Updated on 01.26.09

Doing the Wrong Thing

Trent Hamm

It is better to do the wrong thing than to do nothing.
– Winston Churchill

I have a strong tendency to overanalyze things, getting myself stuck without moving forward.

I first considered starting a Roth IRA in early 2007. It seemed like an easy move – just find an investment house, set up an automatic investment plan, and let it roll, right? Whenever I thought about it, though, I found myself engrossed in details. I read a ton of information about the specifics of Roth IRAs. I’d reconsider whether or not it was really the right option for me right now. I looked at a ton of investment houses. When I finally decided on Vanguard, I spent literally months looking at the investment choices and reading the specifics of their plans. The end result? I missed my opportunity to invest in that Roth IRA for 2007. Completely. It just went away. In effect, that’s a year of missed retirement savings.

When I began my financial turnaround, I made some moves immediately. I sold off a bunch of my stuff. I cut a lot of my spending. I started reading personal finance books. But when I sat down to come up with a debt repayment plan, I ran into trouble. I couldn’t figure out what the optimum plan was for me. I came up with a plan, tossed it, created another one, and tossed that one. It took me months to really decide on my plan – and that cost me quite a bit in interest payments.

Right now, my wife and I have been thinking about and shopping for a vehicle to replace my truck for almost a year. We keep going back and forth on what exactly we want. Right now, we’ve basically settled on a minivan, but we’re still talking in detail about whether we should consider a new one or simply go for a late model used, especially considering the current environment. We have a few models in mind as well. Another challenge: is it really time to sell off that truck? Has it really reached a point of diminishing returns? It’s twelve years old and has about 140,000 miles on it, but it doesn’t get used nearly as much since I started working from home.

These cases all have a few things in common. In each case, I know what I should be doing – starting a Roth IRA, paying down debt, and making a real decision about our vehicle situation. I also know the process I should be following. My real problem is that I get caught up in the details and choices along the way.

The end result of that analysis paralysis is that I end up making no choice at all – and that ends up being a worse mistake than making a poor choice earlier on.

Take my Roth IRA, for example. If I had just opened a Roth IRA with Vanguard early in 2007 and just dumped the money into a money market account while I figured out the investments, I would have been far better off than just doing nothing at all and losing my 2007 investment year. If I had just stuck with the simple Dave Ramsey debt repayment plan instead of stressing out about finding the “optimum” plan, I would have paid off several of my debts months earlier. And, while I haven’t been caught with regards to selling the truck and purchasing another vehicle, if my “analysis paralysis” continues unabated, I likely will wind up with a truck that doesn’t work (with significantly less resale value) and I’ll have missed many of the deals available at car dealerships now.

What have I really learned from this?

First, it pays to consider the worst case scenario if you move forward now compared to not doing anything at all. What’s the worst thing that could happen if I just started a plan with Vanguard and just put the money into a money market account for now? What would happen if I did nothing for six months? In that case, opening the account and getting started with a money market is far, far better than doing nothing at all.

Second, it’s useful to eliminate most of the options right off the bat and not worry about analyzing them too much. With our vehicle purchase, we’re pretty sure we want a minivan, so why not just look at the top five in terms of vehicle safety (our primary concern) and eliminate the other options right now? That would save a ton of analysis time right there.

Finally, there are situations where it’s worse to do the wrong thing than to do nothing. This is not a call to rash decision-making. Instead, it’s a call to really look at the penalty for simply doing nothing. There are times when that penalty isn’t as bad as making a poor choice now – but the fact that there are such situations doesn’t mean that you should always get stuck in analysis paralysis.

For us, I think it’s time to do some serious shopping for a new vehicle.

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  1. Trevor - 14 Year Old Blogger says:

    Nice post. Considering to do nothing or the wrong thing.

  2. Oskar says:

    Once again a great post, I also tend to go back an forth on decisions, and even worse is that I tend to second guess myself even after I have made the decision. Was it really right to buy X? Should I have gone with the cheaper option? And that I think also makes you enjoy the things you decide on less since you always go around wondering if it was right.

