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Swimming Through the Challenging Waters of Financial Planning

Posted by Johnson Financial Strategies

In 1837, Captain Matthew Webb left his job as a steamship captain and trained for two years to attempt to swim the English Channel. The first time he attempted to swim the channel he was forced to turn back due to strong winds and the poor condition of the sea. The second attempt was filled with perils as well including jellyfish stings and strong currents forcing his route to zig zag and keeping him from reaching the shore for five hours, but eventually Webb’s second attempt was successful, finishing the 39-mile swim in just under twenty-two hours. In Webb’s hometown stands a monument in his memory with the words “Nothing great is easy.”

As a triathlete, I can attest to the difficulty of long distance swims. Financial planning is much like a long-distance swim which we must prepare for in many ways. Here are a few tips I have to help guide you down the right path and to keep you from being swept away by the currents during financial planning.

1.) Plan or plan to fail.

Those famous words were spoken by Benjamin Franklin but they apply to everything we do in life including swimming and our financial planning. The swimming portion of triathlons can be up to 3.9 kilometers and is the first leg of these competitions. It may have surprised you to learn that the initial swim in a triathlon has been reported to be the most dangerous, proving not everyone has trained and prepared as well as Matthew Webb did for his great swim. Setting up your financial safety net is a lot like swimming. You have to be prepared for anything. You never know how rough or calm the waters will be. If Matthew Webb had never pushed himself and trained in less than ideal conditions, he never would have been able to cross the channel. You need income protection in place to protect against a loss of money. And having done all the hard work of getting your financial safety net in place, I hope the waters are always calm and you never need any of it. Your financial situation is forever changing and you should not be afraid to adjust your plan to survive the storms, but not your goals.

2.) Start slow.

You wouldn’t go from just learning to swim to attempting to swim the English Channel. As a financial planner, I see many clients come in eager to get started thinking they will have everything in place overnight. Many want to dive right into their financial planning years after they should have started and have not taken the time to prepare for such a task. This can leave clients feeling overwhelmed and wanting to give up as soon as their “swim” begins. Other clients are very gun-ho and have an aggressive plan in mind, but soon realize it is simply impossible to achieve what they would like in the amount of time that they would like and then give up. Mathew Webb did not achieve his goal overnight. Just like with swimming, if you start with too much you will be overwhelmed and want to quit. You must have a plan outlining what you will do this year, five years from now and so on.

3.) Keep your focus.

Maybe you are familiar with this famous picture of Olympic champion swimmers, Michael Phelps and Chad Le Clos. Phelps is clearly focused on his goal while Le Clos was caught at just the right moment by the camera, taking his eyes off his path to see if Phelps was pulling ahead. Phelps was indeed pulling ahead because he had not lost focus. Financial planning requires focus as well. You must determine your own personal financial goals and not be swayed by all that is going on around you. There is a lot of financial planning advice floating around out there. Do not let cookie cutter advice given to the masses confuse you or get you off course. There is a lot of temptation to get off track and enjoy your finances temporary instead of allocating money for the future. If you give into these things you will come up short, just like Le Clos.

4.) Choose the right coach.

Choosing the right coach will help hold you accountable to your goals. Michael Phelps did not become the most decorated Olympian in history without the support of his coach, Bob Bowman. A good financial planner will help you decide what plan is best for you. He or she will not just give cookie cutter suggestions and will tell it to you straight if a plan is not going to get you where you want to go. Bowman was tough on Phelps from the time he saw the potential in Phelps to become an Olympic athlete at the age of eleven and he held him to his goals. Be wary of anyone that does not seem to take your goals to heart and does not offer multiple ideas for achieving the goals you have in mind. Your financial planner should seem as dedicated to your finances as you are. Consider his or her experience, certifications, and how dedicated he or she is to meeting you at least annually to re-assess your plans.

You may not feel dedicated to becoming a champion swimmer like Matthew Webb or Michael Phelps, but the waters of financial planning are ones we are all thrown into whether we like it or not. Choose to swim the waters with confidence, focus, and the support of a good financial planner that understands your unique financial situation.

SMRU # 1748844/ exp. 9-8-19

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