5 Steps to Run Your Best Money Marathon

You probably know what a marathon is. It’s a 26.2-mile foot race, and there are 26.2 checkpoints that runners cross before hitting that grueling finish line. A money marathon is very similar to a marathon; it’s a long event. In fact, it goes over the course of your entire life. And the goal of your money marathon is to secure your future and live your best life without having to worry about crashing or running out of money before the finish line or you enter through those pearly gates.

Unlike a marathon, we don’t know how long that race will be, but there should be some great checkpoints that hopefully you’re looking forward to crossing along the way.

How marathon runners and investors are alike

Over the last two decades in the wealth management business, I’ve learned that investors have similar goals to marathon runners. Most marathon runners want to maximize their results on race day and run to their fullest potential. Maybe they want to qualify for the Boston Marathon or the Olympic Trials or may want to raise awareness or funds for a certain cause. Some just want to finish and prove something to themselves. Just finishing that grueling 26.2 miles is a feat because only 1 percent of the world’s population has finished a marathon.

Marathon runners are like investors. They want to be prepared, they want to be confident, and they want to maximize their results. Marathon runners want to run as hard as they can without crashing before crossing the finish line. So, there’s a tricky balance.

Investors I have seen over the last two decades in my wealth management career are so similar. They want to maximize their results, they want to live their best life without fear of running out of money, and they want to use their wealth and their money as a tool to live their best life.

Marathon runners often have different goals, and investors do too. Some investors prioritize living a certain lifestyle, giving to charities, or leaving a legacy to family. I have not yet met one investor who wanted to crash financially and run out of money for retirement. I’m laughing, though, because I’m thinking about this guy who was pretty close!

He actually said, “You know what, Lahr, I want to spend the last dollar of the day that I die and bounce my last check — payable to Uncle Sam.” He was a unique guy, not typical, but I thought that was worthy of sharing.

So today what we’re going to do is explore five steps that successful runners use to maximize their running results and how you can use those same five steps in an effort to maximize your wealth and live your best life without worrying about running out of money.

A quick story on running before we get to maximizing your wealth. I know these five steps work.  I know this because I was nowhere near an endurance athlete at any point in my life. Sure, I had done some shorter-distance stuff in high school. I literally didn’t run from 2005 to 2022 because doctors told me to never run again. I had three nerve surgeries, and I was overweight.  But I’m an average guy who fell in love with running in his 40s.

I know these five steps work because I used them to run a three-hour and 22-minute marathon at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth last year, after literally less than six months of running on the roads. And I kept using those five steps while I trained for the Kiawah Island Marathon in Charleston in December. I took 15 minutes off my time over six months, even though I was training injured and literally sick the week leading up to the race!

So, I know those five steps work and I know that I wouldn’t have received those results if I had skipped any of those steps. Just for reference, that’s a 7 percent improvement over six months.

While I can’t guarantee any wealth management results in my industry, just imagine what it would be like if you could lower your tax bill by 7%. If you could increase your income or your investment returns by 7%, how much could your life change or someone else’s life change if you could do something like that?

So again, I can’t guarantee results, but I fully believe that if you proactively implement the steps that we’re going to walk through next, you could uncover some big ways to potentially maximize your wealth. And I do believe that if you skip those steps, it could potentially cost you big time.

And I know that because over the last 20 years, I’ve seen so many successful investors use those steps to get to where they are. And I’ve seen a lot of people, when I ask, what’s their one or two money regrets, they’ve literally pointed to one of those five steps.

So, let’s jump into that simple five-step process that marathon runners have used and that you could use uh, to work towards maximizing your wealth so that you can make the most of your one life pun intended.

Step #1: Have a values-centered vision

When running, it’s critical to know your why. Maybe it’s to prove something to yourself, to inspire others, to raise money for a cause, and that can really push you through when the going gets tough.

When managing your wealth, having a values-centered vision is key. Your core values can help you determine and define meaningful financial life goals and a vision for living your best life.  If you skip this step, if you don’t know what your core values are, if you don’t have a vision, if you don’t have meaningful goals in your plan, it can be a big mistake because your goals in your plan aren’t accurate.