  3. The Personal Finance Playbook says:

    Too bad you didn’t put it off until 2009;)

  4. MK says:

    Not that I thought I was the only one, but it is nice to know there are other people who do the same thing as me out there! I have been looking at opening a Roth IRA myself and obviously I missed out on 2008, and I really don’t want to miss out on 2009!! Though I’ve been wanting to change banks for almost a year now, and still haven’t found one that is “just right” for me. moving money around and spending large amounts just scares the bajeezus out of me sometimes! and I ALWAYS second guess my actions. Sometimes it’s good to be a planner, but then again, missed opportunities are far worse than planning out every minute detail!

  5. Alison says:

    I can relate on behalf of myself, and my best friend. We often act as enablers to each other, analyzing may purchases and budgeting to death. We will both ask anyone we can find to get their opinion on the matter.

    Over time we have learned that no matter how much analyzing we do, or how many opinions we hear the answer is always sitting in your gut and only you can make the final decision. Knowing that at the start helps the analyzing speed up.

  6. Matt says:

    Since it sounds like you don’t have much money in there yet just load up on a total stock market index. Slightly better returns than the s&p, and slightly less volatile.

  7. Jon says:

    What would we over-analyzers do for entertainment if we quit? We’d have way too much free time on our hands.

  8. The Sheconomist and I are running into this problem with our wedding planning.

    I learned a long time ago it’s counter-productive to waste too much time analyzing details. But I still do it sometimes.

    We’re going to obsess over food, I just know it.

  9. My husband tends to waiver what seems like forever to me on decisions and I have had a tendency to decide too quickly. Over the years I’ve become much less reactive, but I research only to a point and then choose something. We tend to balance each other out quite well this way.

  10. Studenomics says:

    I find that when trying to make it a difficult decision it helps if you have a few clear options in mind. When you start thinking about 20 different scenarios in your head then you will simply just over complicate the situation. What do I do sometimes? Believe it or not sometimes I don’t even consider all the options, I just act on my gut instinct and choose the first option that comes to mind.

  11. Margaret says:

    It’s Winter! Sell the truck (some DIYer is looking for one to put a snowplow on and use for his or her side hustle) get the van before spring and everyone else has the same idea!

  12. NYC reader says:

    Trent, analysis is good. Even over-analysis can be fine. But open-ended analysis on time-sensitive matters without a firm deadline is bad, as you have experienced.

    The first two examples you cite (Roth IRA and debt repayment plan) should have included a firm timeline for implementation. Otherwise, all you’re doing is procrastinating. On a deeper level, it’s a form of denial and a rejection of committment to the stated goal.

    What’s lacking in your post above is a recognition that no matter what decision you had initially made for each of these two examples, the decisions were not cast in stone, and the penalties for making a sub-optimal choice were not severe. If you pick a terrible fund or an unworkable debt repayment plan, you can easily change either of them, Neither one would bankrupt you or have long-term damaging effects. You can rollover the Roth IRA to a different fund/firm at any time. You can change how you pay the bills the next month. Not every decision is one cast in stone, and realizing that may make it easier for you to “get off the pot” and implement the decision you’ve made.

    But these two examples are history. Let’s look at your current “paralysis by analysis” situation on acquiring a replacement vehicle for the old truck.

    You can’t wait on this forever, you need a firm decision/implementation date. The truck is less valuable each day, so if you are thinking about selling it, that’s a declining asset. The biggest risk however, is that the truck is less reliable every day. If it breaks down, you are then squeezed between the competing needs of either fixing the truck immediately, or buying a replacement vehicle under the pressure of having only one working vehicle. That’s the WORST possible situation to be in (and if you’re buying a replacement, one that dealers will exploit to the max).

