What a 310 Mile Bicycle Ride Taught Me about Planning for Retirement

Published by Ryan Cooley

This past October I had the opportunity to ride in Ride Allegheny.  It is a 4-day, 310-mile bicycle ride from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Gaithersburg, Maryland.  Just to be clear, when I decided to take on this challenge two months before the ride, I did not even own a bike.

Furthermore, I had not ridden a bike in 20 years.  The feeling I had looking at the road ahead of me was overwhelming at first, especially since the last time I was on a bike Bill Clinton was president.

Much like folks that are looking at planning for retirement for the first time, I saw this challenge and did not know how I was going to complete my goal.  The first thing I needed to do was get a bike.  This seems simple enough, but when you are riding 310 miles, the bike you choose matters a whole lot.  This is the same when choosing a financial advisor.  Just as the right bike was going to be an integral part of me completing the ride, finding the right financial advisor is an important first step in reaching your financial goals.  Please see our “10 questions to ask your financial advisor” for insight on what to look for in an advisor.

After working with an expert at a local bike shop, I picked the bike that would be with me every twist and turn of this journey.  Once I had a bike, the immensity of the challenge I was facing weighed on me even more.  It gave me a defeated attitude before I even began.  To be successful, I knew I would need to take it little by little, as I realized getting in shape was not going to happen overnight. I made a plan to ride every Saturday and increase my mileage each week. The first training ride I did was only 17 miles, and it was difficult.  However, the next Saturday I went out, and when I hit 17 miles, I still had a lot left in the tank.  I ended up doing 30 miles that next time.

Just like planning for my ride, retirement planning should be addressed in a similar way.  Start small and chip away until you reach your goal.  If this means paying off credit cards or doing a budget is your starting point, great! Set appropriate milestones that will lead to achieving your bigger objective.  A financial advisor can help you determine an approach to this process and, often times, help you get to your goal faster — much the same the cycling community helped me with tips and suggestions on how to prepare for 310 miles.

The last thing I learned was to not give up.  On one of my training rides, I was barely able to make it the distance I made during my first couple weeks of training.  As in anything, you will have setbacks.  That is just a part of the progress.  The important part is to not get discouraged.  The training and the ride itself showed me that you will have ups and downs, but that is ok.  It is how you finish at the end that truly matters.  Retirement planning is a challenge that takes most people 30+ years to see to completion.  Perseverance combined with a methodical approach is what will get you there.

I am happy to report I successfully completed the ride and am looking forward to next year!  If you are looking for a place to begin your retirement journey, please start by taking our Risk Tolerance Questionnaire and filling out a profile.  We can then sit down and talk about what approach you should take to get to your finish line.


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