Broker Check

When Irrational Thoughts Take Over

| June 02, 2016

Teenagers are sooooo Irrational.

I have decided I am going to write a monthly blog page.  The blog is going to be about things I encounter in my life of family, faith, baseball and finance.  Most will be simple observations and how it all connects together in my little brain…for better or worse.

The human mind is an interesting thing.  We are emotional creatures because we are wired to survive and when stuff starts happening our survival instinct is triggered immediately.  A great example would be imagining if you saw a bear in the woods.  Your first instinct is to turn and run.  Your brain says, ‘Get me the heck out of here as soon as possible before something bad happens’.  But anyone who is versed in outdoor survival will tell you that is the most irrational thing you can do.  The rational thing to do is make noise and hope the bear goes away…if that does not work lay down, cover your head and do nothing.  I can hear some of you now, ‘but Keith I don’t have to be faster than the bear, I only have to be faster than the guy next to me.’  So true, but still wrong.

Irrational and emotional thoughts are evident everywhere we look.  The gratification of a new purchase of something we didn’t really need, road rage for a minor thing another driver did, concern our appearance or clothes aren’t perfect… our most emotional time is probably in our teen’s where most of life’s decisions are almost considered life or death. 

As we get older we tend to think more rationally (or at least we think we do).  The reason we think more rationally is we’ve had more life lessons.  For some things maybe we’ve implemented a system to help us battle those irrational thoughts.  Maybe we always sleep on a big decision or we never go to bed angry at our spouse.  We know that because our hair isn’t perfect or our best friend hasn’t called us back it does not mean the world is going to end, because we’ve lived through it.  We may have a tough day or week…but in the long run things should be ok.

Until it comes to money… rational thinking and money are a tough pair.  As we get older we can sometimes even become more irrational with money, because we have it now.  We’ve seen that account balance grow and we’ve fallen in love with it.  It’s something we’re proud of and we don’t want to see go away.  So, as any rational person would do, we pull it up on our computer and look at our balance often (sometimes multiple times daily), we bubble wrap it, helicopter over it and don’t let it out of our sight because of the fear something bad may happen.

Being a financial advisor for 15 years I have found that, often times, our most successful clients are very good at managing their emotions and thinking rationally.  They understand the only measuring stick they should be using is their own.  They don’t worry about the car their neighbor bought or the investment their brother-in-law recommends.  They stick to their goals and use their plan, based on their situation to reach them.  They understand the markets will go up and down.  They know that sometimes laying down, covering their head and doing nothing can be a rational thing to do.  Having a tough day, week, month or year is part of life and things should be ok in the long run.   

My daughter is not quite in to her teens yet so I am sure conversations about emotions are just beginning in my house and, because we are wired for survival, managing these emotions will be easier said than done.  Being a know-nothing father and speaking rationally during an emotional time is probably going to fall on deaf ears.  All I can do is remind her that just because Susie has a new car doesn’t mean she needs one, that designer clothes don’t necessarily mean that people will like her more or make her happy, it’s not the end of the world if her best friend is mad at her, that teenage boys don’t always have her best interests in mind, that driving 90 miles an hour just because she can doesn’t mean she should, that things should be ok in the long run and I am always here to talk about my knowledge and experience if she needs me.  I can only hope all these years of being a financial advisor come in handy during those volatile years of her life.