    Your best bet is to be actively looking for a replacement vehicle NOW, while you are not under any true pressure to acquire a replacement vehicle. You will never find dealers more hungry, more willing to make a good deal than during this economic downturn. The end of the month is always a good time to buy, they have quotas to meet and bills to pay. February is also a good time to buy because it’s a short month. So I’d say you should set a timeline of one month, until the end of February, to find a replacement vehicle, either new or used.

    You already know you want a minivan, and have a list of acceptable new and used models/prices. Start looking at both new and used minivans NOW. You might find a dealer desperate to unload a new minivan at a price that works for you. You might find a good used minivan that’s a real deal. Keep your options open. Having a working truck gives you the latitude to walk away from any deal that is bad or if the dealer starts playing shenanigans with the deal.

    Just recognize that you need to give yourself a “drop dead” date on all these decisions, or you will never get anything done.

  13. NYC reader says:

    One more thing… I assume when you first start looking at vehicles, you will be doing it when the kids are in daycare and your wife is at work. The dealerships will be empty at that time of day and they will be eager to show you vehicles.

    When you’ve found a candidate vehicle, bring your wife, but NOT the kids. Dealers have all sorts of delaying/stalling tactics that they use on folks with antsy kids to get them to sign off on extras during the sales negotiation just so the parents can get the kids home.

    Do not shop for a vehicle when the dealership is packed (e.g. Saturday). And never, ever let them have the keys to your existing vehicle so they can “check it out” for resale value. That’s another stalling tactic; the goal is to keep you in the dealership long enough so they can wear you down and you will accept a deal that’s less than ideal.

    They are pros at this. You are a rank amateur. Don’t give them an easy edge.

  14. Robin says:

    Trent, why replace the vehicle at all. You said yourself that you rarely drive it. If you continue to maintain it, it could last for quite some time. I have a 12 year old Tahoe that has 150k miles on it. I might drive it once a week. I have pondered getting rid of it completely but I couldn’t get anything for it if I sold it and I really love it. Save your money and keep the truck. Just my 2 cents.

  15. Anne KD says:

    This describes me! I’ve been procrastinating on becoming a personal chef for years now. My brain is deluged with ideas for blogs. The seed catalog came in the mail the other day, I want to grow at least half of what they’re offering. My brain is like a big white sheet of paper covering a big pot simmering full of ideas and I lose sight of where to start. Overanalysis is keeping me away from actually doing stuff, and there’s not really a wrong decision except to keep myself away from trying these things. Thanks for the post, Trent.

  16. Travis @ CMM says:

    Robin: I thought the same thing while I was reading it. I have a 2002 Nissan Pathfinder with 147,000 miles on it. After reading it the thought went through my head, maybe I should be trying to sell my car if he’s getting rid of his. But then I came to my senses and realize that my car is paid for and will last many more miles. It may need some tune ups from time to time but that still will be cheaper than going into debt for another.

  17. Sharkey says:

    Your post is related to the concept at the heart of the “Paradox of Choice” book. My girlfriend is someone who needs to have the best option (for a trip, insurance, car, etc), and that requires looking at all the other options in detail. The result: stress, time wasted, and more stress when the optimal turns out to be not-so-optimal after all.

    My take: just relax, look at the top 2 or 3 options and make the decision. It’s not gonna be perfect, but then again, nothing is perfect anyway.

  18. Carlos says:


    I was in the same situation with my car (I wrote a post about it). In my opinion the paralysis is a good thing went it involves spending. Do you really NEED a new car?

    My advice: research so you have something in mind; when your car breaks you can dust off your analysis.

    Just because cars are cheap now doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy one.

    Don’t do it!

  19. Dawn says:

    I use the “what is the worst thing that can happen?” question all the time to help me make a final choice. I find it really helpful. The other thing I do, like NYC Reader, is ask myself if this has to be permanent decision, or can I make a step now and change it later.

    My problem is that I get so confused when I start over analyzing that I start second guessing myself. Then I just try to rely on “gut instinct.”

