Saving is a marathon, not a sprint

Tina Haapala |

By Gary Silverman, CFP®

For years, “running a marathon” was on my bucket list.  Last year, I learned about this program called C25K (Couch to 5K) at a Chamber event at the Endurance House. It is a training program to take so-called couch potatoes and turn them into 5-kilometer race runners in 2 months. I figured that this 5K thing could be more a reality than that marathon idea.

Now, other than going to and from the bathroom during a movie, I had not run since boot camp about 41 years ago. While I had my doubts about the C25K program, two things gave me confidence. First, others had done this before me and had apparently not died in the process. Second, I could always drop out. Neither was true back in boot camp.

The first run sounded too easy: a 5-minute walk followed by one-minute jogs in between more walking. Must be for the out-of-shape folks, I thought.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself covered with sweat on a January afternoon (it was close to freezing).  My lungs felt like they were on fire, my legs were a wobbly mess—frankly all I was wondering was when that last darn 60-second jog was going to end.

Nevertheless, in two months I went from feeling close to death after running a minute to being able to run the 3.1-mile race. I was able to run the entire time, actually passed people while going uphill, and took 2nd in my age-group (albeit there were only four people in my age group).

Okay, nice story, but what does this have to do with money?

Saving money can be the same for a lot of people. We try, but then something comes up and we quit. We try again, and really don’t know why we stopped, but we did. Eventually we stop trying.

You are allowed to try again, with running or savings. Here are some tips:

  • Have a clear goal. Mine was to run a 5K two months from the start of training. Maybe you’ll get that first $1,000 in your emergency fund by summer.
  • Begin slowly. Slower than you think you need to. You want to get started and have several small successes. Before I started, I was sure I could run a mile. I could only run a minute…barely. Also, gradually work up toward your goal. It took us two weeks to get to the point of running three minutes straight. Break up your savings goal into weekly increments and don’t beat yourself up if you miss; just start again next week. Failure is an option, but not an end. On several of the runs my body would just not cooperate. I failed. But I was out there for the next training.
  • Have help. I was with others in the same or worse shape as myself. Volunteers from the Wichita Falls Runners Club were there each time coaching us. We had companionship, accountability, and expertise. Read articles, ask someone who is good with their money, or consider hiring a financial coach.

We didn’t all do the same. Each of us came with different abilities. But all who finished the training came away better than they went into it. You can, too.

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