All Jammed Up: Narrow Your Choices

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All Jammed Up: Narrow Your Choices

Having too many choices can actually be a bad thing.

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At a swanky sundries shop in Menlo Park, a team of researchers led by Sheena Iyengar set up a simple experiment that has become legend among psychologists, pundits, economists and business leaders. They displayed a selection of high-quality jams on a table. On one table, they offered six flavors for sampling. On another, they offered 24. Though shoppers flocked to the table loaded with 24 jam flavors, they were 10 times more likely to actually purchase the jam from the table with fewer available options [source: Posterel].

It's all too easy to allow fear of making a bad choice keep you from making any choice at all. Maybe you have a finite amount of money to invest, or you're stressing about making a big purchase, or you can't make up your mind which is more important -- college savings for the kids or retirement savings for you. If you find yourself at your desk with your hair in knots, Suze Orman's white teeth blinking at you from your computer screen and the most recent issue of Money Magazine crumpled in your hands, remember this: You don't have to make the "right" choice. You don't have to make the "final" choice. You simply have to make a choice, the choice to act.

There are tools to help, and we're going to show them to you. But first, let's tackle another mental obstacle that may be keeping you financially stressed out. Learn how to ditch your defeatist attitude next.

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