  20. Tom says:

    Trent, congratulations you successfully timed the market. A Roth IRA contribution in 2007 would almost certainly be worth 30-40% less than current market values. Given your frugality, that cash should still be available and can be invested in your taxable account in a manner that will create a greater real ROI than a timely contribution in 2007 or the first quarter of 2008 would have realized.

  21. Brian C. says:


    Since the stock market dropped about 40% in 2008, why lament that you missed an entire year of saving in the Roth? If you open the Roth today instead, you just saved up to 40% by NOT being invested in stocks during 2008. That’s a huge savings right there!

  22. Cathy says:

    The story of my life. My computer is full of half started projects. I’m a chronic procrastinator. Not because I’m lazy, but because I can’t get down to the business of making a final decision. I end up with numerous projects in a state of partial completion, needing a final decision to be finished.

  23. almost there says:

    I had a commanding officer that used to get angry with his officers for not making decisions. He used to tell them that they had a 50% chance of being right if they mad a decision one way or the other and a 100% chance of being wrong if they didn’t make a decision. Words to live by.

  24. Hi Trent,

    One thing that seems to be effective against this is to set a deadline. For the truck, I’d make the deadline at least a year away. The number of cars backed up on shipping lots right now means there will be even better deals on new cars in a year — and that means used cars will likely have less value than they do today.

    I procrastinated until my car broke down completely at about 153K, but it wasn’t at all a bad thing. The worst-case scenario for the truck isn’t that bad, since you have another car. Besides, the longer you wait, the more you have interest working in your favor instead of additional money invested in a depreciating asset.

    Why not simply set a deadline of January 31, 2010? If you haven’t done anything at that point, you can buy a new/different car. Until then, keep driving your truck unless a breakdown forces a decision.


  25. AnnJo says:

    I’m with Robin on the vehicle issue. Unless there’s another reason to replace your truck besides its age and mileage, why do it? If the truck has been well-maintained and is driven lightly, it could last for several years more.

    NYC reader says the truck is losing value with each passing day. Not much. The difference in resale value between a 12-year old truck and a 13-year old truck is probably $200. Pulling $10,000 – $20,000 out of savings to replace it will obviously cost more, plus insurance on a newer vehicle will be higher as well.

    Granted that if it runs into major repair work, it may be harder to sell, but the resale price is probably not that much to start with.

    I would do a quick per-mile driving cost comparison between your truck and whatever its likely replacement would be, taking into account depreciation on both, as well as higher insurance rates and possible better mileage on the newer one. The answer will probably be obvious from that.

    The rest of this post really resonated with me, though. I’ve wasted so much money over the years putting things off because doing them would involve decisions. Public storage facilities, gyms and the like make their money off people like me, who have a hard time letting go of what isn’t needed or working.

    When I finally cleared out my storage unit after years of payments and realized what dreck had been sucking money out of my account, I was stunned. But it did motivate me to go through my bills and put every recurring expense to the five-year test: If I keep this bill going for five years, how much will it have cost me altogether? An amazing number of expense items large and small dropped by the way-side after that.

  26. Kevin says:

    Isn’t this a perfect illustration of The Paradox of Choice… ??

  27. Sean Lee says:

    WOW! It’s good to know that I am not the only one. I like to study behaviors and the four colors are green(analyzer), gold(organizer),blue(communicator, led by emotions), and orange(negotiator, loves action). Guess which one is one of my primary colors? GREEN! I have the same tendency to do these things and now I am @ the point in my life where I am so willing to make a mistake simply because I am tired of not doing anything or not making the final decision to PULL THE TRIGGER! My dad is the same way and he told me that I have to learn to operate on about 60-70%info. Normally, people like us tend to think we need an infinite amount of info. . .there’s always something else that I need to know to make the decision. So now after I weigh the two,three, or five big options, pretty much the decision is made and the rest of the little decisions will either work themselves out or I’ll deal with them as they come.

  28. I’m another that would be sort of inclined to drive the truck into the ground, or at least until some very expensive repair becomes necessary(or until a third kiddo makes a van more of a necessity).

