I wrote a blog in 2014 about how investing for the long-term is like running a marathon. Well, after running my first marathon in Los Angeles last month, I can safely say that it’s much easier said than done.
I’m sure that you’ve heard of Aesop’s classic fable of the tortoise and the hare. The moral is that slow and steady (in this case the tortoise) wins the race. While that’s true (you don’t want to burn out early), without proper training and planning a slower pace doesn’t matter – you still might not cross the finish line.
I recently ran a basic retirement projection using Mint.com, and realized that I’m not as on track as I thought I was in regards to my finances. In fact, I’m actually behind where I should be and might not be able to reach some of my financial goals, like retiring early. How is this possible when I do this for a living?!?
Where Did I Go Wrong?
It’s easy to think that you’re completely prepared, even when you’re really not. As a financial planner, I work with clients every day to help them achieve both their short- and long-term goals. Naturally, I assumed that all of my own bases were covered and boxes checked in order to reach mine. It took less than 10 minutes for me to realize that I was wrong. Very wrong.
The same thing happened with my first marathon. I’ve been running since I was a kid and completed several 10ks and half marathons in the last 5 years, so I assumed (rather foolishly) that it would be easy to finish in under 4 hours. I took for granted that my years of experience would translate to reaching my time goal without proper preparation, and paid the price with a 6-hour-plus finish and a strained hip flexor that took several weeks to heal.
Whether it’s an inflated view of what’s possible, a lack of understanding of your limitations, or complacency from past achievements, you’re going to hit more than one “wall.” I didn’t hit the proverbial marathon wall at Mile 20. I hit mine at Mile 14, when my knee started to give out from hip pain. The med tent at Mile 19 was heaven-sent, but it was really the support of my college friend and sorority sister, Victoria, who helped me cross the finish line that day. The same is true of my financial advisor (yes, even I have one), who’s been supportive in helping me set up and follow a plan to reach my financial goals.
I now fully understand the importance of a having a solid training schedule, and the value in sticking to it. It’s just as important to have one for your finances. A planning roadmap will help you stay on track with savings and spending.
Can you run a marathon without proper training? Of course. Can you meet your goals without proper planning? Most likely. You just need to realize that it’s going to be much harder and take a lot longer than those who are well prepared for what lies ahead. So, do yourself a favor and start planning for the future now. Find a great marathon training schedule online* and start working with a financial planner – both will keep you on track and lead to future successes!