Navigating the Game of Life.. and Golf

 “Success depends almost entirely on how effectively you learn to manage the game’s two ultimate adversaries:  the course and yourself.”

Jack Nicklaus

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about golf these days, trying to understand the game better to supplement the lessons I’ve taken over the past year or so. There is so much to learn! I have a long way to go but my first goal is to be at least good enough at it that it’s not overwhelmingly frustrating and confusing, and maybe even enjoyable.  In all my studying, I’ve noticed some interesting parallels between playing golf and managing money. Both of these games are largely mental and require skill and strategy.  And in both, there are factors beyond our control that can change the course of any shot, no matter how well it’s executed. 

The drive off the tee reminds me of the beginning years of saving for retirement (or any other financial goal, really).  The target seems far away, and it’s difficult to aim precisely. There is a lot of space and time in between, and many variables can impact your progress.  Just as in golf the farther you hit that first shot the better off you’ll be, the earlier and more you save, the less you’ll have to do down the road.  The main goal is to get the ball, and your investments, as far along as you can. 

Like the approach shot, the next stage of financial planning is to advance closer to your goal, with more strategy and a change of club. You might be at a point in your career to pursue job changes to optimize your earning power and rapidly accumulate savings.  As you get closer to the green and see your savings begin to grow exponentially, the flag is in sight.  Before you get there, this is the time to evaluate what you need and want in retirement, and make sure you are using the best club at this point- which may be a different, more targeted savings and investing strategy.

Competing priorities, like putting your kids through college while trying to fund your retirement plan, can sometimes take you off course.  You may also encounter unexpected hazards such as a period of unemployment, illness, unfortunate financial decisions, down markets, or just bad luck. Some hazards are worse than others, but you can be sure we all come across them.  The key is to not allow your frustration to sink you or your ball and keep you stuck there.  Facing and accepting where you are, as unpleasant as it is, allows you to problem solve and chip your way up on the green. 

Now, finally, your retirement and the hole are within reach.  Here is where you must be certain of what you require to fund your lifestyle. It’s not the time to just give it a good guess.  Stand back and consider the environment, the slope, how much power you need to sink the putt.  Do you need to do a big savings push?  Work a little longer? Change your housing? Choose your path carefully; precision counts.  You don’t want to miscalculate this shot.  It can make or break your game.

You’ll never do it all right in golf or in money, and even if you could, unexpected things will come along to throw you off course.  So focus on the factors you can control- like practice, hard work, concentration, coaching- and when those uncontrollable events happen you’ll prepared to take the best shot.  And enjoy the game!

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Part 2A & B of Form ADV: Firm Brochure