Financial biases that may impact your decision-making

Financial biases that may impact your decision-making

Financial biases are cognitive or emotional tendencies that can influence financial decision-making. These biases can lead to irrational or suboptimal financial choices and can be a result of a variety of factors such as emotions, past experiences, and cognitive shortcuts. Financial biases can impair us by causing us to make financial decisions that are not in our best interest. It's important to be aware of financial biases and try to minimize their influence on financial decision-making.  


There are several psychological factors that contribute to the formation and persistence of biases. These factors include:


  • Cognitive shortcuts: We often rely on mental shortcuts, known as heuristics, to make decisions more efficiently. While these shortcuts can be helpful in many situations, they can also lead to biases, as we may not consider all of the relevant information or may make assumptions that are not accurate.

  • Emotion: Emotional factors, such as fear, hope, and greed, can influence our decision-making and contribute to biases. For example, we may be more likely to take on risky investments if we are feeling hopeful or optimistic, or we may avoid selling a losing investment out of fear of realizing a loss.

  • Social influence: Our decisions can also be influenced by the actions and beliefs of others. We may be more likely to follow the crowd or conform to social norms, even if it goes against our own judgment.


Understanding the psychological factors that contribute to biases can help us to be more aware of them and take steps to mitigate their impact on our decision-making. Here are some of the biases I have studied. Let me know if you know about other financial biases.


  1. Anchoring bias
  2. availability bias
  3. overconfidence bias
  4. framing bias
  5. sunk cost bias
  6. status quo bias
  7. confirmation bias
  8. loss aversion bias
  9. endowment bias
  10. escalation of commitment bias
  11. attentional bias
  12. self-attribution bias
  13. representation bias
  14. mental accounting bias
  15. optimism bias
  16. pessimism bias
  17. representativeness bias
  18. availability heuristic
  19. framing effect
  20. affect heuristic
  21. gambler's fallacy
  22. halo effect
  23. omission bias
  24. framing effect
  25. sunk cost fallacy
  26. herding bias
  27. self-serving bias
  28. inattentional blindness
  29. optimism bias
  30. framing effect


Anchoring bias: This is the tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information encountered when making a decision, even if that information is not relevant or accurate. For example, if you are trying to determine the value of a used car, you may anchor your estimation to the original price of the car, even if it has depreciated significantly since then. To avoid this bias, try to gather and consider a wide range of information before making a decision. You can also try to actively adjust your initial estimate based on new information.


Availability bias: This is the tendency to overestimate the likelihood of an event based on how easily examples of it come to mind. For example, you may overestimate the likelihood of being in a car accident because you know someone who has been in one recently, even though car accidents are relatively rare. To avoid this bias, try to actively seek out information that contradicts your initial assumptions, and consider the base rate or overall frequency of the event. For example, you could research statistics on the likelihood of being in a car accident to get a more accurate understanding of the risk.


Overconfidence bias: This is the tendency to overestimate one's own abilities or judgment. For example, you may be overconfident in your investing skills and make risky investments as a result. To avoid this bias, try to be aware of your limitations and seek out diverse perspectives and viewpoints. You can also try to actively seek out information that challenges your beliefs and assumptions to get a more balanced perspective.


Framing bias: This is the tendency to make decisions based on how information is presented, rather than the content of the information itself. For example, you may be more likely to purchase a product if it is advertised as being "50% off" rather than "priced at $50", even if the final cost is the same in both cases. To avoid this bias, try to consider the substance of the information rather than its presentation, and seek out multiple viewpoints on a problem or decision. You can also try to reframe the information in different ways to get a more balanced perspective.


Status quo bias: This is the tendency to stick with the current state of affairs, even if a change may be beneficial. For example, you may continue to invest in a poorly-performing mutual fund because you are used to it, rather than researching and considering other options. To avoid this bias, consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of making a change and weigh them against the status quo. You can also try to regularly review and evaluate your financial decisions to ensure they are still in line with your goals and circumstances.


Confirmation bias: This is the tendency to search for and interpret information that confirms one's preexisting beliefs while ignoring information that contradicts them. For example, you may seek out information that confirms your belief that a certain stock is a good investment while ignoring information that suggests it is risky. To avoid this bias, try to seek out diverse viewpoints and consider evidence that challenges your beliefs. You can also try to be open to the possibility that your beliefs may be wrong and actively seek out information that contradicts them. 


Loss aversion bias is the tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains. In other words, the pain of losing is typically greater than the pleasure of gaining an equivalent amount.


An example of loss aversion bias in the financial context might be a person who is hesitant to sell a poorly-performing investment, even if it is unlikely to recover, because they are afraid of realizing the loss. This person may continue to hold onto the investment in the hope that it will eventually recover, even if it is unlikely to do so.


