Life is full of decisions. From deciding what to wear when we get dressed every day to what time to set the alarm for when we we go to bed, every day is full of choices. Some decisions are small with little bearing on life as a whole, and some are large with lasting effects. Sometimes, these decisions can haunt you for months or even years. You may wreck yourself on what is the right decision, the what ifs, and then worry in hindsight about what could have been. Finally, you picked a restaurant to eat at, and now you're wondering if sushi really would have been better than burgers.
Seriously though, in today's world we are overloaded with decisions we have to make, and in the mass consumer market, we are provided with sometimes hundreds of different choices and brands. What type of car, macchiato or coffee, chocolate or vanilla, off-brand or Kellogg's cereal, UK or Ohio State? We've all been there, price-comparison shopping, looking at reviews, googling images. etc., and sometimes it becomes a bit much. As the decision becomes inherently bigger (whether it needs to be or not), people sometimes paralyze themselves worrying about whether they are making the right choice. Often, when a lot is weighing on the choices being made, people get paralyzed and end up doing nothing at all.
Constant decision making is tiring, and for many people, myself included, it simply becomes easier to walk away. Recently, I wanted to dig into my yard to put up a Halloween decoration of a Pet 'Semetary' sign. Well, in order to not be liable for destroying any cable or gas lines, I was going to call 811 to make sure I was good to go. Two weeks later I still hadn't done it. Granted, this harmless procrastination isn't going to affect me in the future, but I see the same thing all the time with clients in regards to their personal finances. People wrack their brains trying to figure out the right amount to save into a certain account, whether they should save $100 or $200 a month, if they should save 8 percent or 6 percent in their 401(k), should they choose Bank A savings account vs. Bank B savings account.
What I see happen over and over again is, suddenly it's two or three months later, and still no action has been taken. In fact, all the concern over making the right decision has actually led to more negative consequences as a result of not making a decision at all!
The key here is making a commitment vs. making a decision. When clients make the commitment to do something, like save for retirement, then it's just about taking the steps to fulfill that commitment, instead of facing a thousand tiny, tiresome decisions. This is why automatic enrollment into 401(k)s and automated savings help so much, simply because it removes the human reaction of not doing anything from the equation. Set it up once and you're good.
When it comes to humans and making decisions, and in particular with finances, sometimes doing what you think you should do vs. what you need to do are different things. And yes, sometimes the inner battle between your gut and your brain may play an important part. You may think that you should treat your child to something special soon, or donate a couple hundred dollars to that charity, and in reality, you probably should, as it's a good organization, or your child is making good grades in school. However, there are times where you honestly might need to not do these things, and take care of yourself first, financially speaking. In other words, making these choices can sometimes be a personal battle, but instead of facing that stressful personal battle each time one of those decisions comes up, that automated savings plan gets you through with less stress.
Before you call me heartless, the other key is to make these important and needed financial commitments early, so you can be in a spot where you can make that contribution or treat your family without added financial stress.
And remember, there is no possible way to know the long-term outcome of every decision made in life, financial or otherwise. So cut yourself a little slack, don't worry too much, and any consequences can be dealt with when - and if - they come along. Remember also that our team is always here to help you work through these financial choices.
My challenge to you is, practice quick decision-making in the next couple of weeks. Next time you're at a restaurant (or choosing one), grocery store, bar, or what-have-you, choose something quickly and move along. There's a good chance you might surprise yourself with something you wouldn't have normally picked, you'll live a bit more spontaneously, and you might just be happier overall - even if your spouse ended up with the better looking dish at the restaurant.