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April 15, 2010


Financial Lessons From Running

by Fin Engr


If you read my 3-month performance review, you’d know I’ve been training for a 10-mile race along with fellow blogger, Paranoid Asteroid. The race has come and gone, and its time to reflect.

Overall, the race went well and I did better than expected. Previously, I’d set a goal of 80 minutes for completion. Ended up beating that goal, coming in under 76 minutes or 7:35/mile.

Earlier I did a post on Financial Lessons From Engineering. The response was positive and many people agreed how other aspects of life, and their lessons, can be applied to personal finance. Unable to resist the urge to do one for running, maybe this will turn into a mini-series!


Race Experience:

This one’s too obvious. Would I have done as well in the race if I did no, or simply less, training? Probably not. Would I have done better if I worked harder? Probably so. For the most part, the output/return of any venture generally correlates directly to the input/effort. I didn’t start off running that fast, it was a regular and continual growth process. It also involves pushing yourself to your limits and beyond.

Financial Lesson:

If you aren’t challenging yourself (intellectually, professionally, financially) you can become stagnant. That’s dangerous because we need growth to realize our full potential. Retirement is sort of like race day. You spend months and months training for something which lasts under 2 hours – and you only get one shot. Think of right now as your training period for retirement and invest in yourself as much as you possibly can.


Race Experience:

Nothing drastic here, I arrived later than I should have. Generally I work backwards, so I calculated my arrival time from the race start. The metro ride took a little longer than anticipated and I didn’t account for waiting in line at the bag check. The end result was my prep time for loosening up was cut short. Not good considering I was about to embark on a long jaunt.

Financial Lesson:

Emergency funds are advocated so ferociously because people ended up in a similar, financial circumstance. They didn’t use a budget calculator to plan enough ahead of time and had to cut themselves short elsewhere. We should all aim to give ourselves a healthy buffer, especially because there are no negatives. If an emergency does occur, our stress will be reduced, but if no emergency occurs, we have a nice coffer to fund other adventures.


Race Experience:

Would you believe my luck? After creating this awesome playlist for the race, I forgot to load it unto my iPod! At the starting gate, my face froze when I heard “Please use iTunes to sync music”. Crap… Guess what – I ran the race anyway.

Financial Lesson:

Life can throw some pretty crazy curve balls on its own, but the world of finance has its own bag of tricks. Invest here – now there, nope back here! In this veritable game of whack-a-mole, we always need to be on our toes. If taxes are raised, you contribute more pre-tax dollars. If salaries are cut, look to cutting expenses. Part of our human ingenuity comes from the ability to adapt, make sure to take advantage of it.


Race Experience:

Remember the Tortoise & the Hare story? The race adrenaline can overcome some racers, and you’ll see people (whom you normally wouldn’t expect) going quite fast only to pass them walking a mile down the road. It’s okay to start out slow, assess the situation, maintain constant pace, and keep a little in the reserve tank. My first mile was at 8:01 while my LAST mile was at 7:08!

Financial Lesson:

The simplest example of this would be college graduates getting out of school, take their entry-level salaries, and bury themselves in debt. Depending on how early and how much, the effort spent getting out can be exhausting – and can leave you little in the tank (i.e. $$$ for retirement). The opposite, saving/investing, also holds true. Maybe you can’t shell out thousands presently, but start out slow and you can pick up steam later on. It’s entirely acceptable to open a Roth IRA even if you can’t fully fund it during the year.


Race Experience:

The runners who won did so in UNDER 50 minutes! Technically, I “lost” the race in all categories – overall, gender, age. But I’m not disappointed because setting, and achieving, a personal goal was the best case scenario. Taken from the Karate Kid, “you’re the best around” only if you’re by yourself; otherwise, there will always be someone better. This isn’t to say you can’t be great, but fooling yourself into believing you’re the absolute best leads to failure (or perception thereof). It also promotes an important virtue – humility.

