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Decisions, decisions, decisions

Voltaire famously said, “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” Though I really do believe (and often repeat!) those words, making a decision — even an imperfect one — is easier said than done. 

There is not a living soul who doesn’t face myriad decisions every day. Many decisions are trivial. Whether to get up now, or hit the snooze button… just one more time. What to wear. What to eat. Whether to hit the gym or settle in for an evening Netflix binge. With those little decisions, most of us tend to do pretty well. Why? Because the consequences are minimal. Then there are those other decisions that have the potential to change your life. What career should you choose? Whether it’s your first, second, or third. Should you buy that house? Relocate? Get divorced? Retire? When it comes to these major choices, it’s easy to get stuck in a no-man’s land of indecision.

Jacqui is a prime example. She had been considering a move to Rancho Mission Viejo for more than a year when an ideal property went on the market. She was certain this was the perfect spot in the perfect over-55 community, and she made the life-changing decision to go for it. 

When we met to review the purchase of her new home and make a plan for selling the home she had lived in for decades, she was fraught with decisions. What realtor should she hire? How should she price the house? Should she make improvements or sell it ‘as-is’? What about staging? What should she keep? What should she toss? She was overwhelmed, and so she did what lots of people do: nothing. The process drew out for months… and months. She was paying two mortgages and straining her cash flow, all because she was overwhelmed with all the decisions that were needed to actually sell her house. 

As you can imagine, part of Jacqui’s challenge was emotional. Selling her family home after so many years was hard. She knew it was the right choice, but she let all the smaller decisions create a barrier to action. I’ve done the same thing in my own life, and I’m guessing you have too. So what’s the answer? What can we all do to make the right decisions faster? 

It all begins with what New York Times writer Tim Herrera calls the ‘Mostly Fine Decision,’ or M.F.D. And it’s a decision that is surprisingly difficult to make. Why? Because most of us (all of us?) suffer from this decision-killer: The Fear of Better Options.

You know what I’m talking about. It happens all the time, and it can stop the decision-making process dead in its tracks — for everything from planning your next vacation to accepting a party invitation to choosing a spouse! What if there’s a better option out there, somewhere, and you just haven’t discovered it yet? What if making a decision now will prevent you from making a better decision later?

In the 2015 Psychology Today article Satisficing vs. Maximizing, Shahram Heshmat, Ph.D. does a wonderful job explaining the phenomenon that is so great at leading us down the road to indecision. Called ‘maximization,’ it is the powerful need to research and dissect every possible path to reveal the ‘best’ option. The problem: it is rarely possible to know every option out there. Plus, studies on the topic (and yes, this is actually an area of some pretty heavy research) show that ‘maximizers’ who tend to explore their options ad nauseam may make better decisions, but they’re often less satisfied in the end because they continue to second-guess their choices. In contrast, ‘satisficers’ research less and are happy to choose the ‘good enough’ option in less time. And because this group tends to focus more on whether a decision will make them happy than whether it is the ‘best’ choice, they tend to be happier with every choice, even if they learn of a better option down the road. 

What does this research teach us? That the key to happiness may be to seek options that are ‘good enough’ instead of obsessing over making the ‘best’ decision every time. 

One of the most important ways I serve my clients is to act as a sounding board for your financial decisions. My goal, always, is to help you make optimal decisions with minimal risk. Should you buy the Tesla Model 3 or splurge on the Model S? By looking at your budget and your needs, we can work together to make a choice that’s truly best for you. Can you ‘afford’ to buy a condo on Maui? That depends on what tradeoffs you’re willing to make. You may have to give up dreams of hopping over to Paris and Greece, but if having your own private spot on the beach is worth it for you, it may be the ‘perfect’ choice for you.

As I’ve written before, Money really can buy happiness, but the freedom to make choices requires some level of wealth to begin with. As your financial advisor, my goal is to help you accumulate a level of wealth that opens up a multitude of options. And when there are financial decisions to be made, it’s your turn to be a ‘satisficer’—not a ‘maximizer’—so, together, we can make sure ‘perfect’ doesn’t become the enemy of ‘good enough.’ 

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*Winners appearing on this page do not pay a fee to be considered or to win the Five Star Award. Professionals with a digital profile have paid a promotional fee.
The Five Star Wealth Manager award, administered by Crescendo Business Services, LLC (dba Five Star Professional), is based on 10 objective criteria. Eligibility criteria – required: 1. Credentialed as a registered investment adviser or a registered investment adviser representative; 2. Actively licensed as a registered investment adviser or as a principal of a registered investment adviser firm for a minimum of 5 years; 3. Favorable regulatory and complaint history review (As defined by Five Star Professional, the wealth manager has not; A. Been subject to a regulatory action that resulted in a license being suspended or revoked, or payment of a fine; B. Had more than a total of three settled or pending complaints filed against them and/or a total of five settled, pending, dismissed or denied complaints with any regulatory authority or Five Star Professional’s consumer complaint process. Unfavorable feedback may have been discovered through a check of complaints registered with a regulatory authority or complaints registered through Five Star Professional’s consumer complaint process; feedback may not be representative of any one client’s experience; C. Individually contributed to a financial settlement of a customer complaint; D. Filed for personal bankruptcy within the past 11 years; E. Been terminated from a financial services firm within the past 11 years; F. Been convicted of a felony); 4. Fulfilled their firm review based on internal standards; 5. Accepting new clients. Evaluation criteria – considered: 6. One-year client retention rate; 7. Five-year client retention rate; 8. Non-institutional discretionary and/or non-discretionary client assets administered; 9. Number of client households served; 10. Education and professional designations. Wealth managers do not pay a fee to be considered or placed on the final list of Five Star Wealth Managers. Award does not evaluate quality of services provided to clients. Once awarded, wealth managers may purchase additional profile ad space or promotional products. The Five Star award is not indicative of the wealth manager’s future performance. Wealth managers may or may not use discretion in their practice and therefore may not manage their client’s assets. The inclusion of a wealth manager on the Five Star Wealth Manager list should not be construed as an endorsement of the wealth manager by Five Star Professional or this publication. Working with a Five Star Wealth Manager or any wealth manager is no guarantee as to future investment success, nor is there any guarantee that the selected wealth managers will be awarded this accomplishment by Five Star Professional in the future. For more information on the Five Star award and the research/selection methodology, go to fivestarprofessional.com. 2,320 Orange County area wealth managers were considered for the award; 152 (7 percent of candidates) were named 2020 Five Star Wealth Managers. 2019: 2,469 considered, 187 winners; 2018: 2,423 considered, 144 winners; 2017: 1,790 considered, 280 winners; 2016: 1,383 considered, 312 winners; 2015: 2010 considered, 351 winners; 2014: 3,489 considered, 302 winners; 2013: 2,293 considered, 415 winners; 2012: 1,760 considered, 255 winners.