Humans are wired to feel the pain of losing twice as much as the happiness of a gain. This is what we call in Behavioral Economics as Loss Aversion. (Click Loss Aversion: The Psychology of Money Series* to read more about it.)
In the way we treat our job, marriage and other relationships, and even investing, we tend to obsess on the “missing 10%” (a term I use here to refer to what is lacking and disproportionately getting too much attention).
1. As applied in a job. You signed up for a job hopeful that you will learn and make a difference in this world because you are “following your purpose.” Your bosses are good, although not perfect, you stand to learn a lot, and you are compensated and treated fairly. You are excited in the first few weeks and hopeful about the job. It has all the necessary ingredients of a dream job at this stage in your life that you have listed down, when you left your previous job.
Then life happens. The deadlines are not always met. The chummy boss is not always chummy anymore (do you actually expect a boss to be happy with unmet deadlines? Plus, he has his own set of challenges.) Then little by little you start to feel that you are not passionate about the job anymore. You are not making a difference in this world anymore. So you tend to see what’s lacking in the job. The office space is too crowded. It is not like the Google office where the set up promotes creativity? The traffic going to work is too much.
Now you’re focusing on “the missing 10%!” The novelty is gone. And you are now overlooking the positive aspects of your job. And hey, you’re in your 20s, you have not even mastered anything yet, and you expect to make a difference in this world? Sometimes I wonder if parents of millennials overdid the career advice “Follow your passion.” Calling all millennials out there, “Follow your passion” doesn’t mean having a job that keeps you jumping up and down passionately every single day. (Click Is “follow your passion” a good career advice?)
2. As applied in marriage. Last Sunday I attended the wedding of ANC business reporter Michelle Ong. I love weddings! In fact, I have a series on that (Click I ❤ Weddings Series). It is always wonderful to witness two people profess their love, devotion and commitment to each other, surrounded and supported by their family and friends on that day. Congratulations and best wishes Mimi and Scott. My wish for you and all the couples out there is to beware of the danger of obsessing on the missing 10%” later on in your marriage.
Let’s imagine a man and a woman who started lovey-dovey and are now married for several years. Just like our first example, life happens!
Each one is pre-occupied with challenges – career, raising children, and the other mundane things of a married relationship like paying the bills, looking for good household help, etc. Tired late at night, there’s no more time and energy to say, “Tell me about your day at work, honey.” or “Good night handsome, mwah! (or more? :))” Then husband meets a girl who’s very interested in the work he does and sometimes praises even his looks. One coffee leads to lunch to dinner to after-dinner because “She appreciates me, unlike my wife…” Before he knows it, he’s in a problematic situation of having an affair. What started as an obsession on the missing 10% (perception that his wife was no longer interested in his work and looks) made him throw away all the good things that he proclaimed to the world in his heart-warming and tearjerker marriage vows on their wedding day!
3. As applied in your investing. Years ago you started investing for your retirement. You said you wanted to secure your future so that you will be financially independent, breaking the vicious cycle of financial dependence in your family exacerbated by the wrong sense of utang na loob practiced by many Filipinos. You look for an investment that you could regularly put a percentage of your salary into. You decided on equity index fund that you will grow and will only withdraw from starting the age of 60. This will be a great addition to whatever you will get from your last employer and SSS. You are all set.
Then you attend a talk given by someone who also has an active profession as you do. Here’s what he said his inspiring presentation, “Just like you, I still work as a __________ (fill in the blank with your own profession), but after I studied the stock market, I started investing in this company that not a lot of people were buying at that time. I even invited my friend to invest with me. After six months, we made a killing with our investment. My friend was so happy, he said, ‘Let’s have lunch!’ So we did, and I thought it would just be a lunch treat. But guess what, he didn’t just treat me to lunch, he gave me a check worth P10 million!”
Now you wonder, “What, P10 million as balato? That means his friend earned much more than that, plus the speaker’s own earnings. How many zeroes are we talking here?” Then you check your equity index fund that you have been contributing to for the last few years. Yeah! It has grown, but just by a minute fraction of what the speaker (who’s still practicing his profession like you) made in six months!
Then you start to notice how boring your portfolio is. You start wondering, “Is this the right investment vehicle for me? Maybe I can also earn more and accelerate my wealth accumulation if I do the same as the speaker does. Isn’t investing supposed to be exciting? This equity index fund is so dull and unimaginative!”
And so you sell your equity index fund and switch. Heck, you even start investing in the new investment buzzword Bitcoin without understanding it.
And then stock market/cryptocurrency life happens! It goes up and down. And because you’re human, you buy when everyone’s buying and sell when everyone’s selling, and lo and behold! The value of your retirement portfolio is now just one-half of your boring equity index fund when you abandoned and sold it. In fact, it is just one-fifth of the value of that unimaginative fund should be now, had you just stayed put, and not become obsessed with “the missing 10%.” What a big loss! But wait, that loss does not even include the sleepless nights and stress you went through by actively investing as you continued your day job. Weren’t you caught by your boss twice looking at your portfolio during office hours?
I’m not saying that “the missing 10%” in the different aspects of our life should just be ignored. It’s okay to feel sad about it, to think about it and understand and try to fill it up to bring it to 100%. But please, do not fill up that void by sacrificing the 90% that is already right under your nose.
And remember, sometimes you may feel there’s a missing 10% just because your perspective has shifted. In the first example, your job’s missing 10% might be because you are not yet performing as well as you envisioned to, you are still learning. In the second example, the husband might be feeling insecure about something and unintentionally diverted the blame to his wife. In the third example, the parameters of a good investment for retirement such as automatic, relatively stable but good returns over the long-term were overlooked because the perspective was shifted to the higher and more exciting returns after listening to the speaker.
Again, what is missing should not be totally ignored, just make sure you do not obsess over it to the point of risking what you already have. Only a fool believes that 10% > 90%!
Cheers to smart risk taking! Cheers to high FQ!
- Have you planned for your Valentine weekend? Calling all my “ka-ilians!” My husband Marvin and I will give a talk in Laoag City on February 16, 2018. I hope to see you there. There are only limited slots, here’s the link is you want to reserve. https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/m?oeidk=a07ef2i2f8db1129875&oseq=&c=&ch=
- Want to know your FQ Score? Take it today. Click link to take the test. http://rebrand.ly/FQTest
Rose Fres Fausto is a speaker and author of bestselling books Raising Pinoy Boys and The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon (English and Filipino versions). Click this link to read samples – Books of FQ Mom Rose HYPERLINK “http://fqmom.com/category/books/”FresHYPERLINK “http://fqmom.com/category/books/” HYPERLINK “http://fqmom.com/category/books/”Fausto. She is a Behavioral Economist, Certified Gallup Strengths Coach and the grand prize winner of the first Sinag Financial Literacy Digital Journalism Awards. Follow her on Facebook and You Tube as FQ Mom, and Twitter & Instagram as theFQMom.
ATTRIBUTIONS: Images from static01.nyt.com, roobarooblog.files.wordpress.com, protegez-vous.ca, various emoticons online modified and put together to help deliver the message of the article.