What the Kiawah Half Marathon Teaches About Investment Goals

Preparing for a half-marathon isn’t nearly as daunting as preparing a lifetime investment plan. Over the years, I have completed oodles of half-marathon races, and was crazy enough to run the Cape Cod full Marathon in 1998. I followed Hal Higdon’s training program, and was religious about completing the scheduled training runs in preparation for each event. I never broke any records, but I had a lot of fun, and was healthy and in good shape. In the past five years, however, I have completed just two half marathons, one in San Francisco and one in Myrtle Beach. Might I add I was grossly unprepared for both. The runs were not much fun, and borderline torturous. Luckily I didn’t get injured, because as those of you who are runners know, it is highly likely you will get hurt if you are untrained and go run 13.1 miles.  One good thing that came out of the Myrtle Beach race was that my dog, Camper, got her picture in the Myrtle Beach Sun Newspaper:

Happy Camper the dog waiting...and waiting... and waiting...to see her owner run by in the Myrtle Beach 1/2 Marathon

Camper waiting…and waiting… and waiting…to see me run by in the Myrtle Beach 1/2 Marathon

This year, I am signed up for the Kiawah Island Half Marathon in December, and I am determined to enter the race well-prepared. I want to get back into a good level of fitness to improve my overall health. This means running 5 times a week instead of the 2-3 times I have been able to fit in over the past few years. What I have noticed over the past few weeks, is that the most important thing I can do is get out the door and complete my short runs. Five years ago, my shortest runs were 4-5 miles, and now they are about 2. Five years ago I could easily finish a 10-12 mile run at a solid pace, with plenty of energy to spare. Now my longest runs are 4-5 miles, and I am ready to hit the couch for the rest of the day when I am done.

Whether you are in your 30-40’s and worried about saving for retirement, or in your 60-70’s and unsure if you will have enough money for your lifetime, take heart! There is a plethora of historical data from which to build a reasonably accurate plan for any investment goal. It might seem daunting, but if you put a pencil to paper, you really can map out the small, incremental things to do so that you reach your goals with comfort and confidence. When you map out a written plan that breaks a large goal into smaller, incremental pieces, you know exactly what you need to be doing on a weekly and monthly basis. Hal Higdon’s program tells me how many miles I need to run each week (broken out into daily short-medium runs and one long run on the weekend) for the last 12 weeks prior to the Kiawah 1/2 Marathon. The mileage increases very incrementally each week so that by the time December 14th rolls around, I will feel both comfortable and confident about doing the race. And for the first time in 5 years, I will have fun doing it! Investing in the stock market and planning for retirement is fun if you have the right plan in place. Instead of obsessing with the onerous goal, focus on the baby steps so you can have fun and relax.

© 2013 Pawleys Investment Advisors, LLC. All rights reserved.

“Younger Next Year” and “invest right, live right”

I finally found the book that reveals the secret fountain of youth.  Yes, you can turn back your age clock and significantly enhance how you live during retirement.  Not surprisingly, it outlines all the things that we know we should do, or not do for that matter, at any age.  Work out (note: not just exercise, work out) six days a week.  Avoid eating too much and stop eating junk (shocker: have  lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, non-fat dairy, fish, some chicken).  Stay positive and invest in your relationships and community.  Spend less money than you have coming in.  I love it!  The most difficult part of my job is watching people age.  The tagline “invest right, live right” is intended to show the critical importance of being physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy.  It means just about everything to our quality of life.  If you are a millionaire and your body is falling apart, all of your planning has been for naught.  A friend once told me “getting old sucks.”  As I preach with investing: focus on what you can control.  Consider a membership to the gym or hiring a nutritionist as a critical part of your investment planning (having a personal trainer is far more fun and interesting than staring at a boring copy of a long term care policy sitting on your desk).

From the book: “70 percent of premature death and aging is lifestyle related.  Heart attacks, strokes, the common cancers, diabetes, brittle bones, most falls, fractures and serious injuries, and many more illnesses are primarily caused by the way we live…we could eliminate more than half of all disease in women and men over fifty.  Not delay it, eliminate it.”  Wow, powerful.  Work out 6 days a week, eat better, stay in touch with everyone, put work aside for a few days and go volunteer, and save more money.  Nice, I am off to put on my running shoes to run my River Club neighborhood loop!  For real.  As soon as it stops raining (totally kidding, I am going now!).  invest right, live right…right here in Pawleys Island.  Hopefully the healthcare system we have in place 30 years from now will be irrelevant to me, because my goal is to not have to use it very often.


Please try to read this book.  I learned a lot and my short article here does not do it justice.  The science sections are fascinating, the skiing stories are fun and the language is witty.  Oh, and I read it in one evening, it is a breeze.

“Younger Next Year” by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge (there is a version for men and a version for women).

© 2012 Pawleys Investment Advisors, LLC.  All rights reserved.

