The High Price of Perfectionism

With a lot of things in life – money, career, relationships, lifestyle – there’s this idea that you need to get it just right…

And if it’s not totally completely perfect, you hear from that little voice in your head that says, you suck.

This happens to me all the time in my business. I don’t want to publish a blog post until I know everything about the topic at hand.  So I spend hours doing research, then get too overwhelmed to actually write the post.

I don’t want to launch my course until it’s absolutely perfect, so I agonize over the details and put off the launch date again and again and again (side note: don’t worry, I got over this one),

For you, it might be wanting to host a housewarming for friends, but never feeling like your house is quite ready, so continuously putting it off.

Or maybe you’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii, but your bikini body still hasn’t appeared, so you don’t buy the tickets.

On one hand, this kind of “I want to be perfect” internal drive is totally normal. Blame it on society or your parents or Instagram, but we all face it.

Here’s the catch though…

When it comes to money, perfectionism can cost you. A LOT.

Probably more than you realize. Just consider these common examples…


You’re not super confident about your investing skills, so you hold off on investing


I’m not exactly an investing extraordinaire. I get the concepts, I’ve read the books, but it just doesn’t grab me.

And sometimes that fact turns to paralysis. It’s actually pretty common, especially among women.

In my years writing about money, I’ve heard every reason to put off investing:

  • I don’t have enough money to invest. (You could start with just $20 a month).
  •  I don’t know what I’m doing. (That’s okay. Just read this and Go. Do. It),
  • I’m 25! I’m not retiring for like a billion years. (Correct. If you don’t start investing, you won’t retire for, like, a billion years).

Essentially, there’s this super important concept called compound interest.

Compound interest is like a money snowball. The sooner you start, the bigger your snowball gets. And the bigger your snowball gets, the faster it rolls and the more snow it can pick up, which makes it even bigger, which means it can roll faster and pick up more snow. So, what does that look like in numbers?

Here’s a breakdown from Forbes:

“Let’s look at what happens when you invest $10.00 per week at 8% beginning at age 30. At age 65 your initial investment of $18,200 will have grown to $99,402. That’s $81,202 in earnings. Now, let’s look at what your investment would be if you started 10 years earlier at age 20. Your initial investment of $23,400 would have grown to $228,563 at age 65 — $129,161 more in earnings.”

Here’s an awesome calculator that lets you play around with compound interest for yourself.


You want to buy your dream house, so you miss out on the appreciation of buying NOW


Real estate is a similar concept to investing – time is the magic sauce. Your home value inflates with time, so if you buy ten, or twenty years sooner, your net worth will reflect that inflation. (Here’s a great breakdown of why buying a home young makes sense).  

I know a lot of my readers live in New York or similarly priced cities. Home buying might not be on the radar for you. It’s certainly not for me (#NYC4life).

BUT…I also know that there’s a chunk of people reading this who dream of buying a house. Why? Because you’ve emailed me and said things like…

  •  I want to buy a house but I’m worried that I’ll suck at home ownership.
  • I feel like I’m not old enough.
  • I don’t know anything about buying a house
  • If I wait 10 years I can afford my dream home.

If this sounds like you, then let me give you some advice – you’re stuck wanting to do it perfectly. And that is going to cost you.


You can’t stick 100% to your super-tight budget so you give up on budgeting


Let’s admit this very-obvious-but-often-unsaid fact: Budgets are like diets. They’re strict, they’re painful and they’re hard to stick with long term.

And when you mess up, you usually spiral into disaster.

Perfectionism is all about rigidity, and rigidity is not sustainable.

We all know that there is nothing as rigid and unsustainable as eating only grapefruit for a month, or saying you’ll never ever again pay for an Uber home.

We get into this thought pattern…

If I want to save money, I have to stick with my budget.

Making one slip-up means I’ve broken my budget.

If I break my budget, I’ve ruined it.

I’m going to just give up.


Understanding and monitoring your money is important. And there’s a lot of ways to do it. But nobody (nobody!) sees success from sticking to a rigid, absolute budget.

Sure, perfectionism can be a powerful motivator to take action and push our efforts to the next level. But it can also be destructive and cause us to hold off on taking action, because if we can’t play perfectly then we don’t want to play at all. Don’t fall for that trap!

It’s better to dive in, even if you make a few bad choices along the way, than it is to sit on the sidelines worrying that you won’t make the best possible choice.

So get started. Now!


15 responses to “The High Price of Perfectionism

  1. Ah waiting for that perfect time that never comes around. 🙂 I kind of did that with my europe trip, which i AM going on. But it took me awhile to pull the trigger. I wanted to hang on to money SO TIGHTLY because of my past experience with money and the fact that I would be NOT using that money in retirement. But guess what I’d be doing in retirement anyway? 🙂

  2. I completely agree about perfectionism being a crutch. One more thing I’d like to add about perfectionism is it sort of keeps us from growing. That is, if you already think you know what perfect is, you might keep yourself from learning a better way of doing things, such as investing vs. a savings account for your money.

    Savings accounts are linear, and they are costly in the long run. However, they are easy to understand. Investing is choppy, but the returns are high. It’s not as easy to understand, so many ignore investing, but at their own peril.

    1. Great point and totally agreed. It’s like life. Things that result in really meaningful growth are rarely linear. We need to give ourselves that permission to ride the sometimes choppy waters.

  3. This is so me! I bought a house at age 23, and it was ok but nothing worth showing off. So I’ve spent the past (ahem) 11 years making improvements: bamboo floors, a paver block patio off the living room, new stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, nice landscaping and a new front door to add curb appeal. And guess what? I still haven’t had that housewarming party, nor have I ever hosted guests of any kind, except for my family when they come to Florida on vacation.
    Maybe I’ll finally host that party when I kill the mortgage?! Maybe…

  4. Perfection is every ones expectation. But, as you explained it costs high. So, going on with things gives you more perfection rather than craving for perfection and getting anything done(or not started yet).

  5. What a great article! I think everyone can relate to this, but especially us New Yorkers. 🙂

    I heard your interview with HerMoney, great work! I love hearing the entrepreneur stories of my fellow NYU alum. I look forward to hearing more from you!


  6. I delayed investing for years because I was afraid I didn’t know what I was doing and I wanted to learn more so I could make informed decisions. In the meantime I missed out on a ton of gains and dividends that would have boosted my account way higher than it is now.

  7. I agree with all the points you have made. I think the biggest problem for me is that I will spend money creating something as a budding entrepreneur and then won’t think it is good enough afterwards. It probably would be good enough for the market itself but to me it isn’t up to my high standards. This can cost lots of money in terms of wasted projects.

  8. A great post. Perfectionism is really a form of procrastination. We all suffer from it at some time and most certainly to differing degrees. Having been a financial adviser for over 20 years I can certainly relate to the reasons people (of any age) put off investing. I don’t think I have ever met so many people who ‘just can’t afford to at the moment’ when asked about creating some type of savings plan. And yes you are right, its best just to start small and let it build up. As the saying goes ‘perfect’ is good, ‘done’ is even better!

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