Watching a friend run a marathon recently I was struck by the lack of outward competition. The runners seemed more determined to accomplish personal goals than on overtaking one another. There are of course those at the head of the pack competing for the win, yet the majority aimed only to cross the finish line. I couldn’t help but make the comparison between achieving financial goals and completing a marathon.
Setting long-term financial goals is a long race. Those trying to sprint wind up exhausted. There is one significant difference that stands out: people choose to run a marathon yet we are all in the financial race together. The race is long and will push many to the limit. The prize for completing the race is, instead of a medal, personal financial success.
Like running a long race, obstacles will arise and there will times when digging deep will be the only way to overcome. For runners, these moments are called breaking points. My friend says in marathons, it is mile 22 where the tank feels empty. The key to getting beyond that is to visualize the goal. Seeing the shorter distance to the goal rather than the longer distance completed makes finishing the final miles a little easier.
What is mile 22 in our financial lives? Anecdotally it seems that hits around the age of 50 for both men and women. At that age, most are settled into life. Children may be part of the picture with mounting education expenses. They’ve been a part of the workforce for some time and retirement can feel closer than ever. The reality is there are still a couple of miles left to go in the race.
A 2015 Transamerica retirement survey recommends that a 50-year-old maintain a steady account balance of $117,000. For many, that may be the eye-popping moment. In a marathon, there is always the option to throw in the towel and catch a ride to the finish line. In life, the financial race is lifelong and mandatory. Symbolically, age 50 represents the point where the remaining distance is shorter yet also the hardest. The good news is you’re still in the race.
The first thing to get a hold of are any pre-existing notions about organic financial health. Financial success is something earned; the chances finances will correct and improve on their own is, well, impossible. Often the opposite it the case requiring an effective defense as well. For all those important decisions put off until later, it’s time to finally take control of personal finances. Next, make active decisions to improve stability and security for the future. Several examples include increasing retirement account payments, paying mortgage balances on-time or early, and seeking alternative funding for children’s education. A positive financial mindset will make the rest of the race possible. See the finish line and visualize to materialize.
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