Editor's Letter: Olympic Dreams and Realities on College Financial Planning

By Paul Curley | paul.curley@strategic-i.com | August 8, 2016

Which Olympic event best personifies and inspires college financial planning?

Which Olympic event best personifies and inspires college financial planning? Let’s think about it for a split Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky second. Due to the constant battling for prioritization, one may be quick to respond boxing or wrestling. Why not, the grudge match between the two are epic right? Then again, the two goals ought to be working together towards the same goal of financial independence and freedom. Alternatively, tennis and volleyball allow for rounds of back-and-forth between advisors, families and financial aid officers in terms of award letters and rebuttals. That too shouldn’t be what we focus on as the negotiation process is a narrow element within a much bigger picture of saving, paying and repaying expenses. Next, one may think of triathlons, given that the different modes of transportation could parallel the different periods in planning lifecycle towards a goal.

Closer, but ultimately I think the 4×400 is the most fitting and please let me explain why. When I was in college, I ran varsity track in the winter trimester. I ran the 400 and 800 meter, which allowed me to focus on the medium range distance which aligned with my strength and fitness training goals for also playing varsity soccer in the spring. After the first two months of track, the long road trips wore on some of the team members and I was invited to participate on the team’s 4×400 team. When it came time to decide the order of the runners, traditionally the fastest runner goes first and the second fastest runs fourth. Additionally, the third fastest goes second and the slowest goes third. All four runners are on the same team running the same route towards the same goal. On our college team, I was the second fastest and I enjoyed learning how to receive and pass on the ballot with and as a team. At the end of the season, we prepared for the regional meet which led up to the national championship two weeks later if we finished in the top two. The location of the regional competition took place in a highly ranked private college, and was exciting to visit for the first time. In addition to the love of competition and reaching one’s personal best, who doesn’t like the feel of visiting college campuses filled with ivy-covered brick, right?

On the day of the race, our team started out with a lead from our fastest runner. Next came the third fastest runner, who was able to extend the lead. Next came the slowest member of our team. The slowest also ended up being our last, as that runner was injured half way through their 400 meter section. As that runner couldn’t finish their section, I couldn’t run the final leg to finish the race for the team. In turn, our team couldn’t finish the race, and so the race was to be the last of the year. The following year, I transferred to a different university and the race was to be my last.

Now, how is the 4×400 the most similar to college financial planning? Many times parents and advisors focus so much on saving for other goals such as the fastest running retirement goal to the point that they do not allocate any time or resources to college financial planning or to build an emergency fund. All too often this under resourcing and planning has negative effects on the team to the point of a total breakdown on holistic financial planning. Don’t let the lack of college financial planning end your client’s Olympic dreams of achieving their gold medal or purpose in life. What condition will your clients be in when they hand the baton to the next generation or to the next financial goal? Have the college financial planning discussion with your clients today, and help them achieve their holistic financial planning gold medal.