The Eclipse, FOMO, and Financial Planning


The Eclipse

Who knew Americans, or the ones who I know, would be so into science?!? August’s American solar eclipse was a group spectacle celebrating a rare phenomenon with friends, family, and community. I monitored this via social media and out the window of my office. And that reminded me of an important financial planning lesson.

Working while just back from vacation and double-booked for office meetings at the appointed hour, the eclipse wasn’t part of my plan on Monday, August 21st. As the date approached, I realized I might have miscalculated – it looks like I should be thinking of the eclipse as a bigger deal! Facebook posts started to have a hot-spot location centered in Kentucky, the nearest best viewing area from our Michigan home. Friends frantically looked for eclipse glasses for their kids.

My reaction? Oh no! My kids don’t have glasses or arrangements for an eclipse rendezvous a few states away. I had only planned on their typical day at home with their sitter who was terrified of burning their retinas. As for me, how can I go on with my Monday plan when something so apparently special is about to occur?

As the eclipse came and went, countless photos of both the eclipse and people watching the eclipse crowded my feeds. I did catch a peek with glasses borrowed from a generous officemate and to be honest, clouds covered most of our potential view anyway.

And as I affirmed my commitment to doing things differently in 2024, the next time such a stunning once in a lifetime event will revisit us, not quite a lifetime away, I thought of all of those feelings I had been having in anticipation of not being a part of it all. Lessons? You bet. This was a great exploration of your brain and how it reacts with your decisions.

Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO

You’ve felt it. You are living the life you’ve always wanted to lead, but someone near you or across the miles has something you might also want. What is it for you? My list is long. Career ambitions that never quite came through, vacations in faraway places, the perfect home, or vacation home, or car. Maybe for you it’s time with family, opportunities for your kids, or experiences that are too fleeting or impossible to do right now.

Collectively, the modern age assaults you with so many shared experiences that are exceptional. You stay in touch over phones, texts, and feeds. Heck, I probably could have watched a thousand different live-streams of the eclipse at its peak. And as I watched it all unfold, I kept thinking, shouldn’t I be participating, too?

Lessons for Financial Planning

Mastering your reaction to Fear of Missing Out, if you’re susceptible to it like many of us, can be a key to well-executed financial plans. Fortunately, the process of financial planning can help.

  • Goal-setting allows you to prioritize. Goal-setting is a critical component of financial planning. You think of everything you want. And the “you” in that statement is important. It’s not everything that others have that you don’t. Goal-setting is very personal when done effectively and correctly and can help you master two of your most finite resources – your time and your money.
  • You can have anything, but you can’t have everything. When it comes to planning, for many people who have committed to the process they’ve got the basics down. Big, ambitious goals which otherwise would have seemed impossible become attainable. What is not realistic is spending or experiencing without limit. There is almost no sum of money that can overcome an unbounded, unfiltered, or undisciplined decision tree.
  • For me and my husband, a long-dreamed of trip to London occurred the week prior to the eclipse. While I harbored a lust for the eclipse experience, I would have been well-advised to continue to savor the tastes and experiences of England.
  • You’re financial planner can help. How do you combat FOMO when you’re particularly susceptible? A written plan can help, but I think the secret weapon is potentially a trusted, objective advisor who can keep you focused on your carefully discerned priorities. I’m not suggesting I needed to make a call to my planner as I experienced eclipse-envy, but when it comes to big purchases (also potentially big FOMO mistake moments), a good listener can help you to orient yourself and separate your personal vision from life’s peer pressure moments.

Have you experienced a FOMO moment, eclipse-related or otherwise? If you find yourself consumed more with regret than appreciation for what you have, consider integrating these thoughts into your planning process to anchor your priorities and combat your weaknesses.

Melissa Joy, CFP®, CDFA® is Partner and Director of Investments at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® In 2013, Melissa was honored by Financial Advisor magazine in the Research All Star List for the third consecutive year. In addition to her contributions to Money Centered blogs, she writes investment updates at The Center and is regularly quoted in national media publications including The Chicago Tribune, Investment News, and Morningstar Advisor.

Financial Advisor magazine's inaugural Research All Star List is based on job function of the person evaluated, fund selections and evaluation process used, study of rejected fund examples, and evaluation of challenges faced in the job and actions taken to overcome those challenges. Evaluations are independently conducted by Financial Advisor Magazine.