The Money Marathon - Winners vs. Losers
Life is just like a marathon where we are running after different things, including good health, outstanding job, and relationships. Many people say that looking after your money is like a marathon, not a sprint. I couldn't agree more.
I thought I'd take this analogy a bit further (as you'll know from my other blogs, I love a good analogy).
In this blog, I define 'the Money Marathon' and then look at the different types of marathons or runners. Parents can give their kids a real advantage in life by telling them about their marathon sooner rather than later. As a marathon runner, how can they win the race?
So what is 'the Money Marathon'?
The Money Marathon is the race to have enough money so you can live happily without having to work any more - 'retirement.'
Most people define this marathon in terms of a 'time,' i.e., when I'm 65, I will retire. Simple!
Unfortunately, while this might have been the case for our parents' generation, it is certainly
not the case for our children's generation. It is because previous generations have benefited from generous pension schemes created to make sure that they'd get paid a 'salary' to maintain their standard of living from 65 until death. Sadly, these generous pension schemes no longer exist for most of us.
It means we have to think about our money marathon in a bit more detail.
Let's first define the marathon distance. The good thing is that we all get to choose the distance of our marathon. Your marathon distance will be determined by amount of money you need to cover your annual expenses without working. The higher your standard of living (expenses), the longer your marathon distance will be. As I'll come on to later, most people don't realize they are making life harder for themselves by continually extending how far they have to go.
Then there is the time in which you complete a marathon for yourself. When you get to the end of your race, i.e., when you can afford to maintain your standard of living without working, it could be much earlier than 65 years old or, sadly, could be a lot later.
A vital element of this competition is that marathon racers can start the race as soon as possible. This is something I'll be coming back to later in this blog.
Lastly, there is speed or how fast you run. It is determined by how much you save and how you save. If you don't save, you don't get any closer to the finishing line. That's why you will have to learn how to save. Those that invest their savings will run faster than those that keep their savings in a bank or savings account.
The winners are the ones that get to the end of their chosen distance. Although some might love running so much, they continue even after they have completed their race!
The marathon problems!
The problem we are facing today is that most people don't realize they are running a marathon. Even if they do, they don't understand how far they've got to go and how long it will take.
Another problem is that people feel they are in a 'race' and competing with everyone else. This is not the case, we are all in our own marathon, and it's about getting to the end as comfortably as possible. There is little point trying to compete as nearly everyone is running a different marathon.
Lastly, over time the competition is getting harder. Our parents' generation was able to run on a flat surface. With the increase in house prices and less generous pensions, we now need to run our contest uphill. If the trend continues, then our kids will be running theirs up a mountain!
Now let's explore these problems a bit further by looking at the types of marathon runners today.
The different types of runners
Let me start by talking about the runners who struggle with this marathon; unfortunately, most people.
The 'Rat' Racers
These are the most common type of racer.
They start the race off slowly and make their way towards the end. Over time they start getting faster, making them happy, but they suddenly realize that the race has just got longer. The faster they seem to go, the further they have to run. They never seem to get closer to the finish line!
So many people fall into this trap as they don't define their marathon strategies early enough. They work in a job, then get a pay raise, which would help them reach the end of the marathon they were in but instead, they increase their standard of living, which makes their marathon longer.
For these runners, they either have to keep running for a long, long time, or stop settle for where they end up.
The Late Starters
These are those that get halfway through life and then realize they are in a marathon. They are another common type of runner.
Mostly, they have spent much of their time focusing on 'winning' other life events. After they completed these other events, they ask around about what to do now. And then find out that they are in a marathon that started ages ago, but they are still at the start line and have had little training.
These are people who have got steady jobs and have been doing 'well' financially. They have spent their time and money starting a family, buying a lovely home and sensible family car to pick & drop the kids to school, etc. but they don't have any life marathon plans. With all this set up, and feeling good about what they have accomplished, they then start to consider what to do with their money now. It’s then they start thinking about retirement and realise they have no money saved so far and need to get running.
