April 25, 2024

Overcoming Anchoring Bias: Sarah's Journey to Secure Retirement

Remember Sarah, our fictious 35-year-old marketing manager with big dreams of retiring comfortably at 65. Like many of us, Sarah envisions golden years filled with leisure, travel, and time spent with loved ones. However, despite her aspirations, Sarah finds herself struggling to save for retirement, and a significant factor contributing to this struggle is Anchoring Bias.

Understanding Anchoring Bias:

Anchoring Bias is a cognitive bias in which individuals rely too heavily on the initial piece of information (the "anchor") when making decisions, even if that information is irrelevant or misleading. Sarah might have anchored her retirement savings goal to an arbitrary number, such as a specific amount she thought she needed earlier in her career or even what her peers saved.

For instance, Sarah might have initially set her retirement savings goal at $500,000 based on some early calculations or a general guideline. Despite changes in her income, expenses, or financial circumstances over time, Sarah might still be fixated on this figure, even if it's no longer accurate or realistic for her current situation.

Impact on Sarah's Retirement Goals:

This fixation on an arbitrary number can have adverse effects on Sarah's retirement goals in several ways:

  1. Underestimation: If Sarah's initial savings goal is too low, she might underestimate the amount she needs for retirement, leaving her financially unprepared when the time comes.
  2. Stagnation: Anchoring to a specific savings target might lead Sarah to overlook opportunities to adjust her savings strategy in response to changes in her life circumstances or financial situation.
  3. Stress and Anxiety: Feeling like she's falling short of her target can cause Sarah unnecessary stress and anxiety, potentially leading to poor financial decisions or avoidance of addressing the issue altogether.
  4. Missed Opportunities: By fixating on a single goal, Sarah might miss out on other investment opportunities or strategies that could better suit her needs and help her achieve financial security in retirement.

Overcoming Anchoring Bias:

Fortunately, there are strategies Sarah can employ to overcome Anchoring Bias and set herself on the path to a more secure retirement:

  1. Reevaluate Goals Regularly: Sarah should reassess her retirement savings goals based on her current financial situation, lifestyle preferences, and any changes in economic conditions or retirement expectations.
  2. Focus on Flexible Targets: Instead of fixating on a specific dollar amount, Sarah should focus on setting flexible targets based on her income, expenses, and investment opportunities. This approach allows for adjustments over time as her circumstances evolve.
  3. Seek Professional Guidance: Consulting with a DWAM financial advisor can provide Sarah with valuable insights and guidance tailored to her needs and goals. A DWAM advisor can help her develop a personalized retirement plan and navigate potential biases affecting her decision-making.
  4. Diversify Investments: Sarah should diversify her investment portfolio to spread risk and maximize potential returns rather than putting all her eggs in one basket. Diversification can mitigate the impact of market fluctuations and improve the likelihood of achieving her retirement goals.
  5. Focus on Long-Term Strategies: Reminding herself of her long-term goals and the steps she's taking to achieve them can help Sarah resist the temptation to make impulsive decisions based on short-term fluctuations or emotions.

By acknowledging and actively working to overcome Anchoring Bias, Sarah can take control of her retirement savings journey and increase her chances of enjoying the comfortable retirement she envisions.

In conclusion, Anchoring Bias can pose significant challenges to achieving financial goals, including retirement savings. However, with awareness, diligence, and adopting strategies to mitigate its effects, individuals like Sarah can overcome this cognitive bias and pave the way for a more secure and fulfilling retirement.


The character of Sarah referenced in this material is entirely fictional and is utilized solely for illustrative purposes. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The purpose of including Sarah in this context is to provide hypothetical scenarios that may help elucidate various financial biases and decision-making processes.

It is important to note that the information provided here does not constitute financial advice or guidance. Investors should conduct their research and seek the advice of qualified professionals before making any investment decisions.

Furthermore, past performance does not indicate future results, and investments involve risks, including the potential loss of principal. Any discussion of investment strategies or concepts is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as a recommendation or endorsement of any particular strategy.

Investors should consider their financial situation, risk tolerance, and investment objectives before making investment decisions. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information contained herein.

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