By Dr. James M. Dahle, WCI Founder

En route to becoming financially literate, one of the biggest lessons to learn is that personal finance is both personal and business. The” finance material ,” i.e. the math, is relatively easy to learn. However, it must be combined with your own personal evaluates, temperament, and behavior. People don’t rack up 20% credit card debt because they can’t do math. That’s why really pay for their credit cards for them doesn’t fix the problem. Without a change in behavior, they are able to merely building and strengthening the debt again.

Much of our fiscal misbehavior is due to thinking improperly. While nothing of us is to be able to be the hypothetical, Spock-like Homo Economicus, investors should be aware of some of the major behavioral finance mistakes. Perhaps chief among these is the submerge cost fallacy.

What Is the Sunk Cost Fallacy?

The sunk cost fallacy is the idea that money you have already spent should force future demeanor. It shown in in a dizzying regalium of financial position. What all of these situations have in common, nonetheless, is that the costs are already ” plummet .” They’re previously get. They should have no influence on future behaviour.” The irrigate is already under the bridge ,”” the colt is already out of the barn ,” and” the milk is already spilt .” Let those settle expenses go.

Examples of the Sunk Cost Fallacy

I’ll bet you can relate to one or more of the following examples of how the capsize expenditure inconsistency changes our thinking, our finances, and our lives.

Waiting to Break Even Before Selling

One of the most frequent routes the descend expense inconsistency shows up is in the unwillingness of potential investors to take a loss. Imagine you bought a broth at $35 per share. It subsequently plummets to $25 per share. You wish you had not bought it. You has not been able to now buy it at $25 a share. You no longer think it is a good investment. But you hold on to it because you don’t want to take the loss. You don’t want to admit you “re making a mistake”. You want to at least get your money out of it. The worst responsibility about this situation, at least in a taxable accounting, is that you SHOULD take the loss, even if you want to keep the investment, in order to be allowed to to tax-loss harvest.

sunk cost fallacy

Better to be sunk in a slit valley pothole than to fall for the drop rate fallacy

It shows up a lot with whole life insurance, very.” But if I merely keep the policy for another seven years, I’ll break even on it .” No, your loss is already gone. It was used to pay the commission of the jerk operator who sold it to you. Let it go.

Same thing with annuities and other assurance produces with capitulate fees. In reality, a resign cost is closely related to the commission. The operator/ companionship is going to get the commission no matter what you do. It’s already invested. If you surrender the make now, they get the commission as the capitulation accusation. If you wait until the renounce blame goes away, they get the commission piece by piece every time you pay the life insurance policy premium or when the annual expenditures are subtracted from the annuity.

This happens with rental dimensions and even homes. Somehow, we restrain ourselves to the value we paid for it, as if that should be relevant to any future decision we meet. Granted, sometimes due to undue leveraging, you literally cannot sell something because you cannot drawing enough cash to the table to pay off the lender. But the expenditure you paid for something should not affect your decision to later sell it. That’s a subside cost.

Not Cutting Back Your Lifestyle

Sometimes attending physicians realize they’re not on a good financial direction principally because they’re spending more than they should. But they stay in the big fat home because they’ve once made a down payment, they remain driving the Tesla because they have already bought it( on remittances ), and they keep their kids in that expensive private school because they’ve previously prepared the commitment to the girls and the school. While the deal overheads should be considered, an overinflated lifestyle is, in many ways, simply a subside expenditure that should be ignored when selecting your lifestyle expenditures moving forward.


Ever gone to a buffet and eaten more than you should have” to get your money’s worth ?” Sunk cost. Even worse if you’re eating something at home that you detest exactly because you already paid for it. Or maybe even feeing nutrient that is likely to become you sick. Or munching burnt brownies and brown bananas. Throw them away.


Imagine you go to Disneyland. By 11 am, the kids are screaming and nobody is having fun. All anyone wants to do is go back to the hotel and watch TV. But you paid $110 each to go to the park and you want to get your money’s worth out of it. You’re staying until the fireworks at 9:30 pm no matter what. Sunk cost.

How about driving through a perilous blizzard to see a concert or a melodic because you forked out $150 for air tickets? You’d never originate that decision if you hadn’t already paid for the ticket.

