How Training for a Marathon is like Managing your Finances: Lesson One

Tina Haapala |

By Gary Silverman, CFP®

Last week, I gave you a quick look at some areas of your life where a resolution or two might help. Today I’m going begin a little series about how resolutions were important in my quest to run a marathon. Since I also talk about money, I’ll expand on the lessons that apply directly to personal financial matters.

In a way, I was doing things a little backward. I used the processes that I’ve learned over the years in the area of personal finance (think financial planning and investments) to the task of getting ready for and running a marathon. In this series of articles, I’ll be going in the opposite direction: Taking my marathon experience and showing how the principals you can learn from it apply directly to your financial life.

My quest began long before the idea to run a marathon entered my mind. Early last year, in April, the City of Wichita Falls announced it would have a walk/ride/run around the 14 contiguous miles of the Circle Trail. Fourteen miles…that’s a lot of miles. But it seemed like it might be fun, scenic, and a challenge.

When setting goals, it is often recommended to use the SMART method. That is where you make sure your goals are: Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Relevant; and Time bound. The Specific, Measurable, and Time bound were handled by the city saying that I could run or walk around the Circle Trail on April 28. Relevant was covered as it would be a progression in my new hobby of running. Achievable…well that I didn’t know for sure, but I figured I could do it.

Please note that I said, “I figured.” I didn’t really figure. Figuring would have been talking with other runners, checking out the myriad of running blogs, looking up half-marathon training programs (a half-marathon is 13.1 miles so training for one would be akin to train to run on the Circle Trail), and finally building a spreadsheet to track where I was physically to where I needed to be the day of the event. Alternately, I could have gotten a coach to guide me through the process.

I didn’t do any of that.

Up to then the most I had run was eight miles and that was an accident (I was with a group of runners and lost track of distance). I was really a two to three-mile runner. Still, that accidental long run gave me the confidence that I could run longer distances, so I started adding more miles to my running routine.

When it comes to financial goals like the ability to retire, many people go about it the same way. They figure they can retire at a certain age and at a standard of living that matches what they are currently living. But like me, their figuring is just a guess. Given that they have made a goal the question of its achievability becomes one not of spreadsheets and reasoning but of justifications based on, well, not much.

We’ll see next week where that got me.

Gary Silverman, CFP® is the founder of Personal Money Planning, LLC, a Wichita Falls retirement planning and investment management firm and author of Real World Investing