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The Key to Preparing for a Marathon (and Your Financial Future) is All About Controlling What's Within Your Control Thumbnail

The Key to Preparing for a Marathon (and Your Financial Future) is All About Controlling What's Within Your Control

Most of us enjoy being in control. In fact, it's been said that people who feel in control of their lives report better overall health and wellbeing – and they live longer, too! But, as we've all experienced (especially these days), it's impossible to control everything. Some things are simply beyond our control – like the weather and market volatility, for instance. As I've mentioned before, much like training for a marathon, a successful path to long-term investing involves controlling what is within your control. 

The "regulars" here are probably familiar with some of my past reflections and parallels between preparing for a marathon and long-term investing. I have shared at length that preparing for a race feels so much like taking control of personal finances and building wealth. And my most recent race was no different! Not too long ago, I ran the Nashville Half Marathon. This was the first time I ran and raised money for charity - St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Raising money for St. Jude's reminded me of goal setting and how often it can feel limiting… but that's for another blog. Much like training for a race in a different state (with different weather and terrain), there will be times in your financial life when you must adapt to factors entirely outside your control.

As you can imagine, the decision to run for 13.1 miles is not something you just wake up and decide to do – at least not at my age! (Although, the 20 something son of my running buddy recently did just that!) Preparing for each marathon is actually a reflection of the years I have committed to this sport. Truthfully, running is more than just a sport for me; it is a way to focus on my mental health, maintain friendships, and stay active. All things I can control.

Other things I can control: 

•    Training and preparation. Because I do it outdoors, running was something I was able to continue doing throughout the pandemic. I kept running, not just to train for a race but to keep my sanity. I run with close friends, so each mile with them is therapeutic. My training consisted of getting in miles each week, but nothing more – I run about 30-40 miles per week. I added some hill work, but not too much – DC is flat. I always choose comfortable running clothes, and I never run in brand new shoes – newish shoes are much better for running. It's also essential to hydrate, sleep, and rest. And in advance of the race day, it's so important to be mentally ready and aware of my pace. 

•    Reducing financial anxiety and building wealth. Maintaining an optimistic outlook for future financial security – regardless of unexpected occurrences and market landscapes – will always lead you toward your goals. Controlling your attitude and reactions to challenging times will allow you to maintain confidence about long-term investments. 

Things I can't control:

•    The weather and terrain. As most of us know, the DC area was very cold throughout the spring, but as it turns out, Nashville was super hot. And hilly – I knew going in there would be hills, which I couldn't change about that course – but I could prepare for how to "ride" them. Staying hydrated was all I needed to focus on to get through it, but many runners struggled with the heat and terrain; it's just how their bodies reacted. However, when I figured this out during the race, I knew I could use it to my advantage and actually place well! 

•    Investments. We may not be able to control a market plunge, rising inflation, or volatility, but we can use these things to our advantage. Actually, it's proven that this is precisely how you build wealth!

So, whether it's training for a race or preparing for the future, it helps to have a long-term plan and stick to it while balancing expectations and knowing which factors you can control. 

While you may not be able to control volatility, you can prepare your portfolios with a diversified mix of investments that are appropriate to your goals. Even if I can't change the course of a race, I can control my training and preparation leading up to the event. Knowing how to ride the hills of the race – or the market – will prepare us for all sorts of conditions. If I ride the downhill to bank speed, I might shave off some time, but I might also blow out my quads. The same goes for investments; you can ride the ups and downs, but if you’re overexposed to one stock or sector, recovery can be difficult. You'll be ok just as long as you're prepared to control your reactions even when you can't control what's happening!

Melissa Sotudeh CFP®, AIF®

Director of Advisory Services