How Do You Take the Stress Out of Financial Decisions?

Here’s how to create focus and use the 10-10-10 rule.

 Have you ever spent hours, days, or even weeks thinking about a decision, researching the options and maybe weighing the potential outcomes? Have you spent so much time doing research and then end up not making a decision? Whether due to perfectionism (which is really anxiety under cover), fear of missing out (FOMO is real) or any number of other concerns, you are definitely not alone.

 Consider that it is easy to get overwhelmed when making decisions about money, jobs, relationships—or really anything that you deem a “big” decision. And it can be just as easy to get overwhelmed even when making a small decision. In fact, the general tendency for many of us is to overthink any decision—especially when it’s a decision that involves your finances or investments or one that costs money.



Here are a few tips that might help:

1.    Think about what your time is worth. How much time (money) is this decision really worth? Saving $50 on a flight, for example, isn’t worth 10 hours of research because your time is worth more than $5 per hour.

2.    Consider that there truly is no perfect decision—how much better will one flight truly be than another? Probably not much.

3.    Focus on your goals—is the flight truly your goal, or is it the trip?

4.    Just make the decision—the truth is that simply having made the decision will often allay more stress than continuing to search for the “perfect flight.”

5.    Remember that almost any decision can be undone.

The 10, 10, 10 rule

Another idea is to make decisions from the perspective of the future using the 10, 10, 10 rule—which simply has you consider how you might feel about a decision in 10 weeks, 10 months and 10 years. Consider that in 10 days you may still be wondering if you made the right decision, or may still be pinched by the financial repercussions, but what about further down the line? Looking at each time frame, ask yourself:

·         What difference will this decision have made in your life?

·         Will the money matter anymore (if that’s part of the issue)?

·         Would you even remember this decision?

·         If you don’t do it, would you wish you had?

·         If you do it, will you be wondering why you were ever stressed about it?

 Using these tips can help put any decision into context and may be the key to helping you live without regret.

Tuning Out the Noise

For investors, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the relentless stream of news about markets. Being
bombarded with data and headlines presented as impactful to your financial well-being can evoke strong
emotional responses from even the most experienced investors. Headlines from the "lost decade"1 can help
illustrate several periods that may have led market participants to question their approach.
  • May 1999: Dow Jones Industrial Average Closes Above 11,000 for the First Time
  • March 2000: Nasdaq Stock Exchange Index Reaches an All-Time High of 5,048
  • April 2000: In Less Than a Month, Nearly a Trillion Dollars of Stock Value Evaporates
  • October 2002: Nasdaq Hits a Bear-Market Low of 1,114
  • September 2005: Home Prices Post Record Gains
  • September 2008: Lehman Files for Bankruptcy, Merrill Is Sold

While these events are now a decade or more behind us, they can still serve as an important reminder for investors today. For many, feelings of elation or despair can accompany headlines like these. We should remember that markets can be volatile and recognize that, in the moment, doing nothing may feel paralyzing. Throughout these ups and downs, however, if one had hypothetically invested $10,000 in US stocks in May 1999 and stayed invested, that investment would be worth approximately $28,000 today.2

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E+R=O, a Formula for Success

Combining an enduring investment philosophy with a simple formula that helps maintain investment discipline can increase the odds of having a positive financial experience.

"The important thing about an investment philosophy
is that you have one you can stick with."

David Booth
Founder and Executive Chairman
Dimensional Fund Advisors


Investing is a long-term endeavor. Indeed, people will spend decades pursuing their financial goals. But being an investor can be complicated, challenging, frustrating, and sometimes frightening. This is exactly why, as David Booth says, it is important to have an investment philosophy you can stick with, one that can help you stay the course.

This simple idea highlights an important question: How can investors, maintain discipline through bull markets, bear markets, political strife, economic instability, or whatever crisis du jour threatens progress towards their investment goals?

Over their lifetimes, investors face many decisions, prompted by events that are both within and outside their control. Without an enduring philosophy to inform their choices, they can potentially suffer unnecessary anxiety, leading
to poor decisions and outcomes that are damaging to their long-term financial well-being.

When they don't get the results they want, many investors blame things outside their control. They might point the finger at the government, central banks, markets, or the economy. Unfortunately, the majority will not do the things that might be more beneficial—evaluating and reflecting on their own responses to events and taking responsibility for their decisions.

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