To avoid loss aversion bias, it can be helpful to consider the potential opportunity costs of holding onto a losing investment. Weigh the potential loss of continuing to hold the investment against the potential gains of investing the money elsewhere. It can also be helpful to set clear goals and regularly review and evaluate investments to ensure that they are still aligned with your overall financial strategy.


Sunk cost bias is the tendency to continue investing in a project or decision because of the resources that have already been put into it, even if the expected returns are not favorable.


An example of sunk cost bias in the financial context might be a person who continues to invest time and money in a failing business venture because they have already invested so much in it, rather than cutting their losses. This person may be hesitant to sell the business or change course because they feel that they have invested so much in it, and therefore, must see it through to the end.


To avoid sunk cost bias, it can be helpful to focus on the expected future returns of a decision rather than the resources already invested. Consider the opportunity cost of continuing to invest, and weigh the potential future returns against the costs of continuing to invest. It can also be helpful to set clear goals and benchmarks, and periodically reassess the expected returns of a decision to determine whether it is still worthwhile to continue investing.



Endowment bias: This is the tendency to value something more highly simply because you own it. For example, you may be unwilling to sell a piece of art that you own for less than you paid for it, even if its market value has decreased significantly. To avoid this bias, try to consider the objective value of an asset rather than your emotional attachment to it. You can also try to imagine yourself as an outsider looking at the asset and consider what a fair price for it would be.


Escalation of commitment bias: This is the tendency to continue investing in a project or decision even when it is not meeting expectations, in an attempt to justify the initial investment. For example, you may continue to invest in a poorly-performing stock because you have already invested a significant amount in it, rather than cutting your losses. To avoid this bias, try to set clear benchmarks and periodically reassess the expected returns of a decision. This can help you determine when it is no longer worthwhile to continue investing.


Attentional bias: This is the tendency to pay more attention to certain information and ignore other information. For example, you may focus on the potential gains of an investment while ignoring the risks. To avoid this bias, try to actively seek out a diverse range of information when making a decision. You can also try to consider both the positive and negative aspects of a decision, and be mindful of any information that you may be ignoring.


Self-attribution bias is the tendency to attribute one's successes to personal characteristics and abilities, and attribute failures to external factors.


An example of self-attribution bias in the financial context might be a person who attributes their investing successes to their own skill and attributes their failures to market conditions. This person may be more likely to take on risky investments in the future, as they believe their personal ability is the key factor in their success.


To avoid self-attribution bias, it can be helpful to be objective in evaluating the causes of successes and failures. Consider whether external factors, such as market conditions, may have played a role in the outcome. It can also be helpful to seek out feedback and consider the perspectives of others when evaluating the causes of successes and failures.


Representation bias: This is the tendency to form judgments based on a sample that is not representative of the larger population. For example, you may form an opinion about a particular stock based on the performance of a few stocks in the same industry, rather than considering the performance of the industry as a whole. To avoid this bias, try to gather a diverse range of information and consider the larger context. You can also try to ensure that your sample is representative of the larger population by gathering a large enough sample size.


Mental accounting bias: This is the tendency to categorize and treat money differently based on its source or intended use, rather than treating it as a single, fungible entity. For example, you may be more willing to spend money on a luxury vacation because you have classified it as "fun money", rather than considering it as part of your overall budget. To avoid this bias, try to consider all of your financial resources as a whole and make decisions based on what is in your best overall financial interest. You can also try to create a comprehensive budget that considers all of your financial resources and goals.


Optimism bias is the tendency to overestimate the likelihood of positive outcomes and underestimate the likelihood of negative outcomes.


An example of optimism bias in the financial context might be a person who is overly optimistic about the potential returns of a risky investment. This person may underestimate the potential risks and overestimate the potential returns, and as a result, invest more money in the investment than is advisable. If the investment does not perform as well as expected, the person may experience significant financial losses.


To avoid optimism bias, it can be helpful to consider a range of potential outcomes and be aware of your own tendencies towards optimism. Seeking out diverse viewpoints and considering the potential risks of a decision can also help to balance an overly optimistic perspective. 


Pessimism bias: This is the tendency to underestimate the likelihood of positive outcomes and overestimate the likelihood of negative outcomes. For example, you may be overly pessimistic about the potential success of a new business venture. To avoid this bias, try to consider a range of potential outcomes and be aware of your own tendencies towards pessimism. You can also try to seek out diverse viewpoints and consider the potential opportunities of a decision.


Representativeness bias: This is the tendency to judge the likelihood of an event based on the extent to which it resembles a typical or representative example. For example, you may judge the likelihood of a company's success based on the success of other companies in the same industry, rather than considering the specific characteristics and circumstances of that company. To avoid this bias, try to consider the unique characteristics and circumstances of the situation rather than relying on stereotypes or preconceptions. You can also try to seek out diverse viewpoints and consider the potential exceptions to the rule.


