Marathons and Retirement Planning

My first marathon was a total disaster. I finished the race exhausted, dehydrated, and sunburned. After years of running shorter races, I was ready to conquer the 1991 Los Angeles Marathon, and on race day, I thought I was prepared for the 26.2-mile journey. I was young, naïve, and in shape, and my strategy was to run as fast as possible for as long as possible. In short, I had no plan.  

I avoided all water stations until late in the race – too late because I was already parched and sunburned. At mile twenty, a young boy gave me a giant bottle of Gatorade, and his gift gave me enough fuel to get to the next aid station. However, it was useless because I couldn’t drink enough water to quench my thirst. I finished the race, made it home, licked my wounds, and reflected on the events of the day. 

If I was going to run marathons, I needed a better strategy. As the years went on, I read books on running and applied what I learned. As a result, my race experiences went up, and my race times went down.  I ran the 2011 Boston Marathon, and in 2015 I set a personal best in San Diego. My plan worked.

What do running marathons and planning for retirement have in common? Let’s find out.

  1. Plan. Your retirement plan will guide your steps and help you quantify your hopes, dreams, and fears. It will align your investment holdings to your goals, so they’re both working for your benefit, and it will give you a baseline of your current financial situation.
  2. Think long-term. A marathon is 26.2 miles, so don’t worry about what’s happening during the first few miles. Likewise, don’t worry about short-term market moves if you’re going to retire in 10, 20, or 30 years.
  3. Be consistent. Establish a monthly investment program and save as much money as possible. Over time, your monthly contributions will add up. For example, if you save $500 per month, it could be worth more than $1.1 million after thirty years. When I ran marathons, my goal was to run the race one mile at a time at an 8-minute pace. I never focused on the entire 26 miles on race day.
  4. Buy quality. A pair of high-quality, lightweight running shoes makes all the difference in the world. Similarly, your assets should be high-quality with low fees – control your costs and diversify your investments.
  5. Set your pace. A large marathon may have more than thirty thousand runners, so don’t worry when you get passed because each runner has their own goal. Instead, focus on your goals and pace. Your retirement plan will help you establish your retirement pace.
  6. Refuel and check-in. Smart runners take advantage of aid stations to hydrate and refuel. Once your retirement plan is up and running, check it often to ensure you’re still on pace to achieve your goals and adjust it as needed.
  7. Hire a coach. Your running results will improve if you run with a coach. A financial coach or trusted advisor can help support and guide you during your retirement journey.  
  8. Go fast. Stocks purchased for the long haul will allow your assets to grow faster than safe investments like bonds or cash.
  9. Celebrate. Finishing a marathon is a significant accomplishment, so celebrate your success. Equally, when you have saved your money and invested successfully for decades, and you can retire on your terms, take a victory lap – you have won the retirement race!

A plan for running and retirement will keep you moving for years, so get out there and start planning!

“Don’t dream of winning; train for it!” ~ Mo Farah

November 2, 2021

Bill Parrott, CFP®, is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process so our clients can pursue a life of purpose. Our firm does not have an asset or fee minimum, and we work with anybody who needs financial help regardless of age, income, or asset level. PWM’s custodian is TD Ameritrade, and our annual fee starts at .5% of your assets and drops depending on the level of your assets.

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