The Super Runners who got lost
Imagine being tipped to be the greatest marathon runner ever but not knowing it, and then when you find out, you realize that you are miles away from the start line?
These are our young adults of today. Their youth means they have a massive advantage on their side to be super marathon runners with ease … time! (due to interest from starting to save/invest early). However, instead of starting their marathon journey (as they don't realize they are in one), go wandering off in completely the opposite direction ... they go into debt!
By the time they realize they are in a contest and get to the start line, they have lost their advantage (i.e., are no longer young).
The Lazy Superstar
They are probably the group that makes me feel the saddest. These are those that have so many financial advantages over most people but struggle to complete their marathon.
They start the race early and, even better, are often enabled to start halfway through the marathon course. We see these people and would do anything to be in their position.
You'd think these people would win their race easily. Sadly, many become complacent with their position and don't feel the need to start running as they are so far ahead. After a while, they see others catching up and feel the need to start running, but they have been extending out how far they need to run and have done no training. Soon they realise that the end line that was so close when they started might never be crossed.
This group represents the young 'rich kids.' They are given a lot of money from a young age and don't know what to do except spend it. They set themselves a standard of living beyond how far they can run and don't bother training how to run (manage money).
This group worries me as over the next seven years baby boomers will be transferring £69 billion to £115 billion per year of their wealth to the younger generations. We could find ourselves with more Lazy Superstars than ever.
The above shows why we have so many people worrying about money. The good news is that some great runners are role models for us and teach us how to win the marathon. These are the WINNERS of their marathon.
The FIRE runners
They are the newest set of runners.
They know they are in a marathon from a young age and define their race to be much shorter than most other people. They care more about completing their marathon rather than comparing themselves to those in different races.
They are those that are part of the Financial Independence, Retire Early ('FIRE') movement. A group of young-ish people who focus their energy on getting to the end of their marathon quickly. It means they keep their standard of living modest (distance short) and help each other to find ways to get to the end faster (saving and investing).
The winners are generally the ones who you don't expect to win. On the surface, they are your 'Average Joes.' They don't look like an athlete as they never show-off how fast they can run. They are the tortoise from Aesop's Fable 'The Hare and the Tortoise.'
They are the people that realize they are in a race to save money and know where their finish line is. They have started running already and are steadily training themselves on how to get faster. They are focused on their race, not caring about other people (either in terms of how fast others are running or how far they have to run).
The classic story of the Tortoise is a Janitor in the US, Ronald Read. He won his marathon many times over with no-one noticing and became a famous runner. He would save some of his wages and invest those savings. When he decided to retire, he was a multi-millionaire!
We need more people to focus on being tortoises in their lives because 'slow and steady wins the race'.
The winning ways of marathon
Realise you are in a marathon - simple but most people don’t realise they are in a marathon, let alone know what marathon they are in.
Manage the distance and time - keep your standard of living modest compared to your earnings to keep the end in sight.
Running = Savings - it's not how much you earn that helps you win; it's how much you save.
Keep training - find ways to increase your speed by learning to invest and generate other income sources.
For any one who is reading this and feels they are in one of the early runner types, then feel free to reach out to me. I’m happy to put you in touch with a financial coach who can help you define your marathon and what you need to do to reach the end.
Marathon training plan for beginners
My focus is on helping parents train their kids to be ready for their marathon. As mentioned earlier, there is no limit on when people are allowed to start their marathons. The sooner they start, the more likely they are to complete their marathon.
Think about the advantage you, as parents, will be giving your kids compared to most young adults today:
If you haven’t already, start preparing and training your kids now. Give them this advantage and make sure they complete their marathon.
I started Blue Tree to help you. By subscribing to my weekly blog, you'll learn what you need to do to make sure your kids follow the strategies adopted by past winners. Subscribe here, so you don't miss out (www.bluetreeblog.com)
Habit Maker - The ultimate tool to help train your young marathon runners