, but he liked balance, too. He called it being "Even Steven."

Most planners recommend 15-to-20 per cent of what we earn -- at least -- should go to Tomorrow Guy. Yet, at times over the last decade, Canadians have regularly contributed, on average, as little as two per cent. That isn't going to cut it, unless, like George Costanza, we're destined to move back in with our parents.

So, how do you deal with the fact that Today Guy has an enormous psychic edge on Tomorrow Guy? Anyone who has successfully lost weight knows: you have to get some help. Not a psychologist (at least not that alone). Find an advisor who'll help you work on a plan. Share that plan with friends and family. Make a pact to send them monthly updates on your progress. Maybe you do the same for them. Maybe you meet once a month for a fun night, to celebrate your mutual progress.

The best way though to counter Today Guy's strength is to never let that 15-20 per cent get into his greedy little hands. Deduct those savings automatically so he never sees them.

Set limits on your credit cards based on a monthly budget, NOT at the max limit you can wrangle from your bank. If there's a way to spend more than you've planned, Today Guy will find it. He's tricky.

Now this may sound a bit too much like ... sacrifice. Carpe diem, living for today, YOLO -- those admittedly sound cooler. But, in reality, a truly cool thing does happen when you set important goals and keep them. You actually benefit both Today Guy and Tomorrow Guy.

Happiness researchers -- a Seinfeld-sounding career if there was every one -- know that Today Guy is actually happier when he isn't indulging every whim and fancy, but is instead ruled by purpose. Some of the most depressed people on the planet are the kids of the super wealthy, because they don't have to struggle for anything. Striving for goals and achieving them aren't actually sacrifices at all -- they're critical to having the happiest lives we can live.

My favourite episode of Seinfeld Season Five was the season-clincher, where George discovers that amazing things happen when he does the opposite of every one of his first instincts. There's another lesson to keep in mind before the calendar turns.

Sheldon Dyck is the President of ATB Investor Services, and Chief Investment Officer for ATB Investment Management's award winning Compass Portfolio Series of mutual funds. A Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Harvard Business School alumnus, and member of Mensa Canada, Sheldon founded the wealth management arm of ATB Financial ten years ago. Since then, ATB Investor Services has grown to manage more than $8 billion in assets in over 240 Albertan communities.