Financial Lessons From Running
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.