Baseball and Financial Life Planning: Get the Basics Right First

By Eric Kies CFP®, President, CCO, Sr Financial Planner

Financial Life Planning

The geese are flying north, the snow is melting, the days are getting longer and the temps are going up. And this means that baseball season is just around the corner. For the past few years, I’ve helped coach my son’s travel team. I was teaching the kids about how there is a progression of skills that build upon each other. Each player needs to invest time to master the underlying fundamentals. If they don’t, it often shows up later as things get more complex and move faster.

In baseball, when they are young and playing tee-ball, you are teaching them some very simple concepts to both help them learn and to keep them safe. For example, we teach them to catch with two hands to help secure the ball, but how and when matter. If the ball is above their belly button, the thumbs are together as the ball comes in. If the ball is below their belly button, the pinkies should be close together. If it’s a ground ball, you start to teach them to field it like an alligator, glove on the bottom and throwing hand on top to secure the ball (and to protect them from a bad hop). These basic skills lay the foundations for many other skills, such as the proper footwork before and after fielding, the glovework and transfer while fielding, and proper throwing mechanics. But it starts with very simple concepts, like thumbs together and pinkies together.

In financial life planning and wealth management, there are many parallels. We need to learn to understand the basics like how to handle cash flow, the basics of a balance sheet and how to manage debt wisely. We should build and maintain reserves and emergency funds. We should learn how to generate income consistently. We should learn to manage assets or supervise the advisers that manage them for you. The basic fundamentals of generating income, cash flow planning, and managing assets are the foundation that everything rests upon similar to catching a baseball correctly. If your financial fundamentals aren’t mastered, then issues tend to arise as time passes and things get more complex.

To be a skilled coach, you need to have an interesting mix of technical ability, communication skills, organization, and awareness. It takes both the technical knowledge as well as the qualitative skills to do it well. Being a guide and coach for money management is similar. It takes experience and knowledge; ability to listen, observe and communicate. It takes objectivity. In our work with clients, there are opportunities to teach and learn from each other. Our clients will often mention how they wish they had learned the fundamentals sooner or when they were younger, or that their kids or grandkids had someone to help them lay the proper foundation.

Someday soon, for my son, there will come a time when we need to look each other in the eye and smile, knowing that we had a great run together, but the time has come for me to step aside and let another coach takeover so he can continue to grow. If you know someone who is ready to work with a financial specialist and take the next step, we welcome the opportunity to learn more about them and their situation. If there is someone in your life that matters to you, they matter to us. Have them give us a call, we’re happy to talk to them and find out if we can be of service. If we can’t help them, we’ll do our best to find someone that can.

And remember, pay attention. You never know when the ball is going to come your way, and when it does, move towards it, with hands out in front like an alligator.

Eric Kies, CFP® is a Financial Planner in the Quad Cities office of The Planning Center, a fee-only financial planning and wealth management firm.

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