    I realize that wasn’t the point of your post, though, and I do agree with your main points(esp. about the Roth). My husband and I aren’t investing whizzes, and so we’ve just gone with a Vanguard plan. We figure something is better than nothing, and if we waited to save for retirement until both of us were smart investors, we’d be waiting forever!

  29. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    My wife’s car, while it’s holding up well, has about 170K miles on it. When I said we’re committed to driving used vehicles, I wasn’t kidding.

    Our big desire to replace a vehicle is so that we have one that we know is reliable that we can use for family trips. We’ve been very hesitant this winter to go very far with the kids in either vehicle because of our fears of breaking down during an Iowa winter with two small children, and having two vehicles with a combined 300K miles on them and a number of minor issues doesn’t leave us feeling confident.

    Our decision to replace the truck instead of the car is simply because the truck seems to be in worse shape than the car.

  30. Scotty says:

    My Litmus test for buying a new vehicle (vs repairing) is whether the repair cost (over a 6 or 12 month period) would be roughly equal to the cost of the monthly payments on a new car. Repairs can be pretty expensive, but a new vehicle is obviously also very expensive. I don’t mind spending a thousand or two on repairs if they’ll reasonably buy my a couple years (new transmission, for example). It seems like a lot, but it’s often only a couple monthly payments.

    For most cars, I usually try to buy Japanese, simply for long term reliability and resale value. But there are a lot of good deals on domestics right now, so there’s a strong case to be had. You can get a decently equipped Chev Montana right now for a good 10 grand less than a Oddessy or Sienna.

    Dealerships are massively overstocked right now so you can get an 08 for a pretty god deal, plus 0%, plus, plus…

  31. Kyle says:

    While I agree with researching options and etc I also believe over analyzing can be as big of a problem. One also needs to gauge their time and how much it is worth. I know a number of people that spend hours and hours to save a buck and or make a purchase like buy a car. Many times in the end their time worth more than they saved. This is even more so with lower priced items, cell phones and etc…
    There is something to say for a quick educated decision.

  32. Charlie says:

    I tend to be guilty of the other side…I jump into things too quickly, especially in regards to investments. I have a few rental properties that, most days, I would rather be without, and my track record with stock picks isn’t so good. There is definitely merit to analysis, but not when it prevents you from taking any action what so ever, as you suggest.

  33. Eric says:

    This post sounds like it came directly from the book “The paradox of choice”

  34. KAD says:

    I went back and forth for years on my old car too, not knowing whether it was the right time to sell and get a new one. Basically, when I realized I didn’t trust it to take me through another winter, I did the things many people have listed above: I picked out my next car, decided to go for a late-model used one instead of new, and then saved every dime like crazy for months and months so I could pay cash. When I got to the halfway mark, I started watching eBay and Craigslist for opportunities and to make sure I was saving enough. Three months after I started watching ads, the perfect car showed up on Craigslist in my home town (!) and as luck would have it, I had just enough money in combined savings to buy it. I struck like lightning. You know how they say luck is the result of careful preparation?

  35. meg says:

    I actually found your site when I was looking for information on Roth IRA’s.

    I put off setting up the Roth IRA for about a year, but I did open up an online savings acount right away and started saving for my emergency fund and the opening 3000$ for Vanguard.

  36. Caroline says:

    This is precisely my problem. I think too much. About dumb stuff too.

  37. Tall Bill says:

    Trent: I’ve taken one vehicle to 228K miles & when trading it in with a line of spilled fluids behind it, I got the same price as what was quoted before seen. A year + later I ran into it at a big box & the new owner said the trans went out immediately when bought it, but that he had 330K miles on it at that point & it was the least cost per mile of any vehicle he had owned! Any vehicle you replace your truck with will be more per mile for years & while it still runs provided it serves your needs, run the wheels off completely and push it in when time to replace. After all, your wife is the one putting on mileage & that vehicle serves well to date. Been there, done that & delaying made sense as illustrated with the big screen for the game. Another vehile I sold at 175K went all the way to 500K with just an engine and trans change, resulting in very minimul mileage costs. Driving Diesel now wherein fluid changes & filters are the requirement till 200K + . With maintenance most any vehicle will serve for years beyond what most people expect. Figure mileage cost over ownership duration & the most expensive vehile I ever owned got twice the mileage as any other due to insurance, depreciation, return on disposal, etc. Comfort: yes a big issue for me as most newer vehicles won’t fit my 6’7″ 295# frame ;-)

