Pattie's Blog: What do investing and marathon training have in common?
Published Saturday, July 28, 2012 7:00AM EDT
With all the talk of the Olympics it has brought back a memory of this crazy idea that I would run the Ottawa Marathon. Now don't get me wrong I was a recreational runner and had done a number of half marathons -- just never the full race and I felt the time had come.
As I embarked on my training I was literally all over the place. I didn't have a plan, I didn't have specific goals and I knew it wouldn't be long before I was injured. That is when it dawned on me that I should set my training agenda along the lines of my investment strategy.
I'm a long term investor and this was a long race, not a sprint, and at the end of the day no matter how you looked at it I wanted "gold" in both activities. So here are some of the lessons I learned along the way.
First as I relate this to running: My seven steps to fitness freedom
- 1) I made the decision to get fit – then created a plan
- 2) I looked at where I was then and set reasonable goals
- 3) There were common mistakes I made that actually hurt my performance
- 4) I realized I needed to learn more about the sport and how to effectively train
- 5) I had to become disciplined
- 6) My training went beyond running
- 7) Built my team
Now the parallels to investing: My seven steps to financial freedom
- 1) Plan: we all need to start with a plan. This is our road map of what we hope to accomplish, in what sort of time-frame. I was never going to go out and run 26 miles on the first day nor was I going to build a plan right off the start that was going to help me achieve my financial goals. However, if I didn't put a plan into place how was I going to know if I was off track, and where to take corrective action? Plus there were others who were ahead of me in training and that stressed the importance of having my own plan….cookie cutter approaches in training and investing don't work.
- 2) Set Goals: I've always had short-term financial goals -- things I wanted to achieve within a year, mid-term goals accomplished in a three to five year time horizon and of course the longer term perspective. We have a different investment strategy depending on the goal. If I was looking to use the money to purchase a home within a year I would be in cash, if I'm saving for retirement I'll have exposure to the stock market, as the children required funds for university I shifted to safer investments. Goals change as you accumulate wealth and your lifestyle decisions alter. The same applied to my training strategy. The only difference was the time horizon was much shorter. What did I want to accomplish this week, this month or in six months?
- 3) Common mistakes: I fell into the trap of thinking if I ran six miles today, eight miles tomorrow would be better. Over-training, like over-exposure to one currency, one company, one sector or one country can be dangerous. You can have too short a term perspective, or become over-confident, or worse yet procrastinate and do nothing. There are numerous mistakes that we do that can be harmful to our end game.
- 4) Learn more to earn more: If you are prepared to do your own research then be sure to do it. If you aren't then be sure to get the help you need. Most professional athletes have coaches and many investors would benefit from a financial coach to steer them in the right direction and to increase their knowledge base.
- 5) Discipline is fundamental: Seasoned athletes would never try an unproven move in competition that they haven't practiced and accomplished. Successful investors never invested in anything they have not researched and understand. They are patient and rarely let emotions dictate their decisions. Discipline and focus go hand in hand.
- 6) Diversification: As I was training for the marathon, I also biked, went to yoga and did some strength training. When it comes to our portfolio, given the uneven global economic recovery and the market uncertainty, I would never put all of our money in the stock market and I continue looks for ways to reduce taxes, explore insurance options, even take on additional work.
- 7) Build your team: You don't have to do any of this alone.
If these steps worked for me (in fitness AND finance) they can work for you too! In the end I ran the Ottawa Marathon in a time of four hours and 28 minutes -- one minute less than Oprah's time and an accomplishment I am proud of to this day!