I’m home! Over the past two weeks, I drove 1625 miles across across seven southeastern states. I had a blast hanging out with readers, friends, and colleagues. Plus, it was fun to explore some parts of the country that Kim and I skipped during our RV trip a few years ago. Most fun of all, though, was talking to dozens of different people about money.
After two weeks of money talk, I have a lot to think about. I was struck, for instance, by how many people are paralyzed by the need to make perfect decisions. They’re afraid of making mistakes with their money, so instead of moving forward, they freeze — like a deer in headlights.
It might seem strange to claim that the pursuit of perfection prevents people from achieving their financial aims, but it’s true. Long-time readers know that this is a key part of my financial philosophy: The perfect is the enemy of the good.
Here, for instance, is a typical reader email:
Thirty-plus years ago I was making much less money than when I retired so my tax rate was lower. I sometimes wonder now if it would have been better to pay the taxes at the time I earned the money and invest and pay taxes all along rather than deferring the taxes. You can make yourself crazy thinking about stuff like that!
Yes, you can make yourself crazy thinking about stuff like that. This reader retired early and has zero debt. They’re in great financial shape. Yet they’re fretting over the fact that tax-deferred investments might not have been the optimal choice back in 1986.
Regret is one of the perils of perfectionism. There are others. Let’s look at why so many smart people find themselves fighting the urge to be perfect. [Read more…]