  38. Julia says:

    I loved this post and thank you so much for sharing it. I too have this problem of trying to make the “perfect” decision and in the end becoming so overwhelmed with options that I don’t come to a final resolution.
    I really appreciate you sharing the three rules. I have written them down and will hang them somewhere where I can remember to follow them the next time I come to a decision halt.
    We’re in a society that is blessed and at the same time cursed with the number of options we have. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s much more of a blessing and I think some of us make it a curse for ourselves, because no matter what decision we make we feel the other option could have been better. Psychological studies have been performed on this, and I can personally vouch for it myself (as cited above).
    Thank you again, and I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  39. James says:

    Trent, I just remembered an xkcd comic closely related to this topic, lol:

    I also have a question only slightly related to your post, but it might be good for a mailbag or something later:

    I too opened a Vanguard Roth IRA last year. However, looking at Vanguard’s website, it’s not clear to me that these funds are SIPC insured. Their brokerage accounts are insured, but it does not look like their mutual funds are.


    Is that something I should be worried about? I know that Vanguard is structurally different legally from most other mutual fund companies, so I’m not sure if that has something to do with how the funds are insured. Can you shed any light on how my Vanguard mutual funds inside my Roth IRA are protected?

  40. Fred says:

    Trent – none of the above examples are make or break. Your analytical approach serves you well in other areas. Stop tormenting yourself. If you want to balance it out, take your family out to dinner tonight. You will feel better immediately.

  41. Jordan says:

    I overanalyze purchases at the grocery store to the extreme sometimes. It’s pretty easy to cut back on that at Winco though.

  42. Golfing Girl says:

    My jaw dropped when you mentioned the possibility of buying a **gulp** NEW car. That is the opposite of frugal. Let someone else pay the huge depreciation as they drive off the lot and instead get a 1-2 year old vehicle.

  43. wewally says:

    Remember that you want another truck not need another truck. It only goes around town and will very likely run past 200k with few bills.

  44. bradc says:

    Thank you Scotty for putting some math to this situation.
    Eliminating other factors like expanding family or new job the decision to replace an old car should be simple math.
    What do you pay per month for the existing car including gas and insurance– make sure to amortize repairs over a period of time to get an average monthly cost.

    Figure out how much you would pay for a new car: monthly payments + gas + insurance.

    Whichever is lower you go with.

    Until the existing car starts costing more than a new one on a monthly average it’s still worth it to repair.

    Or, since you don’t drive it that much, try not using it all. See if you can go without a second car for a week, two weeks, a month. Quite possibly you don’t need that car at all– saving all kinds of cash.

  45. Britany Danielson says:


    One of the best ways to find large items such as a used car, is to advertise for them. We have usually used the Des Moines Register, and list what we are looking for under “wanted”. We have bought 2 cars, a tandem bicycle and even our house this way. All at very good deals. It’s nice because since you are the one advertising you don’t have to try and beat someone else to the listing. I believe that I first read this idea in a financial book by Mary Hunt.

  46. Jessica Mah says:

    Great post that describes a predicament that I found myself in just a few weeks ago!

    Over my winter vacation, I started looking into getting a Roth IRA, but I didn’t know where to start. I spent almost full day shopping around for the perfect plan, but got nowhere.

    But then I realized that by procrastinating this process any longer, I’d be less likely to save for retirement at all. By the end of that Sunday, I opened up my Vanguard Roth IRA and dumped my $5000 into the S&P 500 fund. Not necessarily the best option I could have chosen, but at least it was something.

