Get ready to peel the back layers of your mind and discover how cognitive biases ruin our financial decisions and how to overcome them!
Imagine being trapped in a maze of financial decisions, where every turn seems right but often leads to unexpected pitfalls. If you are familiar with this experience, welcome to the world of cognitive biases in financial decision-making.
In this article, we will uncover the hidden forces that shape our choices and explore strategies to overcome these biases for a brighter financial future.
What are Cognitive Biases?
Cognitive bias is the outcome of the way our brain processes information. To understand simply, our brains take unconscious mental shortcuts when asked to process information.
Because of this simplified processing of information, there are times when the simplified data distorts our perception. This leads to irrational and flawed decision-making.
Taking too many financial decisions based on cognitive biases can wreak havoc on our financial well-being.
Few Cognitive Biases in Financial Decision-Making
Now, let’s look at a few most common cognitive biases you might have unknowingly executed.
- Confirmation Bias
You might be familiar with this. When you buy a stock, you can’t help but be drawn to all the positive news surrounding it. It feels like a confirmation that you have made the right choice, but it might cloud your judgment.
Psychologically, we seek information supporting our beliefs while conveniently ignoring anything contradicting them. So, even though red flags may be waving in the distance, they are easily overlooked in favour of the rosy picture we want to see.
- Availability Bias
You might have noticed that while deciding, you suddenly recollect a recent media coverage or anything positive that focuses on what you want to do is correct and things would not go wrong.
This bias tricks us into overestimating the likelihood of events based on what is readily accessible, like recent news stories. We forget to consider the bigger picture and make choices based on limited information.
It’s like being swayed by the loudest voice in the room instead of stepping back to see the whole spectrum of possibilities. And this leads to misguided decisions with unforeseen consequences.
- Anchoring Bias
Anchoring bias is a sneaky little trick our minds play on us when it focuses on a particular thing as if it is the gospel of truth. Here we let our beliefs sway our decisions more than they should.
For example, imagine you bought an investment at a specific price, and that price becomes ingrained in your mind as the ultimate benchmark. Even if the investment’s current value has drastically changed, you might still cling to that original price, placing undue importance on it.
Something similar happened in the 2008 housing bubble. Many homebuyers and investors were anchored to inflated home prices and considered them the gospel truth. People were making decisions based on an anchor (the bubbled price) and hence were blindsided by the looming crisis.
Anchoring bias can lead us down a dangerous path, distorting our judgment and preventing us from making sound financial decisions.
- Herd Mentality
Herd mentality is the tendency to follow the crowd and make decisions based on others’ actions rather than independent analysis. This bias can lead to buying assets at inflated prices during market bubbles or selling at rock-bottom prices during panics.
For example, during the Harshad Mehta Scam in 1992, many investors fell victim to the herd mentality bias. Driven by fear of missing out, they piled into stocks at sky-high valuations, only to suffer massive losses when the bubble burst.
How Do Cognitive Biases Impact Us?
The impact of cognitive biases on our financial decisions can be profound. They can lead to poor investment choices, excessive spending, debt accumulation, missed opportunities, and an overall failure to achieve our financial goals. Hence, it’s crucial to recognise these effects and take steps to mitigate them.
Strategies to Mitigate Cognitive Biases
Here are some practical strategies you can implement in your financial decision-making.
- Seek Diverse Perspectives
Actively seek out alternative viewpoints and opinions to challenge your biases. Engage in reading research reports and news discussions and gather different perspectives on financial matters. After collecting data, conduct your research.
- Set Clear Goals
Define your financial objectives and establish a plan to achieve them. Clear goals provide a guiding framework and help reduce impulsive decisions driven by biases. You can also create your own decision-making process in a structured manner. This will reduce the impact of impulsive decisions.
- Seek Professional Advice
Suppose you are in your learning phase or are not from a finance background. Don’t take chances.
By becoming aware of cognitive biases and implementing a sound decision-making strategy, you can take your first step towards making better financial decisions.
*The article is for information only. This is not investment advice.