I’m moving next week, and even though I still have a few days to go I’m already pretty spent. From the decision to find a new place to the painfully long search and ultimately to the final move, it consumes so much physical and mental energy that at some point you inevitably wonder if it’s really all worth it. As I think past the near-term pain and anxiety to the post-move future with more space, a nice view, and significantly lower rent, I know things will eventually work out and we’ll look back fondly on our good choice. But that still doesn’t diminish the reality that moving is hard.
In a moment of brief silence lost in a day full of errands, it struck me that I’ve felt this way before. And it wasn’t even in another physical move like the one I’m caught up in now. Now that I think about it, making a big financial decision can bring out a lot of the same emotions as changing the place you call home.
Have you ever felt this way when considering a change to your investments?
- You feel energized and driven to explore every possible option.
- Even when you find something excellent, you compulsively seek out better alternatives.
- You stress about minor details beyond your control as a way of avoiding big decisions.
- You think 3 steps ahead to future unknowns and it feels paralyzing.
- Exhaustion from the near-term at some point overpowers excitement for the long-term.
- You start rationalizing your current situation and forgetting the shortcomings that initiated your search in the first place.
- So you stick with the status quo until the fatigue wears off and you return to step 1.
C’mon now. Be honest. I know it’s not just me!
As we contemplate our respective moves, I don’t have a pretty chart or a long-form explanation to make everything clear. But I do have a brief bit of hard-earned advice from both physical and financial changes of years past.
When your choices seem overwhelming or the steps in front of you look like too much to deal with, take a moment to stop whatever cycle your brain is stuck in. Take a walk, be present in the world around you, and don’t think at all. Only when the anxiety is gone, sit down and grab a blank piece of paper.
Write down what you want to accomplish. If it’s a huge list, narrow it down to the top-3 things that are most important. Maybe you want to retire in 10 years. Maybe it’s to invest in a more consistent portfolio that is better aligned with your comfort level for volatility. Or maybe you have a target asset allocation in mind and need a plan to get there. By keeping the list short, it will help you focus on what’s important and ignore the noise.
Next, write down the barriers to that goal. Are you worried about the tax implications of changing your asset allocation? Are you having a tough time deciding between multiple options? Whatever is holding you back, don’t let it stress you out. Just make a list.
Finally, write down the number 1 followed by the one thing you can do today to get you one step closer to your goal. Make it a small, achievable task.
Then turn away from the page and just do it.
I think the thing that gets a lot of people stuck in their investing life is a sense that the problem is just too hard to tackle. When the goal seems far beyond our reach it’s easy to dismiss it as impossible. But there’s a very good chance that you’re doing too much planning of the perfect route rather than simply taking it one step at a time.
Just like life in general, investing is a journey. Not every place you live in has to be your dream home for you to be happy, and not every asset allocation you invest in has to be a picture-perfect portfolio for it to get the job done. Sure, you have a goal and plan to make your way there, but it doesn’t have to happen overnight. Stop stressing about perfection and start thinking about continuous improvement. You’ll be a lot happier, and there’s a very good chance you’ll be a lot more successful as well.
Sign the lease. Call a mover. Pack one box.
Read a book. Add one new asset. Think about the next one.
You’ve got this.
Thank you to everyone who contributes one achievable amount at a time. You’re awesome!