How Your Financial Life is Like a Triathlon

Justin WallerNews

A friend of mine recently began training for a triathlon, which was not all that surprising. He is in great shape, loves to exercise, and is always looking for a new challenge. However, in spite of his physique and determination, he still expressed concern about his ability to finish such a grueling race.

This is a fear that many triathletes share: do I really have what it takes to see it through to the end?

Financial planning is a lot like training and competing in a triathlon. It takes a great deal of preparation, and at the start, many people can’t imagine still standing on their own two feet by the time they reach the finish line.

However, just like competing in a triathlon, planning out your financial future needs to be broken down into parts. In both situations, getting overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the endeavor is common, but completely avoidable with the correct mindset.

Triathlons are traditionally broken down into three phases: the swim, the bike, and the run. These all bear a striking resemblance to the phases of one’s financial life.

Let’s take a look at the first phase to break this down further:

The Swim

The first part of a triathlon is much like the beginning stage of your life when you are still learning the ropes. This period encompasses the time from your birth until you are a young adult. You are thrown into the water, and whether you sink or swim is entirely up to you.

Perhaps you are starting your first job to earn a little extra pocket money, or maybe you are leaving for college, suddenly thrust into a world where you need to make your own budget and navigate student loans.

Either way, your performance during the swim phase will have a huge impact on the rest of the race, but even poor decisions or habits at the beginning can be overcome later on.

The Bike

At this point, you have settled down some from the uncertainty from before. You are in your working years, where you concern yourself with bills, savings, and building for your future. Much like a job provides you with financial security or your family provides you with emotional support, the bike is there to assist you, to help you persist during this second phase. While the first phase had you charging through rough waters, the second phase is more predictable.

However, the bike phase is not without its difficulties. It is still an uphill battle, and many become burdened with the monotony. You must keep pushing the pedals downward over and over again, in a seemingly endless loop. Similarly, you must repeat the same process at your job, day in and day out, to pay the same bills each month.

Despite how tired you may feel, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

You have made it this far, and need only continue a little further to reach the final phase.

The Run

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the final phase! You navigated the rough waters of your youth and persisted through the repetition of your working life. Now you are at your retirement, but that doesn’t mean you can just sit back and relax.

You worked so hard in the first two phases, so you cannot let that hard work be squandered now that you are close to the finish line. You must ensure that the financial plan that has been set in motion continues as it should, but it is easier now than it was before.

Now you know what to expect.

You’ve been in this race for a while now, and you have a sense of how the rest of your day is going to go. All you need to do is stick to the plan and keep running.

All considered, preparing for a triathlon and financial planning are very similar in nature. In both you must break down the various components and choose to persevere despite challenges that may appear along the way.

Can you do that alone? Sure, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  

In the same way that top-level triathletes seek out coaches to help them with various aspects of the race, you should engage with a financial coach to create a specific plan, identify any blind spots and offer suggestions on how to improve.

If you could benefit from a financial coach that can help you navigate the triathlon of your financial life, we should talk!

Click here to schedule a 30-minute (virtual) conversation to discuss your unique situation, learn more about Waller Financial and determine if we’re a good match.