Financial Perfectionism: You’ve Been Spotted!

Tonight I was sitting out in the front porch with my wife, and I was telling her about the recent obsessing I had been doing over my investments (I know, doesn’t that sound fun?). I had been fussing over which choice was right and making continuous changes, yet the clarity and ease and certainty that I craved was eluding me (surprise, surprise). She pointed out that it seemed I was trying to be perfect, and that I was beating myself up trying to do the impossible.*

Financial perfectionism: you’ve been spotted!

Indeed, perfectionism, especially when it comes to learning, is something I dealt with for a long time. To be fair, as regarding investments, I do have a legitimate desire for understanding and clarity. I am still educating myself on the topic. Yet consider the questions I have been trying to answer recently:

  • What’s the right mix of stocks vs. bonds for me?
  • With stocks, what’s the right mix of U.S. vs. International stocks?
  • With bonds, what kind of bonds are right for me? Should I perhaps go with long-term bonds, which seem to have a higher yield but also more interest-rate risk?

Looking over these questions, here’s a telling fact: the word “right” appears for every item. And the word “should” appears in the only sentence that the word “right” doesn’t appear in.

In my experience, trying to get it right basically always sucks. It always leads to being confused, doubtful, and unclear. It pre-supposes that there’s some “right” way to do things, usually mysterious or complex, known by someone else, and it contains the flawed premise that if we only work at it long enough, we will reach that ideal state of perfection which we think of as “getting it right.” It never happens! Plus, it masks the real fear: that we will fail, be criticized, make mistakes, and feel incredibly wrong.

And “shoulding” on oneself is just as bad. It tends to be highly unsatisfying, misaligned, and sucky, as you do something merely to satisfy someone else (real or imagined), or, again, believe that there is a “right” way that something should be done.

That’s not the way to find alignment.


Oh well. I will ponder this more, and perhaps update with my insights another time. Certainly I will benefit from identifying my “getting it right” relapse!

*Thank you, wifey.

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