Johan Clarey from France just captured a silver medal in the men’s downhill at the age of 41.  Former wrestler Nick Baumgartner age 40, collected a gold medal for team USA in snowboard cross with Lindsey Jacobellis.  Katie Ledecky continues to get faster in the water after a record smashing swim this weekend in the 200-meter free.  At 24 years old, it’s astonishing to remember she won her first gold medal at the age of 15.

What influences these Olympians, all athletes, to compete at a high-level week in and week out?  I would guess it’s a combination of various themes carefully tied together.  A unique plan customized around strengths, a driving vision, guidance from various coaches, feedback from mentors, and a desire to be the best are all likely ingredients.  Also included, yet less visible is the persistence in showing up each day, both mentally and physically for practice.  This is made possible by the athlete having a clear vision on where they are and where they most want to be.

There’s no fast pass to cutting the line or a high-speed lift that will take these athletes to the top of their mountain.  Nope, they are doing the reps one at a time, often facing disappointments and setbacks as they progress.  It’s not what’s happening to them as they grind away as much as it is their attitude and outlook to improve their craft.

What lessons may we apply to our financials that closely resemble the training of high caliber athletes?

To start, there must be a goal-based plan with dates and duration that spell out what you want to accomplish.  Beyond financials, returns, and benchmarks; what exactly are you investing for?  Without a plan what’s the purpose to investing?  How do you know if you are on track or have arrived in achieving what you want?  Defining this is the same as an athlete defining their A race or event/s.  Without a plan, it’s impossible to see the improvements taking place or know the direction you are headed.

You have your plan, how about a planner?  A CFP® professional, may play many roles such as coach and mentor.  They may assist in updating your plan each year by helping you keep your focus on both short- and long-term goals.  Accountability and follow up via a repeatable process may increase the likelihood of accomplishing what you want.  It’s your goals, your resources, just as it’s the athlete not coach competing.  It takes honest and transparent feedback from both to get the most from each other.

An athlete’s schedule outlines workouts and recovery across a training block.  This automation keeps training from being boring by allowing for adjustments.  Sports psychology, strength training, and improving reflexes cycle throughout a schedule.  Adding this same automation to your financials may allow you to save more to cash reserves today and invest more for tomorrow.  Automatic savings in your employer retirement plan, savings account, and after-tax investments capture more before it’s spent.  The key is updating what goes where each year and leaving room for the unexpected.

Injuries happen, it’s unfortunate but the nature of competing.  Sometimes an athlete’s body calls a time out before they can compete.  Similarly, our investment decisions don’t always pan out as expected.  Focusing too much on the outputs which are often out of our control can be frustrating.  We want our investments to go forward but in real life, both competing and investing, rarely is it a straight line.  Volatility and risk are present in both and it’s important to know their differences.

Have fun.  Yes, training sessions are hard for athletes, but fun must be sprinkled into practice for laughter and to enjoy the journey.  From a financial perspective, spend your money with a smile as you go through life.  It’s just as important to spend today without regret or anxiousness as it is to invest for tomorrow.  Too much in either direction may lead to burnout or exhaustion.

It’s not to late to get your financial life on the podium!  Age doesn’t stop athletes from competing and winning medals, nor should it stop you from having a plan you are excited about.  Have questions or want to chat, reach out below.


Advisory services through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge and Flowerstone Financial are not affiliated.

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