I first heard this quote on a hot summer day at football practice in my youth. My coach yelled this at us as we attempted to finish a conditioning activity known as “four corners” in the peak of the Florida summer heat.
“Four corners” is a drill where you move around cones in the shape of a square. You start by sprinting forward ten yards to move through the first part of the square, shuffle sideways for ten yards to complete the second part of the square, backpedal ten years to complete the third part of the square, and bear crawl on your feet and hands the last remaining side of the square until you get back to where you started. Then you repeat this a million times, depending on how nice your coach is.
In the Florida summer heat, it was easy to lose focus on the little things like footwork and not cutting corners. At the time, I thought it was silly to place such an importance on things like the technical footwork we displayed during a conditioning drill, when I knew our main objective that season was to win football games. Why did the little details of this drill seem to matter so much?
The quote, “How you do anything is how you do everything,” was an important lesson for me to learn in my adolescence as it pertained to playing football, but a more important lesson for me to learn in life in general.
See, when playing football, if it’s easy for you to mentally succumb to having sloppy footwork and cutting corners in practice because of heat or fatigue, it’s just as easy for you to succumb to these bad habits during a game when it actually matters.
This is no different from financial planning. If you ignore the “little” details now, when it doesn’t matter so much, these “little” details will be ignored when it really does matter, which can be detrimental.
Over the past 3 months, it has been very easy to lose focus on the “smaller” areas of financial planning and focus on what we feel is the big one: investing.
The news covers the stock market non-stop. We hear our friends talk about what stocks they are buying, how they are investing their money, and what their predictions are for the stock market moving forward. It makes sense. The prospect of earning money in the stock market is an attractive one, and certainly something that feeds into our primitive emotions of fear and greed.
But what is the point in having the perfect portfolio if you become disabled and have to spend your life’s savings to cover legal fees because you never drafted a Durable Power of Attorney document? What is the point in accumulating money for your future just to lose it all in a lawsuit? What’s the purpose of picking the perfect stock if you pass away prematurely without adequate life insurance coverage and your spouse must sell your perfect investment to put food on the table? What’s the point in aimlessly investing and taking on excessive risk because you haven’t taken the time to map out your financial goals?
There are other areas of your personal finances that might not be as sexy as investing, but still require your time and attention: estate planning, asset protection planning, insurance planning, debt management, defining specific financial goals, etc.
Unfortunately, a lot of people neglect these other areas because of a lack of interest or a lack of time. Educating yourself and working with a good financial planner can help you pay adequate attention to these areas.
Most of us think that we have a goal to accumulate $X amount of dollars by a certain point in time. But that’s not really our goal. Our goal is often to build and protect a certain lifestyle. Having $X amount of dollars by a certain point in time is one of the components to building and protecting the lifestyle that we want, but it is only one component.