Hindsight bias: This is the tendency to view past events as being more predictable than they actually were. For example, you may view a stock market crash as being inevitable after the fact, rather than considering the uncertain circumstances that led to it. To avoid this bias, try to consider the context and uncertainty of past events and be aware of your tendency to view them as more predictable than they actually were.


Sunk cost bias: This is the tendency to continue investing in a project or decision because of the resources that have already been put into it, even if the expected returns are not favorable. For example, you may continue to invest time and money in a failing business venture because you have already invested so much in it, rather than cutting your losses. To avoid this bias, try to focus on the expected future returns of a decision rather than the resources already invested, and consider the opportunity cost of continuing to invest.


Overconfidence bias: This is the tendency to overestimate one's own abilities or judgment. For example, you may be overconfident in your investing skills and make risky investments as a result. To avoid this bias, try to be aware of your limitations and seek out diverse perspectives and viewpoints. You can also try to seek out feedback and challenge your own assumptions to get a more realistic view of your abilities.


Framing bias: This is the tendency to make decisions based on how information is presented, rather than the content of the information itself. For example, you may be more likely to purchase a product if it is advertised as being "50% off" rather than "priced at $50", even if the final cost is the same in both cases. To avoid this bias, try to consider the substance of the information rather than its presentation, and seek out multiple viewpoints on a problem or decision. You can also try to reframe the information in different ways to get a more balanced perspective.


Mental accounting bias: This is the tendency to categorize and treat money differently based on its source or intended use, rather than treating it as a single, fungible entity. For example, you may be more willing to spend money on a luxury vacation because you have classified it as "fun money", rather than considering it as part of your overall budget. To avoid this bias, try to consider all of your financial resources as a whole and make decisions based on what is in your best overall financial interest. You can also try to create a comprehensive budget that considers all of your financial resources and goals.


Optimism bias: This is the tendency to overestimate the likelihood of positive outcomes and underestimate the likelihood of negative outcomes. For example, you may be overly optimistic about the potential returns of a risky investment. To avoid this bias, try to consider a range of potential outcomes and be aware of your own tendencies towards optimism. You can also try to seek out diverse viewpoints and consider the potential risks of a decision.


Pessimism bias: This is the tendency to underestimate the likelihood of positive outcomes and overestimate the likelihood of negative outcomes. For example, you may be overly pessimistic about the potential success of a new business venture. To avoid this bias, try to consider a range of potential outcomes and be aware of your own tendencies towards pessimism. You can also try to seek out diverse viewpoints and consider the potential opportunities of a decision.


Status quo bias: This is the tendency to stick with the current state of affairs, even if a change may be beneficial. For example, you may continue to invest in a poorly-performing mutual fund because you are used to it, rather than researching and considering other options. To avoid this bias, consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of making a change and weigh them against the status quo. You can also try to regularly review and evaluate your financial decisions to ensure they are still in line with your goals and circumstances.


Herding bias: This is the tendency to follow the actions or beliefs of others, even if they may not be based on sound evidence. For example, you may invest in a particular stock because it is popular, rather than evaluating its potential returns and risks. To avoid this bias, try to independently research and evaluate potential investments, and be open to considering alternatives. You can also try to be aware of your tendency to follow the crowd and consider the potential biases or incentives of those you are following.


Overgeneralization bias: This is the tendency to apply a single piece of information or experience to a wide range of situations, even if it may not be applicable. For example, you may avoid all stocks because you had a negative experience with one particular stock, rather than evaluating each stock on its own merit. To avoid this bias, try to consider each situation or decision on its own merits and be open to the possibility that a single experience or piece of information may not be representative of the larger trend.


Overoptimism bias is the tendency to have an overly optimistic view of the future. For example, you may underestimate the likelihood of negative events occurring and overestimate the likelihood of positive events occurring.


An example of overoptimism bias in the financial context might be a person who is overly optimistic about the potential returns of a risky investment, and as a result, invests a large portion of their savings in it. If the investment does not perform as well as expected, the person may experience significant financial losses.


To avoid over-optimism bias, try to consider a range of potential outcomes and be aware of your own tendencies towards optimism. You can also try to seek out diverse viewpoints and consider the potential risks of a decision. It can also be helpful to consult with a financial advisor or professional who can provide a more objective perspective on potential investments.


Availability heuristic: This is the tendency to judge the likelihood of an event based on how easily examples come to mind. For example, you may judge the risk of a particular investment as being low because you can easily think of examples of similar investments that have performed well, rather than considering the potential risks in a more comprehensive manner. To avoid this bias, try to consider a range of information and be aware of your tendency to rely on examples that are easily available to you. You can also try to actively seek out information that challenges your assumptions and consider the potential exceptions to the rule.

Deepak Sharma

Deepak Sharma

Insurance Advisor / WealthGuard


  • My goal is simple, protect what is important to you. I focus my energy on discovering your exposure to risk and building a comprehensive plan to protect you against those risk.