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Why Golf Is a Lot Like Financial Planning

September 18, 2023

I began playing golf approximately 15 years ago. It was a fun pastime with my friends, offering the perfect blend of outdoor activity and social interaction. I thought, 'How hard could it be?' After all, I had played softball in high school, so this shouldn't be much different, right? Well, after all these years, I still consider golf to be one of the most challenging skills I've had to acquire in my adult life. It demands dedication, perseverance, patience, and strategic thinking. Building muscle memory in your body necessitates countless hours of practice and lessons.

But that's not all. Your performance in golf is heavily influenced by external factors. Weather conditions can suddenly turn unfavorable, the wind might pick up, or the golf course could be in poor condition. My personal favorite is when they've planted trees in all the wrong places!

In my view, one reason golf proves so challenging is the variation in speed it requires at different points during a round. When you tee off, your primary focus is usually on distance and, of course, direction. Precision matters, but there's room for correction. However, as you approach the hole, precision in your short game becomes paramount, surpassing the need for distance. This shift from distance to precision represents a complete change of pace.

With these observations in mind, I believe golf mirrors the nuanced aspects of financial planning. For younger investors with a long-term horizon and the ability to weather market fluctuations, experts often advise accumulating maximum assets in higher-risk options, such as large- and small-cap stocks. They have the time necessary for compounding to work its magic. However, as you near your financial goals, it becomes crucial to consider all potential pitfalls. When is the optimal time to retire or claim Social Security benefits? Should you carry a mortgage into retirement or pay off your house? What are your considerations for paying for long term care needs? As individuals approach retirement, they typically find themselves in higher tax brackets, making it imperative to factor in the tax implications of their decisions.

You could do everything right: save diligently in retirement accounts, eliminate your debt early, and live within your means. Yet, economic factors like high inflation, recessions, and unemployment could still disrupt your meticulously crafted plan.

Having a caddy beside you may not always be feasible while playing golf, but having a financial advisor by your side is attainable. An advisor can provide you with the wisdom and expertise needed to make the right financial decisions, much like guiding you to play your best golf game, regardless of the lie. Assessing your goals and truly understanding your concerns enables the advisor to assist you in making sound decisions without jeopardizing your financial wellbeing.

Because unlike golf, life doesn't offer a mulligan to rectify a bad shot.