When is your plate too full?

No, this is not a brief about how much you pile on your plate at Thanksgiving, although I do love hearing about favorite family recipes! Many people describe December as a time of being stretched too thin – even if each separate thing vying for your attention is a good thing, there simply is not enough time in the days.

There are year-end deadlines for work, for your finances (although we do our best to help our clients get ahead of those!), for preparing for holiday parties, for getting tickets to special events, and for ordering gifts before shipping cutoffs. Then there are a limited number of nights at home to watch favorite movies, decorate, bake delicious goodies, and visit with family and friends, near and far. And within all those areas of life, you must make decisions within each one. They all compete for your time. And as you might imagine, and may experience yourself, this often leads to decision fatigue.

The American Psychological Association recently released a study on stress in America, and most of the findings likely are not news to any of us. Below are a few of their observations specific to our financial lives:

  • “Although finances are a top stressor, talking about them is off the table. In fact, only 52% of adults said they are comfortable talking with others about money/finances, and more than two in five adults (45%) said they feel embarrassed talking about money or their financial situation with others.”
  • “Another consequence of a society under stress is that nearly three in 10 adults (28%) said they have struggled with or had difficulty planning for their future in the past month because of stress.”

Younger Americans ranked money as a higher source of stress than older Americans.

  • “The top significant sources of stress reported among the 18 to 34 age cohort in 2023 were health-related and money (both 82%).”
  • “The top significant sources of stress reported in 2023 among the 35 to 44 age cohort were money (77%) and the economy (74%).”
  • “Adults ages 45 to 64 were most likely to report money and the economy (both 63%) and health-related (62%) as top significant stressors in 2023.”
  • “The top significant sources of stress reported in 2023 among adults 65+ were the economy (47%) and health-related (45%).”

The study also emphasizes that social support is one key to help reduce the impact of stress and get out of analysis paralysis. An overload of decisions and options can be overwhelming to the point where no action is taken because it is simply too difficult to come to any conclusion with a stressed state of mind. We desire perfection and avoid making a decision that could lead to an error – when making no decision at all is a decision. When stress is the dominating emotion, inaction feels better as the quick relief of one less decision treats the acute reality of too much on your plate. But inaction does not get you much further down the road and often catches up to us.

In real life, this may sound like…

There are too many gifts to order for the holidays, so therefore I order none and go to Target the day I will see the recipient.

There are too many movies to choose from, so I browse for an hour and lose time to watch a movie at all.

I don’t have time to understand investments so I will leave everything in cash.

I am embarrassed to let someone see my true financial status, so I put off asking for help or advice.

Even if you can’t relate to the feeling of analysis paralysis, some people in your life likely are under too much stress. They may be unsure of what to focus on, or embarrassed to admit their needs to others. Having too much swirling through our headspace may make everything feel urgent and like a crisis to solve, when it is simply too many decisions at once. Although I must recognize that sometimes multiple crises really do hit at once and that is difficult to navigate. Inviting others in allows the opportunity for help sorting through the noise, figuring out which plates to set down, or passing some to someone else to carry.

At Beacon, we are here for you to share in the planning and execution of to-dos in your financial life, the effects of which often spill over into your personal life. Sometimes sorting through the competing factors in personal life is a necessary first step before we can get to the financial topics. We appreciate the opportunity to partner with our clients in this way and hope that you find the advice to be meaningful.

We also can support others in our life by asking simple questions and offering a listening, non-judgmental ear. Who in your life might benefit from space to share what is weighing them down? Who needs a helping hand and is juggling too many plates? Or if you are feeling that way, is there a plate you can set down or ask someone to pick up for you?



The content above is for informational and educational purposes only. The links and graphs are being provided as a convenience; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by Beacon Wealthcare, nor does Beacon guarantee the accuracy of the information.

Ellen Martin
[email protected]

After graduating from UVA (go Hoos!), I moved to Raleigh for the Raleigh Fellows program where I fell in love with the city, its people, and a fellow Fellow who is now my husband, Wesley. I worked for another wealth management firm in Raleigh for seven years before joining the Beacon team in June of 2021. When not at work, you can most likely find Wesley and me walking our dog, Ollie, on the lovely Raleigh Greenways, or enjoying a cup of coffee and a La Farm white chocolate baguette.