This past weekend I decided to give myself a treat and attend three full days of golf school. A class called “The Scoring Game” was being offered locally at the Strawberry Farms Golf Club, so there would be no hotel or travel costs, and my short game is decidedly my weak point. So I signed up and treated it like a mini-vacation. My expectation was simple: I would walk in on Friday and present my faulty game—warts and all—and walk out Sunday with a new and improved short game that would make me the envy of all my golf buddies. Yes, I was looking for a silver bullet.
If you’ve never played golf, the short game consists of the strokes taken within about 100 yards of the green. This is not the high flying balls soaring down the fairway, but the very precise and tactical strokes, typically chips and putts, that get the ball from near the green to in the hole. And yes, it’s how the game is won.
The class consisted of the instructor and four students. A 15-year-old girl who is on track to be a golf pro (we should never have been on the same golf course!); a lighting designer by day/golf fanatic by every other minute (this man had his own golf pro and was very serious about the game); and one man I could actually relate to who was a franchise business owner and a basic, weekend player who just wanted to improve his game. I hoped his expectations matched my own and we would both walk away with a “short game in a box.”
Here’s how I pictured the weekend would play out: the instructor would watch me play, identify what I was doing wrong, tell me what to do—including specific strokes that would dramatically improve my game—and applaud when my game was “fixed.” What I experienced was far from that dreamy reality. Yes, he watched me play. And play. And play. The 15-year-old didn’t bat an eye when the instructor told her to hit another 20 balls. She was balanced, flexible, and tireless. Then there was me. When he told me to hit another bucket of balls, I had to stifle the moan that escaped from my mouth. Ugh. I quickly realized my level of fitness wasn’t adequate and that this was going to be a lot more physically and mentally strenuous than I anticipated. (Some vacation!) The instructor did tell me what to do: “Twist your body to the right.” “Turn your shoulder this way.” “Close your club.” He also taught us how to use feedback devices, not just his own words, to help improve our games. Rather than just swinging and seeing where the ball would land, he told us to aim for a certain point and gauge our accuracy in order to strive for precision. He helped us figure out the best club to use for the situation, and how to play differently to handle an uphill lie or a downhill lie. And while his guidance and feedback were valuable, I realized that’s all he could really offer. It was up to me to practice, again and again and again, and to be willing to do it wrong in order to get it right.
As I was reflecting on the weekend on Sunday night (and examining my bruised wrist, lamenting my sore muscles, and basking in some actual down time!), I realized that, as usual, golf was a perfect analogy for life. Our job is to work through our challenges and strive for continuous improvements…at our own pace.
The same, of course, is true when it comes to financial planning. My job as a financial advisor is to coach each client toward success. First, we identify the starting point—where the ball lies at this one moment. What is your financial situation today—warts and all. Next, we work together to determine where you want (or need) to be in 5, 10, 20, or 30 years. Just as a golfer uses different clubs and techniques to manage different situations, my job as a coach is to recommend which tools to use when and how to prepare for changes in the landscape. A financial misstep is no different than a flubbed shot. It may take some correction, but it doesn’t mean you’ve lost the game. And while you can’t predict what’s around the corner—whether it’s a sand trap or a market correction—you can be well prepared for whatever comes next. That’s part of the game. And just like in golf, it’s my job to help you understand why a certain strategy may work—or not—and create clear feedback to help you continue to make the best possible choices in the future.
No matter where your finances are today, strategy, practice, and feedback are all part of getting you where you want to be in the future. But unlike my weekend, let’s focus on the long game this time. That’s where the winning takes place in this game.
Feel like your finances aren’t quite on par? Let’s schedule a time to talk about how we can get you back on track for a long-term win.