How to Defeat Analysis Paralysis in Investment Decisions

Published: November 28, 2023 at 6:00 am

We discuss how investors can overcome analysis paralysis and confidently make investment decisions.

Analysis paralysis is a frequently encountered issue in managing personal finances, impacting individuals in distinct ways. As an illustration, I can swiftly select a mutual fund and invest a substantial amount within 10 minutes. However, when choosing a health insurance policy, I experience significant hesitation and outright decline to provide specific product recommendations. This is why I sought help: We purchased a 2nd set of base and super top-up health insurance policies.

 

Of course, who to take help from also involves a decision, and many people hesitate to get help because they don’t know who to trust and who they would be comfortable with. I was just lucky to meet a competent person. Analysis paralysis is extremely common and, to a small extent, healthy as it shows that you care about money and its future role.

Taking an entire week or even a month to decide is acceptable if a decision is reached by the end of that period. Otherwise, it indicates a problem. Although easier said than done, overcoming this issue is feasible by altering our perspective on the decision-making process.

In personal finance, there are two kinds of mistakes – the ones you can correct quickly and the ones you cannot correct quickly, perhaps never. Why do we fear making a decision? Because we fear making a mistake.

One of the biggest lessons we learn from experience in investing is that no one knows our stock pick or fund pick will come good at the time of investment. We can analyze for hours, but it comes down to a leap of faith at the end of the day. This is true for insurance too.


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Investment is not a one-time action but a journey where we continuously learn and course correct. So start without hesitation with some basic knowledge.

Thankfully, a stock or mutual fund investment is easy to correct if things turn sour. If one chooses a simple index fund, that headache is also gone. See, for example: How Avadhoot Joshi evaluates his investment portfolio.

This even applies to choosing an investment advisor. Unless we begin the relationship, we can never know if our choice is right or wrong. We can always chuck them if it is wrong, start working with another or DIY in frustration! If you wish to narrow the selection process from 1000s of advisors to a trusted handful, you can consult our list of Fee-only Financial Planners in India (SEBI RIAs). More than 1000 of our readers work with them.

Thankfully, DIY investing can be easy if we have not made too many mistakes (maybe analysis paralysis has benefits, too!). Here are some thumb rules to follow without analysis paralysis (assuming you trust our research and experience)

  • If your need is five years away, choose 100% fixed income. Use FD or RD if you are worried about debt funds. Or you can choose a liquid fund or money market fund. These are the easiest debt funds to choose from (aside from overnight funds)
  • If your need is 5-10 years, choose 20-30% equity (index fund) only if you are willing to systematically reduce this exposure in the future. Else stick to fixed income.
  • For needs above ten years, start with an initial asset allocation of 60% equity (index fund) and the rest in fixed income. Start! That is the most important step. Never stop investing and never stop learning how to manage portfolio risk.
  • Choose the new tax regime; you will not clutter the portfolio with “tax saving” instruments.

The real point we are trying to make is: As long you avoid ULIPs, other insurance products, or any other product just for tax saving, you can quickly start and learn on the fly. If you choose index funds, half the burden of worrying about fund performance is already removed.

That is, analysis paralysis can be largely reduced in the entire money management space by choosing passive funds where suitable and by appreciating that the right choice can never be known beforehand, and the best part is one need not know it beforehand. 

Starting the investments – that is the most important part. Then all one has to do is keep the investing going and gradually learn about goal-based risk management.

Crazy as it may seem, the only way to get rid of the fear of making mistakes is to make some mistakes, learn from them and not make the same mistakes again.

Getting started without paralysis is fantastic, but you will not stay the course if you give in to FOMO. Here is how to tackle that: How can I overcome the fear of missing out while investing?

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Pattabiraman editor freefincalDr. M. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He has over ten years of experience publishing news analysis, research and financial product development. Connect with him via Twitter, Linkedin, or YouTube. Pattabiraman has co-authored three print books: (1) You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) for DIY investors. (2) Gamechanger for young earners. (3) Chinchu Gets a Superpower! for kids. He has also written seven other free e-books on various money management topics. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India,” an organisation promoting unbiased, commission-free investment advice.
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