Swim, Bike and Run to Financial Health: Part 2

Planning (“The Swim”) & Discipline (“The Bike Ride”)

If you missed the first part of the article (1 of 3), please click here

“The Swim”:  Planning

So, the goal is set.  Now, it is time to establish your path to accomplishing it – The How. 

This may be the hardest part . . . Formulating a plan that you have confidence will, if followed, provide the path to achieving your goal(s).  Where do you start?  Online searches, asking trusted resources for information/references, reach out to community of “experts” are all starting points.  Remember to evaluate your current fitness – whether physically/mentally for an Ironman or financially for Financial Health goals – in selecting and starting a plan.

Hiring a Coach?

A big decision is whether you will be a do-it-yourselfer or hire a professional to help you – Hiring a coach for Ironman training or hiring a financial advisor/planner for your Financial health.

For me, it’s been a combo platter:

  • Ironman training:  my good friend, Mitch, was my training partner and mentor.  He has successfully completed 5 Ironman races!  He was my coach as I followed the training program he had successfully utilized for 4 previous races with his input and guidance along the way.  Wouldn’t have done it, nor completed the training and race without him.
  • Financial Health:
    • I was a do-it-yourself person for many years, until I decided to join the industry as a financial planner/advisor. 
    • Looking back on my days as a do-it-yourselfer
      • We did some big things right – like saving consistently in 401(k)s (and getting the company match); investing in a diversified portfolio; securing term life insurance and establishing/saving in 529 plans early for our twins.
      • However, I could have used some advice (the fiduciary kind, of course) as we missed some opportunities such as:
        • Leveraging Tax free investments – more Roth savings when we qualified; growing our Health Savings Accounts with the triple tax benefit.
        • Including a brokerage account in our savings goals earlier in life; taxed differently (on capital gains) than Roth or traditional tax deferred retirement plans, with the added flexibility to utilize for retirement and non-retirement goals.  
        • Establishing an estate plan as soon as we had our twins.
        • Thinking more comprehensively about financial planning.
    • Swimming the murky waters of financial advisors
      • I mentioned the term “fiduciary” above – when I changed careers into the financial planning industry, fiduciary became my favorite word as it aligned with my values.  Simply put, it means acting in the best interest of the client.
      • Believe it or not, that is not always the case as many organizations/individuals have incentive to act on behalf of their own interests rather than their clients – not good.
      • If you decide to hire a financial advisor, do yourself a favor and look for a fee only, financial planning driven CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) professional . . . . I understand that might sound self-serving but it does not make it less true.
    • I firmly believe each person/family benefits from collaborating with a partner in the journey to realizing their financial health goals, including the utilization phase of their lives in retirement. 
      • Even the savviest do-it-yourselfer has blind spots.  Many include thinking that financial health and financial planning is mostly about investing – wrong!
      • The question is whether hiring the right financial advisor is worth the cost – – even though I clearly think the answer is “yes”, showing the value sounds like a topic for future article.

Once you have settled on a sound plan that you are confident will keep you afloat, it’s time to execute it.

“The Bike Ride”:  Discipline

Follow the road . . . Sounds easy enough, right?

Well, when it is a long road like 112 miles for a bike ride, followed by 26.2 miles for a run in an Ironman OR dozens of years for planning and investing for retirement and beyond, then it takes discipline and consistency.  Not very exciting but very effective. 

Don’t be distracted by short-cuts, “shiny objects” or “look! A squirrel” syndrome – examples include unproven nutrition plans, non-diversified portfolios, cryptocurrencies, get rich quick schemes.  Most of us are influenced by the media, social networks or in a triathlon your “competitors” – In a long journey, try to limit the noise from these sources as how many of those influences have your best interest in mind? are truly experts? or will be there until the end? 

Just because you get passed by a “competitor” on the bike ride early on, it doesn’t mean you need to chase them down because you are worried about your ego . . . That “competitor” may lose steam early and not finish or may be a professional triathlete or part of a relay team, you simply don’t know nor should you care.  If you succumb to chasing them (or to the get rich quick scheme, recency bias), it will impact your result.  Instead, stay disciplined, follow your plan and adapt as conditions warrant.

If the plan is sound, follow it! 

It doesn’t mean that you don’t adapt as conditions change.  Examples include:

  • In Ironman training/racing (the reason these sound so specific is because they were part of my journey and I may be accident-prone 😊):
    • If you have a bike accident and separate your shoulder during the first part of your training plan OR (AND in my case) you sprain your ankle 3 weeks before race day, you need to adapt your plan but not your discipline.
    • In a half ironman race (part of your training), if you get a flat tire in the first mile of the bike event and stink at changing a tire (took me about 40 minutes – I’m ok if you make fun of me as that is painfully slow), dig deep, keep your cool, finish the race and learn from your experience.
    • In an Ironman race, you will need to adapt your nutrition based on weather conditions – more hydration (than planned) is necessary if it is hot and humid (oh my goodness was it hot and humid in Chattanooga in late September 2019!).
  • In financial planning:
    • If you or your spouse lose your job, change careers, take time to raise your children, land a great paying job, obtain company stock and/or a large bonus, your yearly savings will be impacted and adapting the plan and/or your goals may be necessary.
    • When family dynamics change – like a death in the family or one of your children receives a scholarship – you may need to update your estate plan, risk mitigation plan and/or education plan accordingly.

Adaptability is crucial in triathlons, in financial planning and in life but it typically isn’t worth much without a sound plan, hard work and discipline!

The next step is Accountability and Confidence (“The Marathon”) in Part 3 . . .  Here is a preview:

“The Marathon”:  Accountability & Confidence

Having discipline to follow a good plan for a big, bold goal isn’t easy (or else everyone would do it) . . . How many people drop their New Year’s resolution within a month? Why? 

More to come in Part 3 . . .

About the Author:  Pierre Sorée is a Financial Advisor at Marietta Wealth and completed the Chattanooga Ironman Triathlon in 2019.  For more information, click here:  Pierre’s Info

The information provided is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be used, and should not be used, as the sole basis for legal and/or tax advice.  Individuals should seek and rely upon the guidance and advice of their own legal and tax counsel before making any decisions regarding any planning, investment, tax concepts or strategies discussed herein.  Individual circumstances may vary and results discussed are no guarantees of applicability or future performance.