All your tax and retirement projections will not be accurate, which could be a recipe for disaster and financial stress when making decisions. But when you do know what your values are, when the goals in your plan are meaningful to you, it can give you extra motivation to schedule your tax planning meeting, to schedule your annual review with your advisor, to get on the same page with a loved one, a child, a partner, a spouse, and just to do the work to make sure that your plan and your goals are aligned with what matters to you.

So step number one, have a values-centered vision.

Step #2: Customize your plan

Now, outside of Forrest Gump, I don’t know of one marathon runner who runs their best race without a plan.  You know, Forrest just got up and started running one day, but runners who have the best chance at maximizing their results, customize a plan that can help maximize their results without the potential risk of injury.

Running a marathon without a plan and making decisions about your wealth without any plan is literally like building a house without a blueprint. Right? It would be terribly inefficient.

Your marathon plan should entail mileage that’s tailored to your abilities, the time you have to train, and how you recover.

The best runners plan for more than just how many miles they’re going to run, right?  They look at recovery, which might include massage, ice bath, and cross-training. They might do strength training and pay attention to their fueling needs.

Some of my favorite runner include Iliad Kipchoge, Kara Goucher, Ryan Hall, Roberta Gibb (who snuck into the Boston Marathon when women weren’t permitted to run), and Calvin Kipton, who unfortunately just passed away at a young age.  They had fueling plans!  You know, do you think any of them woke up on race day without a hydration plan and started drinking Coke or Bud Light or eggnog? No way, right?

They were well hydrated, well fueled, going into their race. Elite runners today have specially calibrated drinks that are customized to their bodies and their needs throughout the entire race. They know what they’re eating, and when they’re eating, and I could go on and on about how marathon runners customize their plans.

So, let’s talk about what this has to do with money.  Quite a bit. Running your best money marathon requires a plan that, like a marathon, is customized to your needs and the vision you have for living your best life.  It’s customized to your tax bracket, how much you’ve saved, how much you’re saving, how much you’re spending if you’re in retirement or distribution mode, and your risk tolerance.

Then it’s customized to the rate of return you need to earn so that you don’t run out of money.  I don’t see many people get wealthy and stay there by chance. Sure, some get lucky or receive a windfall because their family did a lot of planning.

The vast majority of successful clients I’ve worked with over the last 20 years have a customized plan, just like runners.

They have a tax or fueling income strategy to minimize their tax bill. It’s designed to do that. And without a plan, it can be difficult to make decisions with clarity and confidence.  Why is that? It’s because people without a plan can’t see their probability of success, which can make them worry about the future.

So, that’s step two, customize your plan.

Step #3: Do the work

So, as you know, successful runners don’t just plan, like we talked about in step two, which is critical. They actually do the work (they schedule it in), and they follow their plan.  Training for a marathon takes a lot of time. The good news is that managing your wealth typically takes less time.

Many runners will put in 200 hours or more for a 26.2-mile race. They schedule it on the calendar, they set their alarm clocks, and they block off time in the afternoon to get their work done. After all, a plan without action, without doing the work, is just a dream. If someone has 16 weeks to prepare for a marathon and has the perfect plan, but they never lace up the shoes, they never do the work. They will not maximize their results.

And I’ve seen some similar mistakes with investors who have created financial plans. They’ve hired us to do planning and we’ve had strategies to minimize their tax bill, to update their estate plan, and they just never did the work for whatever reason.

Okay, so how does this apply to running your best money marathon?

It’s really no different.  You have to do the work.  You’ve got to keep your plan up to date, and if you don’t know how to do that, have a team or an accountant who is regularly running tax projections to analyze those opportunities to minimize your tax bill.

Successful investors meet with their planners and their accountants to try on goals and situations that could impact their plan. They do this to proactively explore how they could protect their wealth and ensure they have adequate tax minimization strategies.

They also have adequate insurance to protect them and their loved ones but not too much where they’re paying more than they need to pay. They have effective education strategies and strategies to maximize social security and take income from their accounts in a tax-efficient manner.

So, they do the work. They show up. They have those meetings. And then they do the maintenance, or they outsource it to somebody like me.

It might not be 200 hours over 20 weeks to effectively manage your wealth, but what if you had a system that helped you assess your progress and proactively work through wealth maintenance in just 26 minutes per month?

