“The journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.” – Lao-Tzu
I completed my first Ironman on September 18th in Cambridge, Maryland. There are three parts: swim, bike, and run. I noticed a parallel to our financial journey of saving for retirement, reaching retirement, and staying retired. In true Finger Financial Five fashion, I will share my experience with financial lessons mixed in. Read on…
The 2.4 mile swim/Saving for Retirement:
We had to swim out and make two rectangular loops around spaced buoys in the Choptank River.
We can’t jump from not saving at all to retiring in one step, just as we do can’t swim 2.4 miles in one stroke. Break it down into achievable steps you know you can do. The buoys were about 100 yards a part. Just swim to the first one, then repeat. Can you save 10-20% of your pre-tax income for one month? Do the same for next month. What if something changes for next month? That is ok. Deal with it then. Just get the first month started. James Clear talks about getting started in his book, Atomic Habits. Click here for a short video.
Have a guide. Unlike swimming in a pool where you can see the guiding black lines underwater, I had to rely on other things to make sure I stayed on course. I looked at the buoys and the kayakers. If I felt myself drifting too far away, I adjusted. This was especially helpful when rounding the corners of the course. Having a financial plan, helps people stay the course and know when to adjust. This saves a lot of wasted effort.
Remain calm when things don’t go your way. In life, one thing is certain: it doesn’t always goes as planned. Managing the difficulties effectively makes the difference. It was unusually hot in Cambridge and the jellyfish were still there. Thousands of them. They felt like wet moss attached to Jell-O. The sting feels like razor burn. I went in and got stung before the race even started. I wanted to know what I was dealing with. Same is true with retirement. Prepare for times when you need extra money for car repairs, health care expenses, or family emergencies. A cash cushion helps here.
About 75 yards before the finish, I swam face first into a huge jellyfish. I could feel that stinging wet moss from ear to ear. Felt like I swam into a spider web. Even with all that, I finished the swim in 1-hour 33 minutes (ahead of my 1:45 goal).
The 112 miles bike/reaching retirement:
Felt really good on the bike. I was averaging 17 mph+. That is like averaging over 10% on investments. I had a “bull market” tailwind, but wanted to make sure I didn’t push too hard because there was still a long way to go. It is like spending too much money when times are good. We will not always have a tailwind. Enjoy it, but understand all things are temporary.
Enjoy the view. It was extremely helpful to look down at the white line on the side of road as I peddled. I could keep my head down and be aerodynamically efficient, but had to be careful. I looked up just in time to avoid hitting a mile marker sign. It is not always simply getting to the finish. Remember to enjoy the view. I had corn field on one side and bean field on the other. Like where I grew up on Marion County. Only thing missing was the smell of cured tobacco this time of year. Other times it was marsh views like in Charleston or Daniel Island.
Some people flew past me. Some people I passed. You don’t have to “keep up with the Joneses”. Let others spend and save money they way they want to. You do what is best for you and your family. We each run our own race.
At the aid stations, they had Gatorade, cookies, cola, chips, and many other things. I listened to my coach. He said to eat things I had tried during my training and not to try anything new. This put the odds in my favor for success. Many people got sick. My coach prepared me by having me eat the things that are on the course, or those I could bring with me prior to the race. Getting retired is the same way. Walking a family through the steps needed to complete their next stage of life is crucial. There may be a need for Social Security optimization, Roth IRA conversions, cash flow planning, and tax planning, just to name a few. Talking to someone who has gone through the process many times before was extremely helpful for me.
The 26.2 mile run/Staying Retired
Don’t panic. Around mile 80 on my bike, my feet started hurting. Not too bad, but 5 months ago after a 2-hour run, my feet hurt so bad I could not walk for 24 hours. I feared that could happen again. Coach said to manage the tough times. I changed the gears to reduce pressure on my feet and be as comfortable as possible. When I stopped, I changed into dry socks and running shoes quickly and walked just one mile. Do NOT think of the entire 26.2 miles that lies ahead. There will be times when your investments and the economy get rocky. There will be times when you may have health issues or family members in need of support. Manage the tough times. They will eventually pass. After one mile of walking, I felt good enough to run 50 feet. I ran 50 and walked 50. Then ran 100 and walked 100. Then ran from one mailbox to another mailbox. One telephone pole to another. Remaining calm and taking the next step. Every little step forward makes a difference, like compound interest.
Goal was to finish under the 17-hour cutoff. I did so well on the swim and bike I had a nice cushion of time to handle the tough run. I needed the extra time. You may save more than enough for retirement, then started saving less or you might keep saving to increase your cushion. With 7 miles to go, I knew I could walk the rest of the way and still hit my goal. I did not want to get injured or sick, so I walked. I took in the view and talked to a really nice guy, Matt, who decided to walk to the finish, too. Walk to the finish of our first Ironman.
The crowd was so nice and supportive. The aid stations were about every mile or so. They were like little oases. I would walk and grab some water or chicken broth — it was so good! Talked to a few people, while continuing to walk. It is worth repeating: enjoy the process. Enjoy the steps. We do not know when we will take our last one — might as well enjoy all of them.
Finished the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run in 16 hours and 16 minutes without the need for medical attention or injury. That was my goal. It was a wonderful experience.
On the lighter side, Elliott has all A’s in school. That is pretty good. He has not played much tennis in the past few months. He is looking to play in the spring for Myrtle Beach High School again.
Investment advice offered through Stratos Wealth Advisors, LLC, a registered investment advisor; DBA Riverbend Wealth Management.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information and provided by Riverbend Wealth Management. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Stratos Wealth Partners and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.