Four Things I Learned From Back Country Skiing to Help You Achieve Financial Freedom

Four Things I Learned From Back Country Skiing to Help You Achieve Financial Freedom

Backcountry skiing is the ultimate
adventure; testing physical limits, mental fortitude, and leadership skills,
and I love it! Backcountry skiing is best described as trekking off the beaten
path and out of the safety of a ski resort to “earn your turns.”
Although it’s a thrilling sport, it has some inherent risks that must be
accounted for and requires strategy, tact, and deliberation. The more time I
spend in the backcountry the more I find there are many parallels to my work as
Certified Financial Planner. Through my experience as a backcountry skier I’ve found
preparation, risk management, safe navigation, and teamwork can be can be
applied to wealth management and help you achieve financial success!

Preparation

To be safe and successful in the backcountry, preparation must be taken seriously. Backcountry skiing requires identifying a goal, building a plan, and packing the right equipment. Identifying an objective and mapping the best zone helps avoid aimlessly wondering through the forest, missing all the best snow. The next step in preparing for a day backcountry skiing requires coordinating with your group to ensure the most appropriate route is followed to reach the final objective safely. This involves working with other people who are familiar with the terrain, snowpack, or weather conditions to discuss the many variables that exist. Finally, having the right equipment in the backcountry can mean the difference between life and death. A mindful backcountry skier always carries a beacon, shovel, and avalanche probe in their backpack. These essential items are only used if something horrible occurs; the need to save another rider in the event of an avalanche. As a backcountry skier, we go by the motto “Plan for the worst, hope for the best!”

The same could be said about wealth management. Preparing for your journey to financial freedom must begin with the end in mind; therefore, identifying goals, creating a plan, and using the right equipment will help build a path to success. I use a goals-based method to help breakdown the big picture into smaller parts. Secondly, a good financial plan should have easy to follow, pragmatic steps to help you achieve your goals. Your financial plan should include effective saving strategies, diversified investment vehicles, and contingency plans if the plotted course gets slightly derailed. Without a cohesive and practical financial plan, you are left exposed to blind spots that could cause financial catastrophe. Finally, Having the right tools and software is vital to being prepared on your financial journey. Far too often I’ve seen people use back-of-the-envelope math to plan for their financial goals. This results in missing major details, like higher healthcare costs or the impact of inflation over time. I use state-of-the-art holistic planning techniques to analyze and guide your financial plan. A well prepared financial plan can help you handle unforeseen challenges and keep you pushing forward on your path to financial freedom.

Evaluating Risk

Skiing in the backcountry increases exposure to the biggest natural risk; a dreaded avalanche. Avalanches kill hundreds of people each year and entering the backcountry without evaluating risks may expose you to grave danger. An avalanche is created by a breakdown in the snowpack, and the snowpack changes all the time. One of the first steps before skiing is to dig a snow pit. Snow pits allow me to analyze the snowpack to determine the known risks. This includes an analysis of different snow layers, understanding how different types of snow interact, and the impact of force on a snow slab. After going through this process, the group can determine if the selected slope is worth skiing.

Evaluating risk is a key function of a financial advisor. Two pillars of my wealth management approach, Financial Planning and Investment Management, require extensive risk analysis. In financial planning, this might include evaluating your need for insurance, calculating if you have saved enough to reach your goal, or any number of financial planning methods that are relevant to your situation. Just as no two ski days are the same, no two financial plans are the same. Investment management is predicated on risk management. As a CFP® I am trained to help you navigate the complexities of the investment landscape. Just as I poke, prod, and analyze the snowpack, I take the same diligent approach with my client’s investment strategies. I pride myself in taking a careful and analytical process to fully understanding the risks you might be exposed to in your financial situation to help guide you on your financial journey.

backcountry-skiing-and-wealth-management

Safe Navigation

It is imperative to utilize effective navigation skills to safely maneuver through backcountry ski terrain. Effective navigation requires mapping, implementing safe route-finding techniques, and effectively communicating with my group. Using a plan ensures we can start our journey in the right direction. However, things often change once we are faced with the ever-evolving conditions in the mountains, and changes must be made. This requires flexibility in our plans and effective communication within the group. Throughout our adventure we may have to cross sketchy terrain to reach our goal, which may mean crossing steep avalanche prone slopes. When approaching such a risk, each member must cross one at a time to reduce pressure on the slope, and in the case of an avalanche there are multiple members in position to save a victim caught in the slide. The final aspect of effective navigation is strong communication. During the course of a day, the group is faced with many decisions and it is critical to have strong leadership to communicate effectively. One of the most challenging times in backcountry skiing is reaching a slope only to find it too dangerous to ski. Ultimately backing off to ski something less dangerous is the smart decision, but often requires hard conversations and clear communication.

