During my first season on the high school track team, I had momentarily dropped out of a particularly difficult track practice and was standing on the side of the track.
I leaned forward and gripped my knees as I gasped for air. My lungs hurt from running in the cold, my body ached from the workout and I felt completely overwhelmed.
“Coach is just going to have to come up with something else for me. This is ridiculous!” I said out loud to myself through all my huffing and puffing.
“FIFF-TEEEN! SIX-TEEEN! SEVEN-TEEEN!” Coach yelled at my teammates as they came down the backstretch. “Use your ARMS!”
They were now on the opposite side of the track as my pity party of one continued.
“Coach is just going to have to come up with something else!” I said to myself again.
The team sounded like a galloping herd as they approached. I pulled my head up and looked at my teammates. They all had the same look on their faces. Tired and pained, but very determined. It was late in the workout and Coach was pushing the athletes past their comfort zone.
When the runners got closer to where I was hunched over, I assumed a stretching pose on the fence. This was my poor attempt at trying to hide that I was caving to my discomfort. I was fooling no one.
That is when it hit me.
There are no special workouts.
The majority of my teammates were past winners and champions of various events at local track meets. There was an obvious connection between them still running and their growing resumes in New York State Section One Track and Field.
The reality of my situation sunk into my brain.
I didn’t want to feel the pain and discomfort that I was feeling, but my desire to be part of a winning team was greater.
It wasn’t my track coach that needed to change. He was doing his job to help the team build strength and endurance to traverse the distances in the shortest time possible. The laws of physics were the same for every competitor out there.
I was the one that needed to change and if I wanted to continue to be a part of this team then I needed to do as they do.
My teammates had completed another lap and were approaching again. I peeled my fingers from the top of the chain link fence and joined them as they approached.
“No special workouts” I said to myself.
From that point forward, I rarely dropped out of a practice set. During that first season I lost every single race I entered and some I lost by spectacular margins.
I kept at it and continued into the Spring Season. As the season progressed, I got better and started to enjoy it more. A turning point came at the last meet of the season, the Section One League 7 Championships. My coach rewarded my efforts by putting me on the Varsity 4x400m Relay Team.
Our relay finished in second place and I won my first championship medal as part of the League 7 All League Honorable Mention 4x400m Relay Team. By finishing in second place, we contributed points that helped our team win the Championship.
What the heck does this have to do with Personal Finance? Everything.
In the Washington ‘DMV’ (District, Maryland, Virginia), housing prices are higher than the National Average, the costs-of-living are higher, childcare costs are high and education costs are higher than they’ve ever been.
Just like the cold and difficult environment of that Track Workout, living in the DMV is a difficult environment to build wealth and build a sustainable lifetime cash flow for your retirement.
Faced with this difficult environment, people start looking for “Special Workouts” in terms of their retirement savings plans. As an example: one of my guiding principles is to consistently save 20% of gross income specifically to fund retirement.
On occasion, when I share the 20% savings target, I hear “Yeah, but we can’t save 20% because….” With some present day need completing the sentence.
I’m not saying the present day need isn’t important, but what I am saying is funding your retirement is also important and eventually the future will call you out through a disappointing retirement result born of not saving enough.
On the track, the Laws of Physics were the same for everyone. Since there wasn’t a magic way to change the physics, we adapted ourselves to be faster by out working the other guy.
Just like the Laws of Physics apply to everyone, so do the Laws of Economics.
When working to fund your retirement, it’s the same concept as the Track Team. There isn’t a magic way to change the Laws of Economics to suit our own personal needs, so instead we adapt ourselves in terms of savings rates and money strategies.
Here are three key areas where strategies for success on the track can translate into success in personal finance:
- My Coach – He had knowledge, experience and the psychology that I didn’t have as a new runner. He knew what to do and how to guide us through the season and how to help us navigate challenges. As a new athlete, this saved me a tremendous amount of time because I didn’t have to read all the books that he had read. He delivered expert knowledge while I was in the fight.
The same is true in personal finance and retirement income planning. You can choose to read all the books, or you can hire an expert to deliver knowledge to you and guide you while you’re in the fight. A good financial adviser can be an invaluable part of your money team.
- Goals and Annual Reset – At the start of each season, we set goals for our times and for what we wanted to accomplish as a team. My coach facilitated this annual goal setting and reset. He held us accountable by making sure we remained consistent in doing the little things every day that lead to success.
In the world of money and personal finances this is an Annual Review. Together we review the client plan in the context of life and adjust accordingly. Together we make sure the little things are consistently being done to keep the client plan on track.
- Tools to Measure Progress – The marks on the track, the stopwatch and the record board is how we measured our progress and the results of our work.
The Living Balance Sheet financial management platform is used to test and measure strategies. It is also used to help families’ track and measure progress through the personalized web enabled financial home base.
As I close, please consider these three questions:
- Do you hold a personal financial review for your family every year?
- What tools did you use to measure your progress from last year to this year?
- Are you using a financial advisor or a money coach to provide you with knowledge, help you navigate challenges and help you keep on track?
If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, I invite you to meet with me either in my office or on a web conference for an overview of your finances using the Living Balance Sheet.
During this meeting, we’ll take about 15 minutes to enter your data into the Living Balance Sheet (LBS) tool. Then, I’ll walk you through what I see and potential actions you may want to consider in each of the four areas of your Living Balance Sheet (Protection, Assets, Liabilities and Cash Flow).
Please click here to send us an email to schedule your complimentary meeting.
Remember, there are no special workouts.