Too many choices may be increasing your anxiety

Gugu Sidaki | 05 September 2023

Gugu Sidaki is an independent financial planner and co-founder of the financial planning and wealth management practice Wealth Creed. She holds the Certified Financial Planner accreditation and is an author and financial literacy enthusiast.

The average person has to make approximately 35 000 choices every day. If you think about your morning routine and list your decisions, it’s easy to see how you can get to that daily figure.

Here are some of the decisions you make each day – possibly without being fully aware that they are choices:

  • What time should I wake up?

  • Once awake, should I get out of bed or not?

  • Once awake, do I look at my phone or get on with my day?

  • Once out of bed, should I make my bed immediately or not?

  • Once I’ve made my bed, should I shower immediately or later?

  • Should I brush my teeth or eat something first?

  • What should I wear?

  • How should I style my hair?

  • Should I wear make-up?

  • Should I have breakfast or not?

  • If I do have breakfast, what will I have?

Being faced with so many decisions is time-consuming and emotionally draining. That is why we often have morning routines that we have thought out over time that work for us. These routines include breakfast and the outfits, hair, and make-up needed to look and feel good.

The National Library of Medicine in the US says decision-making anxiety is a real thing that particularly affects people prone to excessive fear and worry. But you may become anxious about any decision that has a big impact on your life. This can lead to you agonising over a decision for fear you may make the wrong one.  

You may become so anxious that you make a rash decision or do not make any decision – decision paralysis. And in many cases, doing nothing about a situation could be far worse than making the wrong decision.

Financial decisions are often ones that bring about anxiety. Currently, the economic situation is challenging, inflation is high, the political situation is uncertain and financial markets are volatile. This adds to the anxiety you may feel about financial decisions.

Many people who fear making the wrong financial decisions find themselves either making rash decisions or in decision paralysis where they don’t want to make any financial decisions in case they lead to an even worse outcome.

While this anxiety is completely understandable, it can have a negative effect on your personal finances in the long term. A few common mistakes people make when they do not know how to make good financial decisions are:

While it is impossible to guarantee that none of your decisions will have negative outcomes in years to come, there are a few things you can do today to ensure that the outcome of the decisions you make today are likely to be good and improve your financial situation.

Here are a few ways to reduce your decision anxiety while ensuring a better outcome:


1.  Automate your savings

Automating your savings means setting up a debit order or a regular transfer to a savings account. Removing the need to make the decision to save every month has a number of benefits. These include:

  • Regular savings will give you the benefit of the power of compounding growth. Read more: Why compounding growth is so important?

  • You are more likely to meet your savings goal over the long term if you commit to regular savings. Read more: How do I set savings and investment goals?

  • You will not be tempted to spend what you plan to save if you move it out of your bank account and into a savings account soon after you are paid.

  • It helps to reduce bad financial decisions about where to save.


2.  Set aside time to review your finances

California-based spiritual teacher and author Michael Beckwith has a popular quote: “Energy flows where attention goes”.

In other words, what you focus on will grow. Like a muscle you flex and exercise, if you consistently take the necessary time to master your personal finances, you will see an improvement and reap the rewards in the long term.

This includes budgeting diligently, being mindful of how you spend your money, understanding what your financial habits are and working on improving them regularly. Read more: How can I draw up a budget that works for me? and Be more mindful about your money in the new year.


3.  Get professional help

For the most part, you can self-direct your personal finances. It requires time, diligence and persistence. There is a wealth of knowledge on the internet and there are institutions out there that provide good information for free to help people improve their financial position.

But there can never be a substitute for good and comprehensive financial advice. Especially around the following topics:

  • Retirement planning

Retirement planning helps you understand what is required to live a certain lifestyle at a certain point in the future. The sooner you understand this, the sooner you’re able to make the necessary changes in order to achieve this goal, and the better the outcome and the lower the cost to you. Read more: How much do I need to save for retirement?

  • Estate planning

Estate planning helps you understand the financial outcome of your death and how to improve the outcome for the benefit of those who depend on you financially. Read more: What is an estate?

  • Risk management

Risk management helps you understand the effects of things going wrong in your life, such as sickness, disability and emergencies, and how to improve that situation. Read more: Do I need life cover?; Do I need disability cover?; Do I need income protection? and Do I need severe illness cover?


It is best not to leave your finances to chance – with a little time and effort you can reduce both your decision anxiety and the chances of making rash decisions. Set yourself up to make good financial decisions. In the long run, these will most likely serve you more than any spur-of-the-moment decision you make over the course of your life.