On November 20th 2022, I completed the Philadelphia marathon for the 4th time, and while my finishing time was nowhere near prior year races, the slower pace left me with extra time in the blustery Philadelphia streets to think….and when I get time to think…well don’t ask, but on this particularly frigid Sunday morning I could not help but think about the relationship between training for and running a marathon and preparing and executing on a financial plan.
- Starting things is easy, but what is important is to continue them: “Hey, I bet I can run a marathon” – easy to say, but it took a long time and lots of repetitive work through rain, blazing heat, freezing temperatures, and frustrating injuries to reach the point of running 26.2 miles. Successful financial outcomes tap into the same commitment of repetitive actions over time – especially when it’s hard. Over $80 Billion of Warren Buffet’s wealth was earned after he was eligible for Social Security. Compound interest is the energy that drives outsize returns – in a marathon we condition our muscles to withstand enormous stress and with time and practice our speed can dramatically improve. The common denominator for both a strong portfolio and a strong marathon speed is time and continuous investment.
- Delayed gratification is hard: I don’t care what anyone says, 26.2 miles is a lot of miles to run at once. The glory of the finish line doesn’t show the early Sunday morning runs, turned down happy hours, and late night speed workouts at the high school track. I would create short term rewards to encourage me in seeing through to the end goal. A nice dinner out with family, or a concert with friends, were the small rewards that helped me in my marathon training. The same applies to savings. I might say that I love to save, but here is the thing…I also love food, surfing, music, and home improvements. I believe strongly in the savings concept of “PYF” which is an acronym reminding us to pay yourself first. This means that savings and investing should be part of your spending plan, not an afterthought after the month’s bills are paid. I make sure to track my savings, but if I meet my “PYF” goal for the quarter – it’s time to splurge on something I wouldn’t otherwise spend on. Short term rewards can be the fuel necessary to see a long term plan to fruition.
- Setbacks do NOT equal failure: I was really hoping to finish with a better time this year on my race. My personal record was nearly 30 minutes faster than this year’s race, and I have no shortage of excuses for why I did not meet my desired time. Toward the end of today’s race, I decided to stop dwelling on what didn’t happen today, and focus on just enjoying the moment and being grateful. A friend and fellow runner reminded me to focus on running my own race, not someone else’s. Speaking of gratitude, I am very happy that my friend and fellow runner is one of my best friends from high school and we are still very close and enjoy running together! There will be setbacks in your financial plan….this year’s stock market, crypto fiasco, and rising interest rates are reminders that life will not always go according to the plan of your spreadsheet – and numbers don’t care about your feelings. Navigate the ups and downs – realizing that there is only so much you can control.
- Enjoy the success, but realize the race is never really over: The euphoria felt at the finish line of a marathon is hard to put into words. However, it does pass and then it’s onto the next race, hobby, exercise routine, whatever I need to do to stay healthy. Financial goals are similar. There are the big ones we all talk about such as building an emergency fund, saving for retirement, etc. These are important goals, but once met, the game is not over – new goals will emerge, prior goals will resurface and need to be tweaked in order to reach. A lesson I was taught from a very inspiring high school teacher was to think of life as a downward escalator, if you stop putting in effort, you will only go down – always keep working, learning, and finding the next accomplishment!
Who knows maybe next year’s marathon will see me return to my glory days of sub 7:30 miles, or maybe this year was the last marathon I will run – either way the lessons learned from years of training, trying, failing, but trying again have application to both my investment accounts, but more importantly to my life.
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