Education Removes Fear

Our daughter Natali plans great vacations, so when she invited us on a future photo safari, we were thrilled at the chance.  We have always wanted to see Africa and being able to do so with a travelling expert made it all the more exciting.
After checking all the cool travel sites, I decided to review some safety precautions. My first stop was the State Department website. Though the information there is designed to be helpful, I must say I suddenly felt my enthusiasm for the trip waning a bit after reading all their warnings.
I then looked up the CDC to learn about immunizations. I was initially pleased that my trip had only one “required” immunization, but then it went on to highly recommend four more, and encouraged the consideration of an additional eight. Each recommendation was accompanied by an unpleasant description of some potential disease.
I decided to put together a spreadsheet listing the pros and cons of each of the 13 possible inoculations, noting the likelihood of contracting each specific disease, as well as potential side effects of the shot itself. Like all travelers, I weighed the risks and benefits and came to a personal decision.
As I went through this process there were times when I considered giving up on the whole trip. In a way, it has given me more appreciation for people who come to me and sheepishly admit they haven’t invested since their market losses in the 2008 crash. They know they have missed out on a tremendous opportunity, and have wanted to invest, but fear of the risk has kept them away.
Fear is overcome by education, so I ask these individuals how they invested prior to 2008 that lead to their losses, and discuss what they might have done differently. We review their future goals and talk about what level of risk might be necessary to achieve them. We learn about risk and attempt to separate real and likely risks from perceived or unlikely risks. The process is similar to my immunization spreadsheet which showed that at least half of the diseases mentioned we had almost no chance of encountering.
I also help people understand that there is risk in not taking risk, known as the opportunity cost. If you aren’t willing to take investment risk, then you risk missing opportunities that could provide a better life for your family. In similar fashion, if I never travel because I get too worried about all the risks, then I will miss out on many wonderful experiences.
Ironically, those who try the hardest to avoid risk often face even greater risks for doing so. Consider a risk averse friend of mine who never leaves the U.S. because he considers international travel too dangerous, yet he loves to visit New York.  Risk can be scary, but knowledge can help reduce that fear to an acceptable level and allow you to enjoy the benefits available only to those willing to take a little risk to obtain them.