It all happened in front of me. A friendly mum gave her young son the task of picking a breakfast cereal from the millions on the shelves. And I’ve never seen so much angst on the face of someone so small.
I felt a bit aggrieved that I was only ever given two options to choose from but then I realised something. I always ended up with something I liked, without the existential crisis.
A lot of the time, more options simply make matters worse, not better. And I’ve found the same is true when buying a car, trying to decide between laptops and asking my girlfriend which restaurant she fancies this evening.
We live in an age of information overload, which hinders our ability to make informed decisions ironically - throw in the slightest of pressurised situations and we really aren’t very reliable at all.
But, while these one-off experiences tell us something about specific responses under pressure, life is full of more important decisions with longer lasting effects.
Careers, families, house deposits - our long-term plans need us to be able to see past the here and now, and focus on those future goals. But goal-setting is also the easy part - there are many forks in the road along the way that force us to think about which road we step down next. And, when there seems to be as many options as cereal boxes, it can get overwhelming. What’s more, we’ve all got different journeys to contend with, just to make it all a bit more daunting.
Making choices at key life moments is something we looked at in our latest Invest for Life series. A range of people with some very different paths behind and ahead of them told us how their choices have shaped them so far, and how they’re planning for the future.
We don’t need to be scared of whatever comes next if we set ourselves up emotionally and financially to tackle it head on. Hear what they have to say below.
One thing we can do to help ourselves is to break the bigger picture into smaller priorities. Getting a house deposit together might start with tightening the daily budget and getting the ISA ticking over now, so that eventually it just becomes a case of choosing the front door colour.
And if that sounds simplistic, it’s worth reminding ourselves just how much little changes now can mean over the long term.
Compounding investment returns through the years, letting time take care of the snowball effect, is one decision we should all be considering today. Have a look at how a simple choice now could open the ones you have later with our ISA calculator.
As our investors say above, a lot of our choices are sprung upon us, or give us little option but to follow them. That’s why preparing for the unexpected is so important - and you can even take yourself out of the equation altogether if you want one less thing to think about.
Setting up a monthly savings plan means you can let your money go straight into your investments every month without having to worry about where to put it.
Important information: The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up so you may get back less than you invest. Investors should note that the views expressed may no longer be current and may have already been acted upon. Tax treatment depends on individual circumstances and all tax rules may change in the future. This information is not a personal recommendation for any particular investment. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment you should speak to an authorised financial adviser.
What you could do next
Get help choosing investments
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Explore regular saving
Making regular monthly contributions to your investments as part of a savings plan could help them grow into a sizeable sum over the long term.