Is there a way to manage financial decision-making so that, come what may, we are at peace with the outcome?  Can we bring an end to high anxiety, nail-biting stress when a decision seems to be going wrong?  Can we avoid the pattern of blaming self, others, the system or the universe itself when our finances seem headed for derailment?  Here are a few helpful thoughts and recommendations that could save our sanity.

Let’s begin by looking into the three key elements of any financial opportunity:  the facts, the potential, and the assurances.  Looking these squarely in the face and assessing them honestly with mind and emotion, sets the stage for reducing stress.  A final outcome that meets or exceeds expectations will leave us ecstatic—laughing all the way to the bank, as the saying goes.  But even when a decision results in unanticipated calamity, we can fortify ourselves and move forward without bitterness or hopelessness.  Think of emotional intelligence applied to financial decisions.  Here we go!

The Facts. 

In financial deals, the facts are always in writing, but they are not always clear.  That’s why we have consultations with advisors, friends and members of our learning community (whether online or in person) to guide us into greater understanding and clarity about what the terms and conditions really say and what they really mean.  Gaining and absolute, full understanding is impossible for most of us because the contracts are written in complex technical and legal terminology.  We are tempted to skim through looking for the pertinent facts and may miss a little clause that makes a huge difference.  As money becomes increasingly digital and companies are going global, the complexity balloons.  We fight through the minutia with proper diligence and move forward with our e-signature (defined technically as the “digital certificate, cryptographically bound to the document—whatever that means!). Done.

The potential. 

Whether the deal is a banking product, a security or a non-traditional blockchain/crypto project, we make our decision in anticipation of a positive, potential gain.  Our exuberant expectation of great rewards may tend to overshadow the possibility of a negative outcome.  Analyzing the potential is serious business and quite tedious, but can be great fun.  We determine the amount to deposit, apply the terms of the deal, pull out a calculator, build a spread sheet or use an online tool.  Through this process we arrive at the minimum and maximum expected potential, checking to be sure it is reasonable based on past performance and other factors.  Now this potential becomes a quantified reality in our minds.  Visions begin dancing in our heads.  We imagine tearing up the mortgage on the house or moving to Tahiti – or both! But not so fast.  One more element comes into play.


Certain assurances are built into every financial deal or we’d never agree to anything.  But some of our assumptions about these assurances are unrealistic.  We are not naïve enough to believe in guarantees, yet our hopes and dreams can usher us into a never-never land where we forget to prepare for the unexpected.  Consider the following “unexpected” stuff that we ought to expect.

Unexpected Stuff

First, the terms of the deal are actually subject to change.  Most contracts have a built-in clause allowing the issuer to make modifications without giving prior notice or gaining approval from all parties, meaning that the original deal is subject to (unexpected) modification.

Second, unforeseen changes in the economy, the markets, technology or the politics of the land could result in conditions that diminish the capacity of one or more parties to fulfill the terms of the contract.  These conditions can creep in slowly, then surface suddenly to bring about disruption.  For example, in the Silicon Valley Bank debacle last year, a convergence of events resulted in unforeseen calamity.  A poorly diversified portfolio destabilized the bank’s results, leading to negative speculation in social media, which triggered a devastating run on the bank.  No assurances.

So if (1) the facts of the deal are complex and subject to shift without notice or warning, and  (2) the exciting potential of the deal could entice us to overlook negative possibilities and (3) some perceived assurances are unrealistic, then arriving at a comfortable decision will require us to closely examine the mindset we have regarding loss.  We’ve been taught never to risk more than we can afford to lose financially.  But we must also consider the losses we can afford to sustain emotionally. 


Some people are emotionally low-risk.  The possibility of losing the money invested causes the most anxiety.  These may try to time the market and pull out just before sustaining a loss.  (Good luck with that strategy!). The less stressful decision for this group is to dip a toe in the water but only risk funds that would pinch a bit if lost, but not crush them financially.  They find peace in being cautiously adventurous.

Others are high-risk emotionally.  They have more anxiety over missing an opportunity to win big.  They beat themselves up over not buying Amazon stock 20 years ago, or bitcoin in 2013.  They will swallow hard and take the plunge if the upside potential seems huge and real.  They are prepared emotionally to start all over from scratch if the deal goes bust, but they don’t want to miss out.  They find peace in going all out.

There is no right or wrong strategy.  Each must own her decision, live with the outcome and enjoy journey.  Sober consideration of the facts, the potential and the assurances keeps our minds and emotions ready to face disappointing results without undue stress or anxiety.  As we build a legacy of wealth, taking steps to de-stress our decisions is a most important goal.

Connect with Gail on her website or read more from her on Plaid.