It’s resolution season and social media timelines are flooded with articles about self-improvement and the value of goal setting for 2021.
One article that caught my eye today compared planning for retirement (a common resolution) with preparing for endurance races like marathons & triathlons (a personal passion). The article was filled with several thought-provoking metaphors, such as:
- Your budget is like your pace – spend money too quickly and you will find you have nothing left in the bank late in the race.
- Volatility is like a hill – you can’t avoid it, but you can prepare by training over differing terrain.
- Preparation pays off – saving and investing early are analogous to hydrating and fueling your body before a race.
These points make sense – no one is likely to tell you that spending beyond your budget is sound financial management. But one big component was missing – how do you know if you are doing these things correctly?
Anyone who has ever completed a marathon or triathlon knows that race day is the culmination of specific and intentional effort. You can’t luck into running 26.2 miles without stopping. Training volume and intensity must be managed leading up to the race so you show up prepared, ready, and excited.
Most people show up to their first race and they are none of those things – instead, they are underprepared, undertrained, and incredibly anxious. They might have spoken to some friends, downloaded a generic training plan, and read a few articles about training. But they don’t really know if what they’ve done is correct or optimal. Only after the race starts and they learn some hard lessons do they think “If I had known I would have prepared differently”.
The difference between endurance sports and financial planning is that you can always run another marathon. Your personal finances, however, are one long race – you don’t get to start over. That’s why it’s important to get it right the first time and not make avoidable mistakes.
In my experience those mistakes are best avoided by hiring a great coach – someone experienced who can take the different variables of volume, intensity, nutrition, hydration, recovery, etc. and turn them into a personalized plan of action. Someone who assures you that you are doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. That’s the how the article was missing.
The same is true with financial planning – the only things that change are the variables. Retirement, education, taxes, risk management…these are all things that should be tailored to you, not left to a generic template. My best piece of advice for individuals with financial resolutions this year: insist on something detailed and personalized to your specific goals. Contact a Financial Planner who can craft a plan of action that you are comfortable with and gives you the confidence to arrive at your financial milestones prepared, ready, and excited.