The following is a staff writer post from MikeS. He is a married father of 2. So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house. He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal.
Long-distance running has been one of my main hobbies now for about six or seven years. It serves as a useful endeavor because it helps me to stay dedicated to exercising and also to reduce my stress. I was reminded again of the parallels between distance running and long-term financial planning when I completed my third marathon.
Long Build Up
For those that have never run a marathon, it takes some time to prepare. The training plan that I follow is 17 weeks long. It is one of the reasons I like running marathons. By signing up for the race, I set a goal for which I need a significant lead time to prepare. It takes time to build up your running distance to the point where you can tackle 26 miles. Do too much too fast and you risk injury.
Similarly in personal finance, you need to set goals. Goals help focus your efforts, so you don’t deviate within your day-to-day activities.
A weekly running schedule is analogous to automatic savings. There is very little thinking that needs to be done. I have had numerous days when I woke up and did not want to go for a run, sleeping longer was the preferred choice. But, my plan called for a certain number of miles to be run that day. There is any number of things that I would like to spend money on, but instead it is deposited into my 401k instead. Since I don’t expect to hit the lottery, I need that long-term goal of financial independence to keep me from spending all of my money today.
Life Still Happens
I was ready for my third marathon. My long training runs went well, better than they had the previous 2 training cycles. I had my hydration and fueling strategies all worked out. My stomach issues were gone. My strength-training over the previous 6 months had really been paying off. I was convinced I was going to set a new personal record for my marathon finishing time.
I did not anticipate Mother Nature throwing me a curve ball.
As race day was approaching, I began looking at the weather forecast. I started out thinking, “Ok, that’s going to make things interesting.” To finally thinking, “Ok, that’s just going to be miserable.” I have mentioned before that I live in the Northeast. The marathon that I was running was in Vermont. I was not expecting a hot day.
Race day temperatures ranged from about 71 degrees at the start to about 84 degrees when I anticipated finishing. For anyone who hasn’t run before, those are not fun conditions.
For any of my training runs, I won’t run when it gets that hot. So, despite all of my preparation, I did not PR that race. As a matter of fact, I did not officially finish the race. The race was cancelled just before the 4-hour mark because the conditions became too dangerous, too hot.
Long-term financial planning can be just as unpredictable as the weather. You might need to adjust your plan when conditions change and adapt to a new environment. Maybe you changed jobs, had another child, got a divorce all of which would necessitate a change in your planning. I know I have made slight adjustments to my savings habits as benefits have changed at work or different things have happened at home. I just know I need to be flexible and adapt.
Control What You Can
I will never be able to control the weather for my races; it would be nice if I could. For my first marathon it was 48 degrees and rained the whole time. I learned later that I had mild hypothermia by the end of the race. The only thing I can slightly control is my preparation leading up to the race. Save goes for my savings. The only thing I can control is the amount of money I save. Will it be enough? I hope so, but I also know I need to adjust periodically as the world changes. What long-term goals have you adjusted?