That boils down to under 7 minutes a week. Would you be willing to do that work so that you could potentially maximize your wealth and live your best life without worrying about your money?

Well, at One Life Financial Group, we have a proactive wealth maintenance calendar. You can click here to see how we are helping clients proactively do the maintenance, to do the work, throughout the year.

And the goal with the proactive wealth maintenance calendar is so you don’t have to worry about missing potential opportunities.

So that’s step number three. Show up and do the work.

Step #4: Proactively assess and adjust your strategy

Let’s talk about running and then money. Successful marathon runners are proactively assessing and adjusting everything based on their workout, how they’re feeling, and how they’re recovering so they can run their best race.

Successful runners and competitive runners look at their perceived effort. They address injuries after a training session. If somebody gets hurt, they tweak their plan. They assess it. And that’s what happened to me when training for my second marathon. My online coach actually had me jump in the pool and he said, “Get off the road, but keep your body moving and recover.” So, I had an aqua belt on, and I literally ran in the pool.

It was a little weird, but it allowed my hip to recover. Running in the water gave me more resistance and it strengthened me where I wasn’t strong. I was given specific stretches to help me recover.  And despite doing less mileage in preparation for that second marathon, I ran a better time, and I ran a better time sick because my coach helped me assess and adjust my strategy.

Let’s talk about money now. I don’t believe successful investors are really any different. And I might get a little bit heated on this topic because I’ve seen too many people I care about, friends, family, and clients who lost a lot of opportunity because they weren’t proactive. They neglected to manage their accounts, to watch their accounts, to research their investments, and to do the maintenance that really could matter, that could protect their wealth and their tax bill, and they missed it.

It is so important that you proactively assess and adjust your wealth management and tax strategies, because your situation can change. Your financial circumstances, your tax bracket, the market, and your goals can change. And just like runners adjust their strategies, investors should too when they have changes in their strategy, their goals, and their situation.

It’s critical to assess stress tests while running to figure out how fast you can run and know your pace, so you don’t burn out in a race. Similarly, it’s so important to stress test your financial plan and assess your plan’s probability of success using your current investment strategy, and historical returns, to ask, what is my probability of success?

If you’re at an 80 percent or an 85 percent probability of success in your financial plan or higher, I hope you feel great. I hope you sleep very well at night! If you do a stress test and your plan is 50 percent or 40%, it doesn’t mean your plan won’t work, but it does mean that you might benefit from assessing and adjusting your strategies to see if you can get your confidence up, so that you don’t have to worry about the future if taxes rise, or if the market tanks.

And that’s what proactively assessing and adjusting your plan can do. It can give you more confidence in your future.  So, we are now through the fourth step, which is to proactively assess and adjust.

Step #5: Get the right team in your corner

Marathon runners get the support they need to run their best race. This is often a coach, a spouse, a partner, someone to train with, or friends who can help hold you accountable and cheer you on.  And that level of support is unique to each runner. I can tell you without the support that I had running, I wouldn’t have done what I did. I probably wouldn’t have finished that second race while running sick.

But they powered me through. The people watching online powered me through that. And with successful investors, it’s very similar, right? Sometimes people don’t know how to do something, don’t have the time for it, lack the motivation to just move forward, or to get things done.

If things have been on the to-do list forever, that might be a great time to get the right team in your corner, which is step five, and outsource what you don’t have time for so that you have more time for what matters to you.

The most important part of wealth management

There are many reasons people delay talking about their wealth, create a plan for retirement, or strategize to figure out if they’re missing an opportunity.  Sometimes it’s a stressor. Sometimes somebody’s parents never talked about money. Sometimes people are embarrassed about their position, and they think they should be further ahead. And so, it’s not easy to get started.

Well, here’s the deal. The most important part of wealth management and working to secure your future is getting started, I believe, with those five steps in that order.

So to recap:

  • #1: Create a values-centered vision.
  • #2: Customize your plan.
  • #3: Do the work.
  • #4: Assess and adjust proactively.
  • #5: If you need help getting started, or if you’re not sure how to do something, or you need a second opinion, get the right team in your corner.

If you’re looking for a team, if you’re interviewing advisors, click Get Started and schedule a 90-minute, no-cost consultation. Then check out our video next week, where we will dive specifically more into three risks of running a money marathon without any support.