Investors sometimes may get frustrated with their investments because those investments don't seem to produce quick results. And perhaps that's understandable in our fast-paced society, in which we've grown accustomed to instant gratification. But investing is, by nature, a long-term activity. If you look at it in terms of an athletic event, it's not a sprint, in which you must pull out all the stops to quickly get where you're going. Instead, it's more like the 26.2-mile race known as a marathon.
And as an investor, you can learn a few things from marathoners, such as:
• Preparation — No one gets up one day and is ready to run a marathon. Marathon runners train for months, and even years. As an investor, you, too, need to prepare yourself for the "long run." How? By learning as much as you can about different asset classes, types of risk and all the other factors associated with investing.
• Patience — Marathoners know they have a long haul in front of them, so they typically create a "game plan" — one that takes into account such factors as their physical condition, the weather on race day, and the characteristics of the course, such as whether it's hilly or flat. Investors should also create a strategy — one that encompasses their goals and ways of working toward them — and stick to this strategy.
• Perseverance — Marathoners may deal with injuries, dehydration and other setbacks, either while training or during the actual race. But as long as they're able to keep going, they do so. As an investor, you, too, will face obstacles, such as market downturns. But as long as you continue investing and don't head to the "sidelines," you have a good chance of making progress toward your goals.
• Vision -- Marathoners study the course they're on, so they know what's ahead — and where they're going. As an investor, you also need a vision of what lies in front of you — the number of years until your retirement, the type of retirement lifestyle you anticipate, what sort of legacy you plan to leave, and so on. Your vision will help drive your investment decisions.
• Proper coaching — Not all marathoners have individual coaches, but many have at least gone to clinics or joined running clubs so they could learn more about the various aspects of this grueling event. And an investor, you can certainly benefit from guidance or "coaching" in the form of a financial professional — someone who knows your individual needs, goals and risk tolerance and who has the experience to make recommendations that are appropriate for your situation.
Every marathoner is familiar with the difficulties of the challenge and the satisfaction of finishing the race. As an investor, you also will be tested many times. Furthermore, you'll never really cross the "finish line" because you'll always have goals toward which you'll be working. Yet, by emulating the traits of successful marathoners, you can continue working toward your objectives — and perhaps you'll avoid the blisters, too.