How Running a Half Marathon Changed the Way I Plan for Retirement

Mike McGlothlin   |   June 2023   |   6-minute read
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I wanted to run the race well.

It was one of the largest half marathons in the country and my absolute favorite race: the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini Marathon.

I’ve completed it before, along with 15,000 of my closest friends, running through downtown Indianapolis, into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and back. I’ll never get tired of running on the famous Indy 500 track. Entering the massive facility always takes my breath away. Sitting empty on an unusually chilly May morning, it seems even bigger than when it’s full of 400,000 race fans.

I hadn’t been able to be at the event for a few years due to the pandemic and an injury. So, it was extra important to train and be ready for a good performance. But I live in Florida now and training here is not as easy as training in my Indiana hometown. I love watching the sun come up in the Florida sky, brilliant in pink, purple and orange. I do not love running with the temperature above 70 degrees and humidity readings above 60%, even at 5 a.m.

Lucky for me, the drop in temperatures on race day helped me increase my speed and complete the 13.1 miles in under two hours — my fastest race in two years.

But what does running a half marathon have to do with planning for retirement? I’m glad you asked.

1. It takes planning.

There is no way to jump off the couch and safely run a half marathon. I ran over 950 miles in the previous 12 months to prepare for the spring season leading up to the Indy Mini. And I trained in high temperatures and humidity. Of course, there were days that I didn’t want to get up at 4:30 a.m. and run but I knew I had to do it to be ready. The same effort is necessary for retirement income planning.

As financial professionals, we have to engage our clients early in the process to increase the probability of success in retirement income planning.

That means we have to motivate clients to save more, invest appropriately and remain consistent in difficult market conditions. That’s not easy for you or your client. It means instilling confidence and consistency in the process, keeping them focused on the goal of retirement. That means creating the vision and focus needed to change behaviors.

2. Things don’t always go as planned.

As a diabetic running for more than an hour, keeping glucose levels and energy in balance is a challenge. At the third mile of the Mini, my plan was to begin taking nutritional supplements and electrolytes. While ingesting them, I couldn’t breathe normally and thought I would need assistance. A half mile later, I started coughing and threw up my nutrition. My heart rate was over 175 beats per minute (which is high for me), and I was struggling to catch my breath. I thought my day was ruined, and I’d never reach the time I set as a goal. Instead, I walked for 30 seconds and did a few breathing exercises. I restarted running and was able to get back on my scheduled pace with no additional issues.

We all have something come up on the road to retirement. Maybe you get retired instead of getting to retire. Maybe a black swan event happens in the five years before or after you retire and you won’t be able to fully retire without working a few more years. What matters is that you are prepared and know how to respond. Financial professionals should always mitigate as much risk as possible, knowing there are events beyond everyone’s control. We have to know how to respond. That requires a process and discipline to follow it.

3. Recovery is important.

We also need to know how to recover from whatever comes at us.

Recovery while running is super important. It’s when your muscles repair themselves and you get stronger and faster. These moves may seem small, but they add up over time. Our clients need to recover as they take the necessary steps and actions to have a successful retirement.

That isn’t just responding and acting immediately with purpose and intent. During severe market volatility, our clients may not know what to do in the heat of the moment. Getting them on the path to responsiveness means that we have to motivate toward the correct behavior. Showing clients that their income is protected, and they can remain invested, is a great position to be in whenever a catastrophic event happens in our retirement journey.

Fixed Indexed Annuities (FIAs) provide recovery when markets correct. In an ever-increasing complex world of indices in today’s products, clients are not understanding the importance of how they can help reduce portfolio volatility by helping to recover annually.

Just like repairing your muscles, having an intentional recovery plan can build wealth. Putting a systematic approach to preventing market declines in portfolios provides confidence, shows innovative thinking and gains client respect that you are empathetic to their concerns.

4. Success is not linear.

In life, success does not happen in a straight line. There are times when I feel I am working as hard as ever but not seeing results. The key is to recognize those frustrations and adjust the training plan. As I approach the age of 60, (and yes, I can now officially round up to 60) I’m focused on half marathons. After running four full marathons, I’ve reduced my mileage to allow for more recovery. I simply don’t have the time or get enjoyment out of the full marathon training regimen with my other responsibilities at work and home.

The same goes for saving for retirement. Taking some gains off the table can be valuable to the long-term wealth accumulation plan. Accumulation might plateau, but it will not go backward, which is a good position when a market declines.

Having steady and consistent growth can be more rewarding than taking a loss and trying to make up the difference.

Not giving up the gains you have earned in exchange for a limited upside return might seem like you are stunting accumulation, but it can be very good in the long term.

5. Enjoy success.

Sports are a great motivator for me. Through sports, I’ve learned about winning, handling losses and remaining disciplined in life and in business. To win, you have to visualize and then celebrate success. As I am running at 5 a.m., I am picturing what the effort is doing for me – more energy for the day and a potential personal best time in an upcoming event.

What does retirement look like for your clients? What do they aspire to be in their retirement years? People want to follow other people who can make them the person they want to become. As financial professionals, we have to speak to our clients’ aspirational identity and remind them what success looks like. We also have to speak to what failure to act might mean for them (just a little bit of this conversation goes a long way).

Reaching the finish line

I was able to beat my goal time during the Indy Mini because I worked hard at the preparation. It wasn’t easy. It didn’t go exactly as planned, the weather was not as predicted and I got sick during the event. But I reached the finish line a few minutes quicker than my desired time.

The same thing can happen to your retirement income planning clients. They can have a lot go wrong but, with proper planning, they can get to their finish line faster than they thought.

And, by putting in the work, time, effort and energy, you will win your race. It’s important to understand that we all have different races to run. As an industry, we have to help each client win their race so they can enjoy the retirement of their dreams.

About the Author

Mike McGlothlin, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, LUTCF®, NSSA® is a bestselling author, industry-renowned speaker and expert in growth strategies for financial advisors.

Today as the Executive Vice President of Retirement for Ash Brokerage, he leads 65 direct reports who have grown the business line to one of the largest wholesaling teams in the Brokerage General Agency space.

As a professional guide, he can help any financial advisor looking to create exponential revenue growth, to find new clients and better streamline their operations by incorporating simple methodologies and proven models.