The proliferation of choice in recent years has given consumers more and more financial options, from choosing a 401(k) investment to selecting a long-term care insurance policy, or even identifying a financial planner to work with. While on the one hand the flexibility of choice is appealing, recent research suggests that in reality too many choices may make us so fearful of choosing poorly that it leads us to not choose at all; in other words, the more choices we have, the less likely we may be to select from any of them.
This so-called “Paradox of Choice” has significant implications for financial planners. On the one hand, it presents an opportunity to deliver value to clients by helping to narrow down and simplify the choices, or at least provide them helpful indicators about how to make a selection from amongst a wide array of complex options. On the other hand, it seems that some financial planners may be creating a Paradox of Choice for clients, sometimes by providing them with too many options about how to even work with the planner, instead of keeping the business model simple with a clear value proposition that clients can just take or leave.
The good news is that with some conscious focus, financial planners really do have an opportunity to create value for clients by helping them avoid “analysis paralysis” and drive forward to decisions and actions that improve their financial lives. But getting there may require us to collectively embrace the inherent irrationality we all have, and recognize that in many situations – including what we offer to our clients and how we help them – that offering more may lead to less, and focusing on less may lead to more.