planning on par

As my inaugural blog post, I am going to introduce myself through a passion that I share with not only many of my clients, but a good percentage of the general population: Golf.

I have been playing the game for more years than I care to admit, having started as a twenty-something, taking time off to raise kids and playing “vacation golf”, to resuming my passion with fervor in the last fifteen years. People who know me know I am a golf nut. And there are many parallels between golf and my just as enthusiastically chosen profession: Financial Advisor and Wealth Counselor. Let me explain.

Golf is a game of character and honesty. You can admit your mistakes, learn from them, and move on. It's really a game for an individual, although teams also play together. But it's you versus "the course." The tools are important also. You will play better and enjoy the experience more with clubs that are fitted to you and your game. Playing with borrowed clubs will create inconsistent results. This relates well to finance and investing. It’s about you, not an average, not your neighbor’s situation.

 

You start out with a plan. At each hole, you stand on the tee box, and see the flag in the distance. Your goal is to get from where you are to where you want to be; in this case on the green and in the hole. There are many ways to get there. Some courses are flat, and some are hilly, and both have their advantages and disadvantages. Most courses have hazards to deal with which will challenge your abilities. Some people are willing to take more risk, and will play their ball over a hazard to reach the hole. Others will take the long way and avoid the danger. Think about your own long-range goals and how you see the path to achieving them. Do you have time to make up for any mistakes, or are you almost there and want to avoid the worry of not having the right resources to get to that point?

When you land in a hazard, you need to assess the options: do I try to hit out, or do I take a drop and a penalty stroke? The same is true with investing; you may get messy trying to speculate on the success of a particular investment, or it may make sense to just "get out" and get into a better situation.

I’ve learned that golf is a game actually played on a 6 inch course: the space between your ears. It’s very easy to let emotions get the better of you when you’re in a difficult place and it can just make things worse. That’s when you want to step back, assess the situation, and go back to fundamentals. In financial planning, you may find yourself with too much debt, accounts scattered everywhere, unsure of your insurance needs, and not knowing how much you will need to save to live within your means throughout your life. Taking the time to organize your thoughts and realities will actually pave the way to better sleep at night, knowing you’ve addressed your concerns and have developed an action plan. Sometimes, overthinking the issues may be more effort than what is needed to accomplish this.

In the game of golf, there is a thing called the handicap. This is a way to “level the playing field” between newer players and experienced players who score much better. In the world of finance, there really isn’t such a thing to provide you with a “leg up” to compete with the pros. This is when you need the help of someone who knows the ropes, a coach to guide you along the way; the path that is right for you.

There are many such coaches out there in the world of financial planning and wealth management. A good coach will be like a second set of eyes, ears, and most importantly, a brain. This financial coach has the expertise to help you sort through all of the information that is out there and use it to your advantage. It’s someone you feel comfortable with and someone who you know “has your back.” And it’s important for you to know the value of this coach, and use her or him to do what you are paying them to do: to help you navigate the course armed with their knowledge, and get closer to your goals with confidence that you are heading in the right direction.

Golf is a game of continuous improvement. The more you know, the better you’ll be at it. And you can do it at virtually any age. The same goes with your knowledge of your own personal financial situation. It’s never too late!

 

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