  47. NYC reader says:

    @AnnJo: I agree the declining value of the truck is a piffle in the equation. The real issue in my view (Trent seems to back it up in his later response) is the growing unreliability of the truck, and the so-so reliability of his wife’s car. Keep in mind that they need at least one running vehicle for his wife to get to work.

    While Trent is concerned about being stranded in an Iowa winter with a disabled vehicle, I’m also concerned about hauling around two young kids in a vehicle that lacks modern safety features. No airbags (or only one airbag), perhaps no antilock brakes, certainly fewer crash-survival features such as crumple zones, stronger pillars, side-curtain airbags, etc.

    The safety features alone would prompt me (if this were my decision) to go ahead and replace the truck now, even if I could get another year out of it.

    Trent is not looking down the mouth of financial meltdown. He and his wife (sorry, I don’t recall her name) are prudent with money. Being frugal does not mean never spending money. It means making wise choices with money, and wise tradeoffs. It means making choices that have maximum value to the individual. Note that those choices and values are PERSONAL. If Trent and his wife feel better knowing that at least one vehicle is reliable and provides a higher level of safety to their precious children, that’s a good reason to spend the money on a minivan (new or used).

    Could they wing it and hope the truck makes it another year? Sure. But the decision here is more than mere dollars. Peace of mind is an intangible that they will have to weigh along with the dollar cost of the minivan.

  48. The concept we all need to embrace is “Progess over Perfection.”

    Effectively, it is better to achieve progress than achieving perfection. While you are trying to perfect something before starting or releasing it, you could be making progress or improvements instead.

    We are all guilty of analysis paralysis to some degree . . .

  49. Courtney says:

    edmonds.com and consumerreports.com are fabulous research sites. We had the same problem you were having, and finally were solved by the 18-wheeler that rear-ended us. ;) Nobody was hurt, but we needed a new car Right Away. We flipped between a minivan or an SUV, but ended up with the SUV because my car is a 2002 Toyota Prius that gets fabulous gas mileage. So we have one gas-efficient car and one not-so-much. Since I too work from home, my DBH drives the gas-efficient car. We take the Honda Pilot on car trips, to buy large items, etc. We can comfortably seat 6 adults (and often do!) We got a Honda because we were so pleased with our CR-V that got rear-ended. Both of our cars are rated to be drivable for at least 250,000 miles with no issues, no major repair problems, etc.

  50. Courtney says:

    Oh yes – we got the Pilot at the end of July, for 5,000 off sticker. ;) It was cheaper than buying a used minivan!

  51. Carlos says:

    In terms of your Roth IRA, funding it should be the absolute first thing you do, when you wake up in any New Year. Open a money market mutual fund at Vanguard, and fill it all year long (in addition to funding your present year’s Roth). You should have a healthy sum to x-fer to your Roth on 1-Jan. This way, you’ll never forget, and, historically, the earlier you invest in any given year, the higher your return (not always true, but, it is a majority of the time). Which fund to invest in, if you can’t figure it out, or don’t want to, choose the STAR fund.

  52. Your Churchill quote reminds me of Grace Hopper’s quote that I always try to keep in mind when I’m writing:

    “It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”

  53. Sean says:

    There’s a principle I learned from playing poker that I often turn to when I’m faced with tough, close decisions:

    “Also in the central gray — the land of closest decisions — we can expect disagreement to go up over which decisions are best. We can expect intelligent, elaborate debates with both sides insisting theirs is the right side. We can also expect to debate with ourselves and to second guess ourselves. In the central gray is where we can torture ourselves with the question: Did I get it right that time?

    And that’s why I say: The decisions that trouble us most are the ones that matter least.” -Tommy Angelo

  54. Sharon says:

    You can often put in a new motor for $2,000-3,000. Insurance stays really cheap, along with registration fees.

    With kids, though, the safety features definitely are a factor to consider. I assume that if you got a newer car, that would be the primary car your wife drives. And if you have small children, having a car in case of emergency is money well spent.

