Parry, Lunge, Thrust, Touche!

When I was a freshman in high school, I saw an ad on the school bulletin board seeking new members for a fencing club.  I quickly joined.  No, we did not go around slapping up fence posts.  We competed in a combat sport using the traditional weapons of Epee, Saber, and Foil.  For those that scoff at the idea of fencing, I assure you it is not for the faint-hearted.  If you don’t believe me, I suggest you have someone thrust a long, thin, blunted piece of steel into your ribs.  It doesn’t tickle.

I had the honor of being coached by Richard “Dick” Oles who was also the head coach of The Johns Hopkins University men’s fencing team.  At the time of his retirement, he was the longest tenured coach in school history.  He was also a phenomenal man who cared about his students.  Like many successful coaches, he had high standards and demanded hard work.  Most flourished under his tutelage.

When you talk with people who have had good coaches, you will often find that what they are remembered for has nothing to do with the sport.  That applies to me.  Coach Oles taught me the power of goal-setting.  Before each season, he would sit down with every person individually to establish goals.  As a 14-year-old, I only had a vague notion of setting goals.  Coach proceeded to school me on how to establish goals.  Coach always insisted on measurable and realistic goals achievable in that season.  He also held check-point meetings to review progress and adjust if needed. 

It took me years before I saw clearly what he was doing and how it applied to me.  I’ve tried to employ what he taught through most of my career and life.  It has been instrumental in what success I have achieved in all aspects of my life.

The act of setting goals is a positive step towards a happier life and greater personal satisfaction.  The actions you take towards those goals are more important than always achieving them.  The process of working towards a goal is a learning experience that can provide increased motivation.  I have found the SMART acronym a great framework that works for me.  In case readers are not all familiar with the acronym, it can stand for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. 

I typically only set 3 goals for myself for any given period.  I have found any more than that and I end up not hitting any of them.  This was learned the hard way and it took several failures to have the lesson sink in.  Your mileage may vary, so select the number that works for you. 

When it comes to financial planning, all my initial client interactions begin with a goal setting conversation.  Of course, it’s more than just setting some $ figure a client wants in the future.  These are life discussions about what you want in life.  And if it’s a couple, it often leads to some surprises that they didn’t know about each other.  Financial planning can put your financial house in order, but it can also lead to important personal conversations.

So, if you are looking to find out more about a financial plan, you should know that a good plan should touch on these areas at the very least:

·         Goal-setting

·         Personal financial statements

·         Investment Planning

·         Risk Management and Insurance Planning

·         Estate Planning

·         Retirement Savings & Income Planning

·         Tax Planning

·         Education Planning

Most importantly, a solid financial plan can help you achieve all those SMART goals you have.  RIP Coach Oles.

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