How many anxiety statements do you want?

How many anxiety statements do you want?

Not all technology is good.  We often like to think it is, but sometimes technology just doesn’t help.  And when it comes to fuelling anxiety, it really doesn’t help.  Let me explain.

Isn’t technology great?

Isn’t it fantastic that you can now check the markets on a daily basis?  We can even do it on our phones!  We can even have a little peek at our investments, just before we fall asleep at night, and check how they’ve performed that very day.  Amazing!

Except it’s not.

In reality, technology fuels a drip feed of anxiety

Looking up your investments, and constantly monitoring their progress, is never a good idea.  And tracking how your investments have performed on any given day is just meaningless. But worse than being meaningless, it actually just causes a drip feed of anxiety.

The problem is, we’re trained to follow these indexes and to track performance.  When they’ve done well, we feel great.  But that means that when they’ve not done so well, we feel bad.  The problem?  You’ve only got a 50% chance of feeling good.

So surely we should just stop looking?  But there’s always that temptation to take a peek.

It’s not helpful to keep looking at market and investment fluctuations

Before the days of the internet, people just waited for their annual statement.  So, even if your investment had been a little volatile over the year, all you saw was the bottom line – and just once each year.  And because the overall value was likely to have increased, you felt your investment was doing well.

Were you aware of the ups and downs and natural fluctuations along the way?  No!  You just saw your investment as a steady progression of growth.

But nowadays, we’ve all embraced technology.  We have the ability to constantly check our investments, and the natural volatility is clearly visible.  The thing is, nobody likes seeing the fluctuations. It makes people feel anxious.

Tracking investments on a daily basis fuels anxiety

Constantly checking simply perpetuates anxiety.  So what can we do?  We need to tell our client to stop looking.  We need them to see that no sensible decision will ever be made by looking at their investment portfolio at 11pm.

And if I’m honest, it can be a struggle to get them to change their mindset – after all, we love ‘information’.  Our phones bind us to it, and we can’t even escape it when we watch the news – the constant update about today’s FTSE 100, or the House Price Index.

Does anyone care about a temporary rise or fall?

Why do we need to know all this stuff?  What use is it to anyone? Is a 1% increase in the House Price Index going to prompt you to leap out of bed and put your house on the market?   Who cares? What does it matter?  If the FTSE 100 has billions wiped off it in a day, it’ll probably make some gains tomorrow, and drop a little the next day…..and so on.

None of it really matters.

Anxiety prompts us to make rash decisions

We just need to stop looking so much.  The more we look, the more anxious we get.  The more anxious we get, the more we feel we need to take some sort of action.  The result?  We’re more likely to make rash decisions that are based on fear and irrational emotions rather than common sense – like selling all your investments, just because they’ve temporarily dropped in value.  And that’s a really silly thing to do.

I once looked at a Case Management System that was being offered to us, and it had a Client Portal.  When I asked to look at the Client Portal, the first opening page on the dashboard showed the client’s investment value with a big red or green arrow – pointing up or down, depending on whether the investments had increased or decreased in value.

Every day when the client logged in, they had a 50% chance of huge anxiety – courtesy of their financial planner.  Just imagine it: Your investment has gone down – big red arrow pointing down – panic panic!

And was there a button to turn it off? No!  And the guy was so proud, “no, it’s there all the time – keeps the client fully up to date….marvellous.” Sigh.

Understand when technology is unhelpful for your client, and when it isn’t

Look, we’re never going to get rid of technology – and nor do we want to.  But, we have to understand when it can be unhelpful for your client.

Perhaps we can talk to them about how often they might want to log on.  Challenge them if they are logging on too often – suggest a detox!  Help them to manage the potential for anxiety – and their mental health.  And I tell you what, improving someone’s mental health is far better than adding anything on in investment returns.

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