Build Better Finances This Year by Overcoming Your Brain’s Natural Tendencies with These Expert Behavioral Finance Tricks.
Humans aren’t robots. While the fields of economics and finance were built on models that assumed entirely rational decision-making, research has found that’s rarely the case.
Humans behave irrationally and make emotional decisions about money and investing all the time. That’s what the emerging field of behavioral finance is all about.
Use these mental tricks to help overcome your inner irrationality and be smarter about money.
Don’t Let Overconfidence Trip You Up
On Wall Street, every investor is above average. Or at least they think they are. One study found that 74% of managers thought they were above average, which isn’t actually statistically possible.1
Stay humble. Overconfidence can lead to you thinking you’ve got an edge on the market and push you into risky investing behavior. When markets turn, you can suffer losses that really hurt your long-term finances.
Don’t Give in to Emotional Selling
Losing money in the market hurts. Research shows that loss aversion is even more powerful than your desire for market gains.
The psychological pressure to sell out of a falling market and avoid further loss can be intense – don’t underestimate it. However, the cost of emotional selling is that you both lock in the losses and can miss out on the market rebound. Loss aversion can also cause you to hold on to portfolio losers longer than you should.
The solution? Acknowledge your emotions around selling, but let logic guide your decisions. Rely on your financial professional’s advice when you’re feeling emotional about your investments.
Use Framing to Reorient Your Perception
Framing is a cognitive bias that influences how we respond to choices and events based on how they are presented to us. The concept is critical in the financial world because we frequently frame gains and losses around benchmarks and time periods.
For example, if you learned that your portfolio was down 3% for the year, you might be unhappy. But, if you realized that your portfolio was up 18% over the last two years, you might feel differently.
That’s the power of framing.
When you’re dealing with unpredictable markets, take the opportunity to frame portfolio performance a different way: “Am I making progress toward my financial goals?”
Overcome Your Recency Bias
Recency bias leads us to think that whatever has happened recently is likely to continue. So, when markets are performing well, we think they’ll rise forever. When markets fall, we think they’ll keep falling. When a crisis strikes, we fear another is just around the corner.
Fight back by reminding yourself that bull markets inevitably end and that market crises typically recover.
Avoid Anchoring Bias
Anchoring is your brain’s tendency to focus on the first piece of information it receives and use it to make subsequent decisions. When you see a discount tag next to a full price, your brain anchors on the money saved (whether the final price is actually fair or not).
Anchoring can affect big financial decisions by causing you to fixate on a single data point – like the price you paid for your house or a recent stock price spike – and disregard other information about value.
The best defense against anchoring is to think critically and to seek multiple perspectives on the value and future potential of your investments.
Slow down When You Make Financial Decisions
Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman identified the brain’s two modes for thinking.2 System 1 (Fast) is intuitive and good at making snap decisions using the amygdala. Great for ordering at the bar. Not so great for making investment decisions. System 2 (Slow) is for deep analysis and is associated with the rational prefrontal cortex.
Whenever numbers are involved, slow down so your brain has time to engage the deep thinking required to make smart decisions. You’re likely to make fewer mistakes than you would using intuition.
Want to learn more about neuroeconomics? Read Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow.
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