Over the years, I have participated in a few different athletic races to help stay in shape, keep my weight in check, and satisfy some hidden desire to torture myself!
I signed up for a half iron man this year in June at my friend’s encouragement. As soon as I signed up, I had to decide how I would approach the race. I could have thought little of it, waited until June, and shown up to run the race, but how do you think I would have done? Probably not very good. The more appropriate thing to do was to step back and come up with a plan to try and finish the race, which is what I chose.
The first thing I thought of when I signed up is how do I want to finish the race? Do I want to win? Barely cross the line? Give it my all and compete? Finish in the middle of the pack? I’m really not that fast and only have average ability so my ideal goal was to finish the race without walking and beat as many people as possible. So I set two goals: my ideal finish time and to have a great day.
Once I had my goals set, I was ready to determine how to achieve theme. Based on my assessment, I needed to create a plan to get from where I was to where I wanted to go. I asked myself a few questions: How far can I currently run, bike and swim? How many miles a week do I need to exercise? Which segment needs the most attention? How will I gradually increase the distances to get to where I need to be without over training? Overtraining at the start might cause injuries or fatigue, so I wanted to be sure to have a good plan. I knew there were going to be many obstacles along the way: family obligations, work, health, travel, and weather would all be factors in training for the big day so my plan needed to be adaptable.
I had to use every tool possible to help me prepare which led to more questions: What kind of bike will I ride? What food will I eat? Where will I Run? How will I deal with the weather? What if I get sick? What if something else comes up? What if I get injured? What if my car breaks down on the way? All of these obstacles need to be addressed along the way. I can let them stop me or I can adapt. I could use the tools available to me or I cannot. It was completely up to me how I wanted to run my race and how prepared I wanted to be.
Once race day comes, there is no turning back. The preparation, or lack there of, already happened. Once you begin you will have a wave of adrenaline, wondering how you are going to do, determining how to adjust your pace along the way to conserve energy or go faster if the you’re feeling strong and the conditions are good. It will be a long day, but if you have trained properly, you will finish. Unexpected challenges may arise, some will not finish, there will be injuries, bike crashes, dehydration, etc., but these situations can be planned for and even if you go off course, literally and figuratively, your plan will help you get back on track.
This is very similar to what retirement planning should look like. You need to choose a goal, assess where you are, create a plan, then adjust and adapt along the way. Once you get to the big day, you will have a sense of how you did. Did you accumulate more than you thought you would? Were returns better than expected? Is your spending more or less than anticipated? Do you kids need help? You will need do use all tools available to you: IRA’s, Roth IRA’s, Company Retirement Plans, Pensions, Social Secutiy. You’ll want to evaluate which one is best for you based on your situation and how much tax savings is available to you. You will want to make sure insurance is in place to mitigate loss and replace income if you don’t make it to the big day. There are many tools that can help you prepare and the more you are aware and use these tools, the better off you will be.
You will then start retirement and along the way you will have obstacles and challenges. Markets will be up and down, unforeseen expenses will come up, you may get sick or have an accident, your spouse may pass, you may lose an income source. But even if you go off course, your plan will help you get back on track.
The bottom line: like any other goal you in your life, planning is a crucial part of getting to where you want to go. There will be challenges, obstacles, and many ups and downs along the way. The better prepared you are to handle these challenges and adapt, the better your chances will be of performing well on race day! No one plan will look the same. Who you are and what you care about is what makes your plan unique. Working with a financial advisor to help determine your goals and how to achieve them can help make sure your plan suits your life!