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Column: Overthinking the 'what-ifs' of life

Column: Overthinking the 'what-ifs' of life

November 08, 2019

There are no guarantees in life, but there are some things we can be pretty sure of: the sun will rise tomorrow, Trump is going to tweet, Valdosta is going to play football. But something could happen. The sun could fall out of the sky, Trump could get a thumb cramp, Valdosta could take up badminton. What if?

I saw a sign the other day that said, “Overthinking is creating problems that don’t exist.” It’s asking “what if” too much. When it comes to money, overthinking happens all the time.

But the media encourages it. If the market is up, then it is soaring, and if it is down, then it’s plunging. There are only two buttons on the elevator: soaring and plunging. And when it comes to investors and their money, that causes a seriously bumpy ride.

The media, whether we know it or not, ends up shaping our thinking, imposing their narrative on us, encouraging us to overthink and ask all sorts of what ifs.

But it is our job to shred that narrative.

For example, I often hear the question: “What if the stock market crashes and we lose all our money?”

Let’s think about that. Assuming you have a diversified** investment portfolio that spreads your investments out across the vast American market, there are two answers: the logical answer and the emotional answer.

Logically, we can look at the history of the stock market and how it has never not recovered. Fundamentally, in order for the stock market to crash—and never recover—it would require a political and economic environment where guns and bullets are much more valuable than stocks or bonds. So yes, France could potentially take over and The Star-Spangled Banner could potentially be replaced with their national anthem, La Marseillaise. Or who knows, zombies may be real too!

Emotionally, we hate losing money, and we panic when we think about the what ifs. The average investor returns far less than the benchmark, just because they get in and out of the market at all the wrong times.

The real solution is professional perspective. Instead of listening to the media, who get paid to cause a ruckus, listen to someone who has your back, who is invested in your financial wellness as much as you are.

The service a professional can provide is absolutely connected to overthinking. Their priority is to cut through the crap, read the data, and shred the narrative. You hire him or her, not just to offload the task of managing your finances, but to weed through the narrative of big media and give you the truth, anchoring your thinking so it doesn’t go overboard when the boat starts rocking.

Anytime you start thinking about the what ifs, stop and listen to your thoughts. Odds are they’ll sound like either The Star-Spangled Banner or La Marseillaise. And just remember, America will never be singing a French anthem.

Adam Setser

Financial Advisor

Kerrigan Capital and Risk Management

3543 N Crossing Cir, Valdosta, GA 31602


Securities and insurance products are offered through Cetera Investment Services LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services are offered through Cetera Investment Advisers LLC. Cetera firms are under separate ownership from any other named entity.

The opinions contained in this material are those of the author, and not a recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell investment products. This information is from sources believed to be reliable, but Cetera Investment Services LLC cannot guarantee or represent that it is accurate or complete.

** A diversified portfolio does not assure a profit or protect against loss in a declining market.