What Rory Teaches us About Investing

This past weekend, Rory McIlroy subtly stormed past the best golfers in the world to win the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.  I served as a volunteer at the event.  Out of 136 golfers in the field, I asked for and was graciously given 1 autograph, and it was from him.  I thanked him and wished him luck.  After his win on Sunday, I was compelled to buy a Powerball ticket because I felt lucky, then I remembered that it is more likely I will be struck by lightning two or three times than to become a lottery winner.  I kept the $5 in my purse, and then thought about those few people who think the lottery route might actually be a viable way to fund retirement.  While I absolutely love the enthusiasm, I am a numbers nut, and the odds are stacked heavily against the strategy actually working.  I quickly jotted some notes about Rory’s win, because he comes across as so gracious and humble, and it is exciting to watch his success.  This is what I learned from Rory this past week:

1.  Experience Matters – At the age of 23, Rory won a major championship by the largest margin of victory in history, 8 strokes.  He broke the previous record of a 7 stroke margin set by Jack Nicklaus in 1980.  Wow!  Although people are talking quite a bit about Rory’s smashing success at such a young age, few mention that he started playing before he turned 2, and has been working at his craft for over 20 years.  Similarly, it takes years of honing knowledge and skills to become a succesful investor.  Avoid falling into the trap that it is easy to make a quick buck…it takes time and experience.  Investing is complex and it is challenging to become successful.

2.  Diligence and Hard Work are Critical –  Confidence springs from preparation.  Rors (as he calls himself) is a fitness nut, citing the importance of strength, a healthy mind, and strong self-image.  While many others golfers were hanging out at the Kiawah Resort between rounds, Rory was out running on the gorgeous South Carolina beach with his trainer.

3.  Be Humble –  Being able to rebound from a setback is critical, and can make or break both golfers and investors.  I see so many investors hold on to a losing stock just because they do not want to admit their mistake, and if it comes back they will again be right.  Usually it is a fat chance.  In the final round of the 2011 Master’s Championship at Augusta, Rory gave up a 4 stroke lead in a meltdown of poor play as the win slipped from his sights.  Going into the back nine, he was still 1 stroke ahead, and dropped 6 shots in just three holes.  Press photos showed him hanging his head and clearly disappointed.  But, his own words on Twitter reflect a willingness to take it as a learning experience, along with grace and humility: “…you have to lose before you can win. This day will make me stronger in the end…and congratulations Charl Schwartzel!! Great player and even better guy! Very happy for him and his family!”  In a press interview he stated “Shooting a bad score in the last round of a golf tournament is nothing in comparison to what other people go through.  I’ll have plenty more chances I know and hopefully it will build a bit of character in me as well.”  Perspective and attitude can not only help you learn from setbacks, it can keep you motivated to trudge through hard times.

4.  Set Goals –  Do the math.  Rory told the press that he decided going into the final round if he could finish 12 under par, nobody would be able to catch him.  He never backed off with his effort, finishing the day by sinking a long putt on hole 18 for a birdie, and scored exactly 12 under.  Flawless execution to the very end.  Everyone wants to perform well, but in addition to hard work and preparation, a specific strategy will go a long way.  Many investors do quite well amassing a big portfolio by dumping thousands of dollars into their investment and retirement accounts.  Fewer have a defined strategy (a written Investment Policy Statement is a great starting point) and benchmark or evaluate their performance periodically.  Continuous improvement is a goal of the world’s top golfers, and should be as well for investors.  Just like every stroke counts in golf, every dollar counts in your portfolio, and this is a great way to supercharge your results.

5.  Follow your Passion – “I just couldn’t get enough,” Rory said of playing golf as a child.  He stills describes golf as his “passion,” which probably makes it more enjoyable to spend hours on the range, putting greens, and practice courses.  Some players on the tour might be more focused on the pure competition, money and fame.  If you invest solely to make money, it may not become something at which you excel.  It is a long haul.  I would suggest your level of involvement with your investments should equate to your level of passion.  Those obsessed with investing can become the most successful do-it-yourselfers, while those whose interests lie elsewhere should consider hiring a fiduciary and delegating the work.

Just two hours north of Kiawah Island, Pawleys Island boasts some of the greatest courses in the world – Caledonia Golf and Fish Club, The Heritage Club, Pawleys Plantation, River Club, Tradition Golf Club, True Blue Golf Plantation, and Willbrook Plantation.  Golf course designs hail from greats including Mike Strantz, Dan Maples, Tom Jackson and Jack Nicklaus.  At the age of 12, I took lessons from Peter Duffy, the pro at Toftrees Resort in Pennsylvania.  These days, I play every few weeks, and have moments of brightness combined with lots of snowmen (for the non-golfers, that is a score of 8, which is not very good)!  I am even fortunate to live adjacent to the 16th hole at River Club, and my office windows have a view of the golfers teeing off.  I spend hours here, and from time to time look up from my work to watch the players.  But it took a young lad all the way from Northern Ireland to help me connect the dots.  Thank you very much Rors, for inspiring some ideas for better investment performance, and congratulations on your victory at the 2012 PGA Championship!

p.s. the last and perhaps most important lesson, “invest right, live right,” and consider how you can give back to your community.

Rory McIlroy UNICEF Work in Haiti – with Big Boss Mata

© 2012 Pawleys Investment Advisors, LLC.  All rights reserved.