Decisions, decisions, decisions

Is there a reason why financial decisions are so challenging and how can we learn to navigate them? Stemming from a run in with the bees, Simon 'waxes' lyrical on the issues when faced with making decisions. (Warning- there is a serious amount of bad bee puns)

Recently, I experienced something that doesn’t often happen to me.  We had a fairly full late afternoon/early evening planned – filled with normal family things, feeding the kids and bedtime routines etc etc.   Sarah and I had just come in from visiting the two bee hives, both aware the aforementioned ‘routines’ needed to start soon if we wanted to have some time together in the evening. 

However, as I said, we had just been to the bees and taken (probably the last of the honey off for this year), but somewhere there was a mix up in communications.  I had expected that we would sort the honey out ASAP, while Sarah had expected the afternoon routine to start.  The result was a ‘discussion’ about what was the process and next step- resulting in Sarah asking me the simple question; ‘What do you want to do?’ 

My ‘issue’ was that I couldn’t make a decision.  I could see the issues ahead if we sorted the bee frames out (for the non-beekeepers among you that means extracting the honey – a fun but very, very sticky process) but also the inevitable impact if we paused the ‘routine’. 

The outcome….white noise. UnBEElievable, I couldn’t make a decision. To cut a long and potentially boring story short, the outcome was that I didn’t make a decision, became grumpy and sulked at Sarah like a bay-bee (sorry!!). The result was that ‘we’ parked the frames – they’d be fine – and sort the kids.   

However, later as I reflected on this, I realised two points: 

  1. That I needed to challenge my response and apologise. 
  1. That many of our decisions become ‘stuck’ because of a,b or c (whatever reason). 

Putting aside the bees for a sec and bringing this to financial planning, it is important to understand emotions and bias as equally as challenges, potential outcomes.  We at Clarus believe in purpose and values, and we work hard to help people align their finances and human resources to align with these values. 

But, decisions surrounding financial planning present us with a unique set of challenges and these complexities can feel overwhelming.

So why are these decisions related to financial planning are so challenging and how can we navigate through them?

Now and Tomorrow 

One of the core challenges in financial planning decisions is finding the delicate balance between the ‘now’ and the ‘to come’. It’s not uncommon for people to grapple with the desire for immediate gratification versus the need to save and invest for the long term.  

In his excellent book “The Geometry of Wealth,” Brian Portnoy discusses the tension between immediate gratification and long-term financial goals.  Within, Brian acknowledges that humans are wired for instant gratification and often prioritize short-term pleasure over long-term benefits.   However, the critical element is to find balance between enjoying life now and planning for the future.  Brian introduces us to the term “Funded Contentment” which focuses on using money to enable a fulfilled life rather than pursuing wealth for its own sake and the tension between short-term wants and long-term goals can create a dilemma that requires careful consideration. 

The action, therefore, is to carefully consider and reflect on what your priorities are (individual and if relevant, as a couple) what makes life enjoyable for you today and what would this look like also in the future.   

But how does Information, Emotions and Bias impact our judgement?

However, we are human, and therefore our emotions and bias can play a significant role in life and can sometimes cloud our judgment. The fear of losses, the allure of potential gains, and even societal pressures can impact our choices. Cognitive biases, such as the tendency to favour familiar options or to overly focus on recent events, can affect our financial decisions. Confirmation bias, where we seek information that confirms our existing beliefs, can lead to missed opportunities or poor choices.  

Emotions can lead to impulsive decisions and bias can impact our future view.  Therefore, both can hinder objective analysis, and result in choices that might not align with our long-term financial goals. 

What is problematic is that we live in an age where the volume of information available can be overwhelming. Sorting through a sea of financial advice, investment options, and market news can leave individuals feeling paralyzed by analysis paralysis. The challenge lies in filtering out the noise and accessing reliable, relevant information. 

So what can YOU do to address this?

  1. Understand your purpose and values:  Purpose and values are fundamental aspects of our identity and help define the way we navigate through life. Both play a crucial role in shaping your actions, decisions, relationships, and overall well-being.  Purpose and values help act like a compass when navigating life (and making decisions). 
  1. Set Clear Goals: Define your short-term and long-term goals (financial and lifestyle) and give each a timeframe.  Now sit back and ask ‘Do these align to my purpose and values’.  If they do, your compass is working well.  If not, revisit and don’t worry that you haven’t hit it right on the first attempt – you will get there. 
  1. Seek help: Often a third party can see you map quicker than you or help you with objective insights which can help you navigate the various complexity, mitigate biases, and make strategic choices. 

In my opinion, one of the biggest stumbling blocks is often dealing with the huge array of options we have before us.  Each option then carries its own decisions regarding choices that need to be made.  And the spiders web of decisions widens further.

So how can we break it down even more?….Let’s start thinking about the below

Purpose and Value Questions 

  1. What activities or pursuits give you a deep sense of fulfillment and joy? 
  1. Reflect on moments in your life when you felt most alive and engaged. What were you doing? 
  1. What legacy or impact do you want to leave behind in your personal and professional spheres? 
  1. If you had unlimited resources and no constraints, what would you dedicate your time and energy to? 
  1. What skills, talents, or qualities do you possess that could contribute positively to the world? 
  1. Think about a time when you were proud of a decision you made. What values were guiding you in that moment? 
  1. What qualities do you admire most in the people you look up to? 
  1. Imagine you have the opportunity to create a mission statement for your life. What core values would you include? 
  1. Reflect on a time when you felt conflicted or uncomfortable with a decision. Which values were being challenged? 
  1. What areas of life do you prioritize the most? (e.g., family, career, personal growth, community involvement) 

Identify the Problem 

  1. What is the specific decision you’re currently facing? 
  1. Why is this decision important to you or your organization? 
  1. What is the context and background of the decision? 

Generate Alternatives 

  1. What are the different options or alternatives available to address the problem? 
  1. Are there any creative or unconventional solutions you haven’t considered yet? 
  1. How do each of these alternatives align with your goals and priorities? 

Evaluate Alternatives 

  1. What are the potential benefits of each alternative? 
  1. What are the potential drawbacks or risks associated with each alternative? 
  1. Are there any financial, time, or resource constraints that impact your evaluation? 
  1. How does your personal bias or emotions influence your perception of each alternative? 
  1. Have you sought input from others? 
  1. How does each align with your values and principles? 

Clearly the above are simply insights only, as there is no ‘one size fits all’, but they may provide some food for thought. Bee the change you would like to see, I guess you could say… (I’ll get my coat)

If any of the above has sparked any questions or you are interested in finding out more about investing, please don’t hesitate to give us a buzzzzz at 01483 600995 or email us at 

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