by The story always begins the same way. I have heard the narrative countless times in my conference room, at the Y, and at my ballroom dancing club. I have a (fill in the blank) problem and I can’t decide what to do.
I want to retire in two years, but I don’t know what to do?
I’m concerned about my wife handling the finances should she outlive me, but I’m not sure what to do about it?
I’m not married and don’t have children–who should I choose as my power-of-attorney if one day I’m not able to make my own decisions?
Has it always been difficult making decisions? Especially financial decisions? Was the promise of technology a false promise? Has the availability of infinite information on the internet enabled us to make better decisions or has it hindered us? What makes a good decision-maker?
What is Decisions Analysis?
The term “decision analysis” was coined in 1964 by Ronald Howard, a professor at Stanford University. The concept is easy to explain, but hard to execute. Decision analysis is about using a formalized approach to making decisions. In other words, making a decision that isn’t solely based on your gut instinct. Does this mean you have to be a mathematician to improve your decision-making skills? For those of you who don’t have advanced degrees in mathematics, the good news is you don’t have to.
Why Do We Need Decision Analysis?
Humans have natural tendencies that hinder us from making rational decisions. Our biases and self-interest, coupled with having limited information, lead us to make bad decisions. Moreover, studies on peer pressure and groupthink show that our decisions are heavily influenced by our family, friends, and societal norms. Also, more often than not our decisions are guided by our emotional state. Feeling stressed, rushed or anxious makes us prone to irrational behavior. So how do we combat our strong tendency for making poor decisions?
Howard suggests several tools for making good, logical decisions. He uses the image of a three-legged stool to explain his decision analysis model. Each leg represents a vital element the decision maker must consider: (1) his uncertainties, (2) values, and (3) preferences.
How Do I Make Good Financial Decisions?
Making sound financial decisions is much the same. The Sound Financial Decisions model is based on a 3-step concept of first organizing your financial life, then understanding what’s working with your values, and finally, restoring balance in your life by making the right decision.
I personally use a mind-mapping software to help me organize and understand what it is I want to accomplish, what my choices are, what the consequences will be if I take no action.
Like me, many of my clients are visual learners and prefer using images, maps and colors to organize information. When given a choice to look at a spread sheet with lots of numbers, or a visual representation of the numbers, many of my clients prefer the latter. And I am more than willing to provide a visual.
According to Tony Buzan who wrote the book Mind Map:
The Mind Map is a particularly useful tool for clarifying personal choices. By using the MInd Map to set out your needs and desires, priorities and constraints, you will be able to make decisions based on a clearer view of the questions involved.
I have listed a few mind maps below to get your visual juices flowing. I hope to post an entire series on cutting edge strategies to help us improve our decision making skills, but I can’t decide what to name it 🙂