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Special Section Investmental illness: A guide to getting well

The primary emotion driving whatifitis is fear. It prevents investors from making progress toward any investment goal.

Whatifitis

This loss-avoidance ailment is characterized by an irrational and often paralyzing fear. In Freudian terms, the investor's "id" assails the "ego" and floods his or her mind with images of negative consequences -- drowning out the possibility of investment success.

Those who are afflicted by this condition constantly ask "What if?" and are so fixated by the possibility of loss or underperformance that they take no action, even where action is warranted.

Whatifitis symptoms:

Treatment: Consider carving out your basic needs for the next two years, and putting that into a separate account, says Matt McGrath, financial planner with the Miami area wealth management firm Evensky & Katz. "That way you can take your focus off the short-term impacts and focus on the long-term plan for the rest."

-- Posted: July 31, 2006
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