Home Remodels

My contractor procured it fascinating that once someone kept $1,000 down on a dwelling remodel, they always carried through with it. Even if it was a seven-figure remodel. A insignificant plunge rate became a huge commitment.

Earnest Money

When you articulated a brand-new residence under contract, it is routine to put down some earnest money that you’ll lose if you back out of the slew. How many parties go through with it and buy a dwelling they eventually repent just for a few thousand dollars in earnest money?


Ever watched an entire movie when you realise you weren’t going to like it 30 minutes in? Or read an part book just to feel like you accomplished something? Sunk cost deceit at work. It’s even worse if you paid coin for the movie or book.

Business Decisions

The sunk cost fallacy is sometimes called the” Concorde Fallacy ,” after the prominent aircraft program that never truly paid for itself. People precisely remained” propelling good money after bad” because they had already paid so much better. Same idea probably stops our commonwealth taken part in fightings and nation-building longer than it should, envisioning” We’ve lost too many animations to quit now .”

Hiring and Training Cost

How many of us have not fired an employee we should have because we sacrificed them a ratifying bonus or paid for their move? How numerous hospitals has not been able to ditched a shitty EMR because they exhaust so much training staff to use it? All plummet rates. Heck, there are probably parties staying in bad matrimonies due to the descend payment fallacy.

Why We Fall for the Sunk Cost Fallacy

Why do we do this? Well, there are a few reasons, all psychological.

#1 Loss Aversion

We hate to lose. Damages cause much more pain than additions generate please. Louis CK has a famous sketch about how people are unhappy about flying despite being in a” chair flying through the sky like a bird partaking in the miracle of human flight .” They’re mad because the WiFi isn’t running, something they didn’t even know existed five minutes before. But now that they’ve lost it, they are unhappy. With loss abhorrence, the cost you pay becomes a benchmark for the ethic you feel you should get out of the product or ordeal. In reality, the premium paid should now be insignificant. Interestingly, we are far more likely to take on risk when something is formulated negatively, i.e. as a loss, than we are when something is framed positively.

#2 Probability Bias

After an investment( of season, money, or campaign ), we feel the likelihood of reaping the dividends of the investment is significantly increased. We’re now much more committed psychologically than we were before drawing the speculation, even though the investment itself has not changed. This has been studied among those betting on colts. Thirty seconds after targeting the pot, bettors’ estimates of the horses’ chance of winning were significantly higher than they were 30 seconds before arranging the bet.

#3 Personal Responsibility

It turns out that if you were responsible for the prior decision, you are far more likely to exhibit sunk cost fallacy-related behavior about it than if you were not responsible. When I facilitated my mothers shell their advisor and move their portfolio from individual furnishes to indicator stores almost two decades ago, it didn’t bother me a bit to sell a assortment of losing inventories because I felt no responsibility for having purchase them in the first place. That would have been harder for them or their advisor to have done.

#4 Desire Not to Appear Wasteful

We don’t want to appear wasteful to others or to ourselves. That’s why we eat all the food we prescribed and why we’re so fatty on average. It’s the same reason I feel an obligation to get out and use my aftermath ship, my raft, and my snowboard routinely. If I’m applying it, I can say to myself it was a good deal to buy it. It’s one reason timeshare owneds stop taking the same vacation over and over again even though there are other journeys they would rather take. They want to prove that they weren’t one of those” stupid beings” who fell for the timeshare pitch.

#5 Plan Continuation Bias

Status quo or plan continuing bias is a subtle bias that forces the continuation of our present course despite the fact that conditions have changed. Think of it as summit fever, that risky condition that has resulted in the death of so many mountaineers. We don’t like to admit failure and we don’t like to admit that our initial design was a bad one.

How to Overcome the Sunk Cost Fallacy

The first step is to simply recognize that it is affecting your decision. Then, do your very best to remove it from your decision-making process. Take pride in your newfound ability to recognize the opportunity cost of continuing down your present pathway.

What do you think? What is your favorite speciman of the settle payment mistake? How has it altered your thinking? What have you done to overcome it? Comment below!

The post The Sunk Cost Fallacy sounded first on The White Coat Investor – Investing& Personal Finance for Doctors.

Read more: