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How Is March Madness Like Retirement Planning? Thumbnail

How Is March Madness Like Retirement Planning?

It’s that time of year again – Girl Scout cookies and March Madness.  At Oasis Wealth, you may know we are huge fans of college basketball and this time of the year can be special (especially when you add the highly addictive Thin Mints).   What you may not know are the vast similarities with retirement planning.  Let’s touch on a few. 

1.  You have limited time.  

College basketball games consist of two halves of twenty minutes each (or four quarters for the ladies).  There is a finite period of time to play the game.  Similarly, in retirement, there is a finite period of time.   Merely because we don’t know the exact end of our retirement years should not cause us to play the game with intensity – unfortunately, sometimes that is the case.  As artist Eminem says, “you have one shot. one opportunity.”   

I am always struck when the camera hones in on that senior college basketball player that realizes he just played the last competitive basketball game of his life – the raw emotions are moving.  What regrets does he have?  How much joy is there? Similarly, when we are nearing our last days, what will our emotions be? 

2.  Outside influences can impact your retirement. 

While college teams can prepare for their next game as much as they want, it won’t always go according to plan.  Outside influences such as referees and the opposing team’s game plan can certainly disrupt our plans of success.  The success of a team ultimately depends on their emotional reaction to these disruptions and the adjustments that they make. 

Similarly, there will be surprises and events outside of our control that will disrupt some of our retirement plans.  We must recognize that regardless of the amount of money we have and regardless of how much money we have accumulated for retirement, things won’t be perfect in retirement.  Going in with that mindset should help you to not only minimize bouts of unhappiness, but it should provide you with the courage to make changes along the way – both in planning for retirement and planning through retirement.

3.  Preparation is the key. 

Despite Allen Iverson’s famous diatribe about the benefits of practice, preparation is the key to success in any endeavor.  As Coach Vince Lombardi said, “the will to prepare to win” is more important than the will to win.  (Sure, Lombardi was a football coach, but I’m sure he would say this applies equally to basketball as he played the sport in his youth.) 

During March Madness, teams have to focus on both the physical and nonphysical aspects of the game.  With the help of trainers and dieticians, players have to maintain their health and recuperate in a short amount of time.  Coaches have a short amount of time to scout their next opponent.  Film review is key.  Getting players honed in on the game plan as one coordinated unit continues up until the ball is tipped. 

Similarly, preparing for retirement – well in advance – will lead to better success in retirement (as well as before retirement). While an advisor can do some magic for individuals preparing for retirement right before retirement, there can be even much greater gains for finding that ideal life if one were to prepare many years in advance.   In addition to adequate preparation, the right type of preparation includes both the financial and non-financial components of retirement planning. 

4.  The fundamentals matter. 

Coach Norman Dale in Hoosiers is famous for teaching the fundamentals to his high school basketball team.  Whether it is snapping the wrist to deliver a crisp chest pass or passing at least four – four! – times to set up a good shot, the fundamentals are critical for success in basketball and in March Madness.  If you get away from your gameplan and lose sight of the fundamentals with all of the hoopla, your team will face a quick exit.  Knowing the fundamentals and actually applying them will lead to success.

Similarly, planning for retirement should include some basic fundamentals.  If the fundamentals are applied early and often, success will follow.  Too often, I have seen near-retirees scramble to “find retirement success”.  They may chase the allure of higher yields in junk bonds to provide cash flow or they may all of a sudden want to invest in this new hot idea that their neighbor tells them about.  They may have read about this “advanced tax strategy” on the internet that is questionable at best and fraudulent at worst.  Having a globally diversified portfolio with a matched bucket approach coupled with applying some fundamental tax strategy techniques in the right way can significantly enhance one’s ability to retire on their terms.  Relying on last second half-court shots rarely work. 

5.  It’s all about the journey in retirement. 

There is only one team that hoists a trophy at the end of the year (if you are excluding the NIT or other minor basketball tournaments).  That does not mean that there is only one winner.  I am reminded of the “One Shining Moment” that the network airs at the end of every tournament. You know the song generally sung by Luther Vandross which accompanies video of various teams and players throughout March Madness.  Highs and lows can be seen in this video – more than anything, there is emotion.  Raw emotion that is shared with teammates and fans.  Implicit in airing this video is the idea that they are all winners for having participated.  I am providing a link to the 1987’s version - Go Hoosiers! One Shining Moment.  (Sure, it has been a while since the Hoosiers raised a banner.) 

Of course, the concept of “One Shining Moment” misses the mark in that there are many moments outside of this short period of time where the intensity of win or go home is prevalent. Outside of the one to four-week span of March Madness, there are moments of preparation, moments of injury, moments of doldrum, and moments of respite.  

Similarly, our retirement years – and yes, even the years leading up to retirement – can be one shining moment.  The moments, however, can be throughout your life.  There will be some great moments.  There will be some defeats.  We get to share it with others. It is a matter of getting in the game and being willing to take the shots.  Don’t let the shot clock time out while you are holding the ball waiting to shoot. 

What do your multiple shining moments consist of in retirement?