  55. littlepitcher says:

    Of course, you could have done as I did: funded the Roth so you could watch it lose 50% of its value by the end of the year.

    On the other hand, my PU was purchased for a cool $800 in ’04, still runs fine, has adequate gas mileage, and has retained most, if not all, of its resale value.

    Often, your “good ol’ boy”, the guy who works on his car in his yard and drives the zoning nazis insane, will know when engines, trannys, etc. are on markdown sales. Spam from auto parts stores can be a Very Good Thing to receive–I’ve seen in-the-box factory rebuilts go on sale for under 1000 many times.

  56. My boyfriend is like you. He cannot make decisions quickly, and spends months (sometimes years) wading through the details. I am, on the other hand, quick to act and tend to work out the details as I go along. I’m sure I’ve made the “wrong” choice initially at times. For instance, I have a lot of student loan debt (right now, about $63k remaining of the initial $76 I had when I graduated almost three years ago), but in addition to my emergency fund, I’ve set up a “downpayment fund” savings account that I put money into each month; I have about $13,500 in there currently. Should I be putting this money towards my loans instead? Possibly. I haven’t figured out what the best move is for me yet, but the fact that I’m saving this money is at least some type of action.

  57. Sara says:


    You mention that you don’t use your truck that much since you’ve been working from home. Great! Because this is your situation, it might be wise to consider getting rid of the truck and NOT replacing it. Just switch to being a one vehicle family. It will take a little adjusting at first I’m sure, but with planning you could make it work. Days you need a vehicle, just take your sweetie to work and pick her up! If your hearts are set on a mini-van get rid of two cars and relplace them with one. You will save on all sorts of car expenses: repairs, insurance, car payments, and even some gas as your driving amounts are sure to go down at least a little!

  58. teelag says:

    Paralysis by analysis…I can so relate. Even small stuff will have me thinking way too much. My husband is always there saying, “Just pick one!” LOL

    Setting a date does help me for bigger decisions. I always feel a big relief when I have made the decision…that relief sometimes motivates me to just get it done!

  59. I get stuck in that analysis paralysis too. And in fact, I’ve been doing the same thing specifically with retirement. However, I’m glad I didn’t invest a year ago … if I’d put my initial chunk into a moderately aggressive fund (given my age, etc.), I would have probably lost 1/3 of it. Instead it’s sitting in savings, so even not having invested more, I think I’m at the same point, and it’s a better time to invest now with the market low. But that is really just luck.

    I think training your mind to look for the best deal, the best value, the most ethical thing to do can be absolutely paralyzing. I recently bought an external hard drive to back up my photos and music. I haven’t started using it yet. Then I saw a better deal on a much smaller capacity drive. I could buy two of those for 2/3 the cost of the big one, back up everything and put one in my safe deposit box. But I would have to order it, pay more shipping, wait, and return the other drive. With great effort, I decided “ENOUGH!” and shut the window on my browser. It’s not that big a deal. Even if I’m wrong, having all that time and energy for another task is a better feeling.

    My husband buys his clothes mostly at Costco to avoid the “paradox of choice” — there are two kinds of jeans. Pick one. No biggie – they’re pants. There’s one parka. Do you like it or not? If so, buy it; if not, move on. It does make life easier to have less choice.

  60. szook says:

    Charle “T” Jones in his short but worthwhile little book “Life is Tremendous” states this idea in his principle of:

    Production to Perfection

    Same idea, slightly different means of expression.

  61. Chris says:

    Good post Trent.. I think this is something a lot of people struggle with (me being one of them).

    I go to consumerreports.org for most of my purchases of any value, for what it’s worth. I think it is worth the $20 a year to relieve the “analysis paralysis” anxiety.

  62. Hertanto Lie says:

    I have exactly the same over-analysis tendencies but I’ve been learning not too from my girlfriend who is exactly the opposite to start with. I’ve always thought that this is a very common trait in engineers (I’m a software developer).

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