How To Make Financial And Life Decisions in Uncertain Times

If you are a planner like me (full disclosure, I am not a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER ™, but a planner in the generic sense), who likes to analyze all of her available options before making a thoughtful and well-informed decision, you may feel frozen from action in the current environment. New developments on public health recommendations, personal health recommendations, and the general state of the economy are being broadcast daily. How can we make the “right” decision when the situation may be entirely different tomorrow?

We all must make daily decisions, and in uncertain times, the importance of those may feel amplified as we try to control the situation as much as possible. To clarify, when I refer to “decisions,” I am referring to both the smaller things in life –Should I still plan a summer vacation? –and the bigger life event-related ones –Should I have another baby? Should I switch careers? These questions can be applied to all decisions, including financial ones.

One option is to freeze all decision-making until things have stabilized. For a lot of decisions, this strategy could work. However, what if you have a time-sensitive decision or an opportunity that may not last long? Below are a few questions to ask yourself as you navigate a decision in an uncertain time:

Do I really need to decide now?

When you are close to a situation, it can feel like you must decide right now. However, for most things in life, that’s not the case. Consider whether waiting to gain some perspective will help you make a better decision, and one that you feel more at peace with. Try to avoid letting fear and panic guide your decision making. Write a date on the calendar to revisit the decision, to hold yourself accountable to deciding and not putting it off indefinitely.

What is the best-case, worst-case, and most likely scenarios for each option? What are the potential upsides and downsides of each scenario?

This is something that I do a lot at work, when making my own decisions or helping a colleague make a decision. But I find that most of us are less likely to do it in our personal lives, and especially around our finances. It can be easy to get emotionally invested in a specific outcome rather than looking at all outcomes. If you’re not sure of the upsides and downsides of a financial decision, call a financial coach to help you identify them!

What is my back-up plan if things go poorly? What does my support system look like?

Contingency planning is critical here, and your support system plays a huge role in what your worst-case scenario looks like. Are you thinking of switching careers, moving across the country, or buying a house right as we head into a recession? Your age, your savings, your income streams, your partner, and your risk tolerance will all impact how the worst-case scenario looks for you.

Every day we make a multitude of choices, and ultimately our lives become the sum of these choices. Do what you can to set yourself and those around you for success, but know that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” decision

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