Slow, Steady, and Sustained…My Approach to Running and Saving

George Reilly |

As I was wrapping up my morning routine today, I considered skipping my workout to get into the office a bit earlier. This is a recurring discussion with myself. Fortunately, my workout self usually wins the debate by reminding my slacker self how much better I feel and how much more productive I am after I workout. So I quickly changed into my running gear and headed out into the neighborhood before I changed my mind.

A few minutes into my run my mind began to roam (I’m not always in charge of where my mind goes). My thoughts alternated between observing how my runs are slower these days and a “magic of compounding” question my mom recently asked. She had heard that if a young professional started investing $100 each month and continued for 45 years, his balance would be $1,000,000 when he retired at age 65. I ran a simplified version of this calculation assuming modest 5.00% average annual returns and ignoring inflation. The result was just over $200,000. I could tell my mom was disappointed with this outcome.

This reminded me of a planning challenge I encountered with a self-employed individual who was in his early 50s and hadn’t started saving for retirement. His thinking was “I’ll never be able to save enough to retire so why start now?” There were no easy answers in his scenario, but I thought back to what a mentor of mine once told me. Rather than simply telling someone that their goal was not achievable, I should try to identify alternatives that were. With that lesson in mind, I mapped out a vision of what this individual could achieve in the ensuing 15-20 years.

Now in the last mile of my run, it dawned on me that my “slow, steady, and sustained” approach to running is also a sound approach to saving and investing. Most of us are not blessed with an elite marathoner’s speed and endurance, but we can still reap the mental and physical rewards of slow runs performed regularly over the course of a lifetime. This absolutely holds true for saving and investing. The key is to just start!

If you start early and save regularly over the course of your working years, I guarantee that you will be in a better position later in life and have more flexibility in the life choices you will face. You may need to supplement this saving with other life and career actions to achieve financial independence in retirement, but if you never start, chances are you’ll never reach your desired goal.