Financial Lesson:

If I constantly fretted about what other people were making – in my age group, gender, or overall – I’d be discouraged daily. It’s a hierarchy that has no top. I’d imagine double-digit millionaires scoff at millionaires and billionaires scoff at multi-millionaires. Don’t forget that personal finance is PERSONAL, and you’re “game stats” are yours alone. You may be above some, but below others. We all come from different circumstances and have difference goals. While its hard to completing ignore the ambient noise, practicing contentedness will go a long way towards stretching what you do have.

  1. Apr 16 2010

    I love running, not training right now for anything because I can’t run on the streets here in Cairo. However I am doing home cardio 5-6 days a week so keeping my running legs in good order for when I do move to somewhere where I can start pounding the streets again.

    As for direct relation between running and finances I really think having that sturdy thing in your life (running and goals) makes it easier to follow routines and stick to goals in all other parts of your life.

    Staying fit keeps you sharp too.
    .-= Forest´s last blog ..A Helping Hand For Fellow Yakezie Members =-.

    • Fin Engr
      Apr 16 2010

      @ Forest:

      Saw that you were working on some program from your site. Too bad they don’t let you run up the pyramids – that would be a ridiculous workout!

      I didn’t want to note it in the post since it may come across as masochistic – sometimes when I’m running and want to quit I use running as a metaphor and tell myself, “If you quit now, you’re going to quit in life too”

  2. Apr 16 2010

    Congrats on 10 miles under 80 minutes!

    Great applications to finance…I love this sentence from Adapting: “In this veritable game of whack-a-mole, we always need to be on our toes.”

    But my favorite tip is Acceptance. Another reminder that not only in finances, but life itself we need to set our own courses and our own goals and not worry about how that compares to anyone else. Another quote I love: “…ignore the ambient noise, practicing contentedness will go a long way towards stretching what you do have.”

    Great advice, written with craft.
    .-= Joe Plemon´s last blog ..Airstream Saga Continues: Jan and I Second Guess Our Decision =-.

    • Fin Engr
      Apr 16 2010

      @ Joe:
      Acceptance can be one of the toughest to conquer.

      Going back to the runners, imagine if the top two runners got the EXACT same winning time. Since they don’t have the running to compare, they’ll find something else – maybe one’s lanky while the other is muscular.

      Until you can remove yourself and say, “I’m good as is” you’ll never feel accomplished.

  3. Apr 17 2010

    I have participated in various forms of competition since I was a kid and whenever I make it about achieving my personal best over beating someone else, I fare much better. Looks you understood that here and applied it well the rest of your life.
    .-= Tracy´s last blog ..Eco Fraud Friday: Is It A Vegan Conspiracy? =-.

    • Fin Engr
      Apr 18 2010

      @ Tracy:

      Thanks. Trying to keep up something else witty to add – keep on truckin’?

  4. Apr 17 2010

    Sounds like your preparation paid off. I like the analogies between race preparation and financial preparation.
    .-= Bucksome Boomer´s last blog ..Reducing Health Care Costs =-.

    • Fin Engr
      Apr 18 2010

      @ Bucksome Boomer:

      Though many people may not like discussing straight finance, relating it to something of interest can be a way to engage to them and help explain the value of sound finances.

  5. Apr 17 2010

    My sister is training also for running; she tries to get me to run with her all the time. It’s great how you compared finance to running. Little better to understand all the complications thought an I pod story :).

    Great job!!

    .-= Matt´s last blog ..Grocery Saving Tips – Tips on Budgeting =-.

    • Fin Engr
      Apr 18 2010

      @ Matt:

      Thanks – maybe now you’ll head out with your sister sometime? Similar to my reply at Bucksome’s comment, being open to many different experiences will provide some “life lessons” that are generally transferable to other areas.

  6. Apr 26 2010

    7:35/mile for ten miles?

    Very impressive, and nice post.
    .-= Matt @ Dividendmonk´s last blog ..Exelon Corporation (EXC) Dividend Stock Analysis =-.

    • Fin Engr
      Apr 27 2010

      @ Matt:

      Thank you. I’ve been sitting around since then, a few light runs, and always feel like I’ve lost “my edge”.

      I see you’ve written about Exelon. I will be reading that at some point soon.

  7. Fin Engr
    Dec 7 2010

    Glad you enjoyed! Don’t forget to pass along any running articles you might have written :)

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