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Control What is Within Your Control—Even When Things Go Wrong

Get to know us Melissa Sotudeh

by Melissa Sotudeh, CFPⓇ

Those of you who have been Halpern Financial clients for some time now know that it is becoming a tradition for me to reflect on the financial lessons learned from running—and this year is no different. This fall, I ran the Chicago Marathon. And again, I saw many parallels to planning for a long-term financial goal like retirement. Much like a marathon, a successful path to retirement involves controlling what is within your control. And, much like a marathon, sometimes in your financial life you have to adapt to factors completely outside your control.

When I was planning for this marathon with two of my running buddies, we thought it was going to be a destination marathon plus a fun girls’ trip of exploring Chicago. It involves quite a bit of organization to plan for a destination marathon—from training for the race itself, to making sure the weekend agenda would allow for packet pickup, rest, pre-race dinner and a good night’s sleep.

And then one friend needed foot surgery. She backed out months before the race. No problem, there was still plenty of time…until my other friend severely injured her hip two weeks before the race, and was not able to recover in time to run. An injury after several months of hard training is a horrible thing for anyone, and I was devastated for her.

Admittedly, I was feeling a little bad for myself too! I thought I would have at least one friend at my side at the starting line and someone to celebrate the achievement at the finish line. We had been training hard for 4 months, looking forward to one of the premier marathons in the country. I am not a solo traveler, but here I was. I knew I could handle the 26.2 miles… but 72 hours alone felt daunting!

Even with the unexpected changes beyond my control, one thing I could control was my mindset and how I decided to approach the experience. I thought of our clients, many of whom have faced much more difficult challenges in their lives and gone on to thrive, even when their path didn’t turn out as expected. As the saying goes, we make plans and God laughs!

So I made some changes to my attitude and my plan for the weekend. The first thing I did is look at the situation from a financial perspective. Rather than staying two days, I changed my flight and decided to make it just an overnight trip. Not only did this save some money, but it allowed me to celebrate with my family at home sooner!

My mindset was also completely within my control. So I focused on how lucky I was to have this opportunity and to be healthy enough to do it. And rather than having my friends physically at my side, I brought my social network to me by staying connected to my family and friends via texts and social media.

I ran. And I ran well (even though around mile 20, the Windy City breeze almost knocked me over!).

Whether it’s with your finances or your life, sometimes the unexpected occurs and you have to adapt.   For example, when it comes to your finances, there are good times in the markets and bad—but throughout, you can maintain an optimistic outlook for your future financial security. You can continue to follow your long-term financial plan, to select low-cost and tax efficient investments, and maintain your balance of risk/return in the portfolio. “Plan your race and race your plan” is great advice, and not just for marathoners!


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