Staying the Financial Course: 4 Money Pros Moonlighting as Endurance Athletes Share Their Secrets of Success

Staying the Financial Course: 4 Money Pros Moonlighting as Endurance Athletes Share Their Secrets of Success

There’s a reason why sports metaphors—going the distance, eyes on the prize—are routinely used to describe financial strategies.

Many of the same qualities that you need in order to thrive in the fitness world are also crucial for financial success—especially when it comes to endurance-minded money goals, like saving for retirement.

Learnvest

Get started with a free financial assessment.

So it should come as little surprise that some high-achieving finance pros—from certified financial planners to investment analysts—excel at not only money management but also endurance sports.

Intrigued by this trend, we rounded up four of these "financial athletes" to learn how their physical training helps them to stay motivated—and, most important, confident—in their financial lives.

The goal? To show how you, too, can channel some of their focus, determination and commitment to staying the course to make gold-medal progress on your money.

bazu-3130297The Mountain Biker

Greg Lessard, a chartered retirement planning counselor with Aspen Leaf Partners in Golden, Colo., has been riding since he was 14.

Four years ago he decided to kick his hobby up a notch by tackling the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race, a marathon mountain bike race that takes riders to a peak elevation of 12,600 feet.

Ever since he completed that epic ride, Lessard has dedicated himself to training up to 16 hours a week in preparation for the Leadville and other endurance events throughout the year.

What This Financial Athlete Has Learned ...

1. Mind the details.
"Everything from what I’ve eaten to the pressure in my tires can make a difference in how I ride. If I don’t take the time to figure out which factors are helping me earn my best time—and how they work together—I won’t perform at my peak.

Similarly, details matter when it comes to money. Even something that seems minor, like the type of life insurance you buy, can have a huge impact.

2. Use the data but look beyond the numbers.
I use a Garmin app to track my heart rate, speed, elevation and distance. Tracking my progress with the app is very helpful, but sometimes I need to take a week off from riding, so my mileage looks like it’s down. Although that may seem like a bad thing, it often inspires me to come back from a break more focused than ever.

When it comes to investing, you can use data as a guide but deviate when it makes sense. For example, historical data suggests that you should invest aggressively when making long-term investments. But if big fluctuations keep you up at night, it may not be a smart strategy for you."

RELATED: 10 Burning Questions You’ve Wanted to Ask About Investing

"In the same way that you don't go running only when the weather is gorgeous, you don’t just invest when you have extra money lying around."

Bull CIty Fest 2013 self

The Marathoner

Certified financial planner Molly Stanifer of Old Peak Finance in Chapel Hill, N.C., has been running since 2009.

During the week she logs three to five miles per day—and ups her game on the weekends to the 12-mile mark. Stanifer participates in several annual races, including the Bull City Race Fest, in Durham, and the Thanksgiving Day Skinny Turkey Half Marathon, in Raleigh.

What This Financial Athlete Has Learned ...

1. Be disciplined.
"Staying the course in any weather, both literally and figuratively, is key. And in the same way that you don't go running only when the weather is gorgeous, you don’t just invest when you have extra money lying around.

You need a plan that you can stick to—no matter what.

The first steps are the hardest. With running, that literally means the first steps out the door. You just have to lace up your shoes and go—and keep going until it becomes routine.

The same advice tracks when choosing an investment goal and committing to it. One of the simplest ways to start is by participating in your company’s 401(k) plan. You can usually have the funds automatically deducted from your paycheck, so you don’t even have to think about contributing on a regular basis.

2. Have a backup plan.
Discipline and routine are important but so is a certain degree of flexibility. If I’m extra tired or really busy at work, I might not stick to my midweek running plan, but I never budge on that long weekend run.

Likewise, you might not always reach your financial goals, but you shouldn’t abandon all efforts. So if you planned to save 15% for retirement annually, but are having trouble doing that in a given year, you can still contribute up to the amount of your company match.

That’s the equivalent of the 'long run,' and you can augment with additional savings (the 'short runs') the following year."

RELATED: 5 Ways to Retrain Your Brain to Save More for Retirement

IMG_2213The Free Diver

Robert DeForest, a certified investment management analyst with Castronuovo DeForest Partners in Palm Beach, Fla., started snorkeling and diving at an early age.

A desire to push his personal limits led DeForest to free diving, a sport that relies on a diver's ability to hold his breath until resurfacing. That's right—there’s no breathing apparatus involved.

Today, DeForest free dives almost weekly, as well as surfs and SUPs (stand up paddle boards) every chance he gets.

What This Financial Athlete Has Learned ...

1. Know what you can control—and what you can’t.
"Some days when I’m diving, I’ll find that I can’t hold my breath as long as I normally can. When that happens, I reflect on what might have gone wrong: Was my diet different, or did I not get enough sleep? Those are things I can control in the future.

One day, however, I was horsing around with my child and got hit in the nose. I wasn’t able to clear my sinuses to equalize pressure on my next dive, and I later found out it was because I had a deviated septum. That was out of my control.

It’s the same with finances. Fine-tune what you can control—how much you’re saving or how it’s allocated—and don’t focus on what you can’t, like overall performance of the market.

2. Never stop learning.
Even after honing my skills, I took classes from renowned free diver Martin Stepanek. Participating in his class allo\ed me to more than double my breath hold from two to five minutes.

I am also committed to lifelong learning about financial matters. I recently attended conferences led by finance professors who were studying markets and asset management techniques, and I ended up becoming privy to some new research. As a result, I’ve been able to help my clients—and improve my own portfolio."

RELATED: 6 Rookie Portfolio Mistakes Even Seasoned Investors Make

"Your long-term goal might be to save for retirement, but focusing on short-term goals—like saving for a vacation—can help keep you on track."

unnamed (1)The Triathlete

Certified financial planner Michael J. Garry, JD/MBA, of Yardley Wealth Management in Newtown, Pa., trains five to ten hours a week, so he's ready for just about anything.

So far he’s completed several triathlons (including a 70.3-mile “Ironman”), as well as numerous long-distance bike races.

Now he’s prepping for Tough Mudder, a 10- to 12-mile military-inspired obstacle course event.

What This Financial Athlete Has Learned ...

1. Work toward a pressing goal.
"If you want to be an endurance athlete, you always need to be signed up for something. I exercise to stay healthy, but knowing that a triathlon is looming in the spring is what makes me go swimming in January and February—even though it’s the last thing I want to do.

It’s the same with money. Your long-term goal might be to save for retirement, but focusing on short-term goals—like saving for a vacation or a new car—can help keep you on track.

2. Don’t be afraid to change course.
No matter what your money goal is, remember that you might need to reevaluate as you go. I started my career with a big firm, and then decided I wanted more independence, so I eventually started my own. I never thought I’d work for myself, but it’s been the best thing in the world.

That’s how it goes with athletics sometimes. Plans don’t always work out, so you have to readjust. If I’m scheduled for a run, and it’s really hot outside, I can stay safer and cooler by going for a swim instead.

The point is to refocus the specifics as needed—but always have the end game in mind."

RELATED: 6 Signs You May Need to Revisit Your Retirement Plan

Learnvest

Financial planning made simple.

Get your free financial assessment.

Related Tags

Get the latest in your inbox.

Subscription failed!

You're Now Subscribed!