Although Oreo has his own letterbox next door, he likes nothing more than watching the world from ours. Perhaps it is a better vantage point; perhaps he likes to look at things from different perspectives; or, perhaps he sees an opportunity to seize more territory (or wealth), at Molly’s house while Molly’s asleep at the wheel (inside in front of the heater).

We will likely never know Oreo’s motivation, but here are five things I have learned from watching Oreo and Molly and the choices they are making:

Cats live in the moment

They take time to enjoy the sunshine or a warm fire. We should too. There is a lot of pleasure in life’s small moments, if only we stop, breathe and take it all in.

Curiosity doesn’t kill the cat; it keeps the cat alive

Cats are attuned to changes in their environment. They do not get emotionally invested in catching that mouse if a vicious dog is barking at them. But, if they learn that a fence contains the dog, they may well go back to hunting that mouse. They stay alive to what’s happening around them, making adjustments as necessary, without being consumed by it.

You don’t need to lick all four paws at once

Sometimes the right decision is to start smaller and to invest just a little. You may elect to clean just that one paw, or you may decide to make a bigger investment and wash all four. But not everything is an ‘all or nothing’ decision.

Cats land on their feet

Probably not if you drop them from a 30-storey building (please don’t try) but, like walking a tight rope, they move with such precision, grace and steeliness that, even faced with volatility, they get safely to the other side.

Cats do not really have nine lives

They are just good at assessing their risk. Oreo knows that as a strong, young cat, he can be a little braver. He does not need to spend as much time lining up his jump. His inherent strength, agility and balance allow him to take a risk. And, if he does get it wrong, he has a lifetime ahead of him to correct his error. Molly, on the other hand, as a much older cat, knows she needs to play it safe. She adopts a lower-risk strategy, opting to protect what she has, resisting the urge to chase the shiny new object promising high yields (that may not deliver). Like Molly, people generally become more risk averse as they get older meaning that investment strategies that work for a 25-year-old with no dependents probably won’t work for a 75-year-old.

While I draw some wonderful lessons from watching these two felines, for humans, the world is much more complex. Our brain is both amazingly evolved and concerningly flawed. We are filled with cognitive biases (it is estimated there are in excess of 200 biases) which can lead our thinking away from the correct judgement, without us even knowing. There are reasons for this.

Our brain is a slave to speed, efficiency and comfort. It dislikes uncertainty and it dislikes dissonance (two conflicting thoughts). Fortunately, or unfortunately, the brain is also a prediction machine. Where information is unknown, our brain will simply predict. And, to do that, it uses our past experiences. You see, when making decisions, we do not jump forward to a clean sheet of white paper and consider all information anew. No, we travel backwards into our memories and experiences – but not all of them, because not all memories are created and stored equally. And not all memories are real (yes, made-up memories really happen).

We do not store memories as they have occurred. We store them as we interpreted them at the time, which is why two people can have different recollections of the same event both vehemently believing they are right. Plus, we attach emotion to our memories meaning that a more emotional event will feature more heavily in our memory. That stands to reason, but it can also lead us to over-weighting one experience while discarding or ignoring another that may be equally or more relevant to the decision at hand.

In essence, we think, when we make decisions, that we are being rational, objective and well considered. When, in fact, quite often, we have formed the decision in our subconscious and everything else is a rationalisation after the fact. Our brains are almost too smart for us.

No one can completely overcome the flaws of the human brain (thought to be the most complex structure known to man). However, our aim, as your financial advisers, is to bring a balance of this type of awareness, robust analysis and empathy to better understand, identify and help implement a financial strategy that is tailored to you so that if we were all cats, Oreo can enjoy the letterbox and Molly can enjoy the fire.

Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal, business or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today