Just as in backcountry skiing, Wealth management requires careful navigation to succeed on your journey to financial freedom. My wealth management process incorporates a detailed plan, consistently re-evaluating the plan, and open communication. As discussed above, a plan will get you moving in the right direction but should be updated regularly. As things change in your financial life, so too should your financial plan. Therefore, regularly re-evaluating your strategy can help keep you on the path to success. This requires a high level of communication, which is another pillar of my wealth management practice. Communication allows a relationship to flourish, and if you don’t have good communication with your financial advisor it may be time to look in a different direction. Healthy communication sometimes requires challenging, albeit productive, conversations when plans need changing. In addition, not all investment strategies work as planned, so just like getting to the top of an unsafe chute and saying “no,” you should have a contingency plan and act accordingly. Sticking with a failing plan can derail your journey to financial freedom permanently. Allow yourself flexibility to alter your course slightly if it ultimately helps you in the long run.

Teamwork

One of the most important rules of backcountry skiing is “Don’t go at it alone.” Using teamwork in the backcountry provides multiple viewpoints to aid in decision making, help in the event of an incident, and have someone to enjoy the amazing adventure. When approaching an unfamiliar pitch, it is helpful to have multiple opinions to aid in decision making. One member may have local knowledge of the area, another may specialize in snowpack analysis, while another may be a very strong skier. Tapping each person’s strengths can lead to better outcomes. Also, there are many unknown hazards and risks that that could put you and your group in peril, and your buddies are your lifeline to safety. In the event of an avalanche where a member is buried, the other group members are charged with searching, digging, and extracting the victim. This reliance requires trust and confidence in each person in the group, so I choose thoughtful and diligent people to share the backcountry skiing experience. The last thing that should not be lost is how amazing a backcountry skiing experience can be. These backcountry adventures take me to mountains ranges with serene forests, beautiful vistas, epic terrain, and ear-to-ear grins of pleasure. So, I enjoy skiing with others who share those common traits. Backcountry skiing is all about camaraderie, moving the body, and living life fully, and I want to enjoy that experience with other people.

Your wealth management team can have a powerful long-term impact on your journey to financial freedom. As a Certified Financial Planner, I provide specialized skills to help identify the best path for you, guide you through challenging financial times, and be your champion when you achieve your financial goals. I work with several clients who once were self-guided, but found they were consuming a lot of bandwidth on investment management only to not adequately meet their goals. They turned to me to help them with the core of their investing, while keeping some investment to “play” with. Another benefit of not going alone is receiving guidance through challenging financial times. Stock market melt downs, life events, or other unforeseen circumstances can leave some investors beat down and ready to give up. Therefore, I use behavioral coaching, the forth pillar of wealth management, to help people navigate the journey to financial freedom. There have been many times I have saved my clients from making poor financial decisions at an inopportune time, which may have saved them from financial disaster. Just like in backcountry skiing, sometimes you need a lifeline to stave off financial failure.

The final aspect of working with financial advisor is sharing your success. To reach your goals requires grit and having a professional to champion your cause can keep your engine going. I have worked with people who, upon first meeting me, lacked confidence in their financial plan. After following my comprehensive planning process, we found they were closer to their financial dreams than ever imagined. The look on their faces said it all, they were ready to start the next chapter of their lives. Just like in backcountry skiing, sharing in their excitement was a rewarding experience. Consider hiring a financial professional that can help you through good times and bad, and someone you trust to get you to the finish line.

The journey to financial freedom and an adventure in the backcountry have many similarities. To enjoy the experience each endeavor must be properly planned and executed. Just like backcountry skiing requires strategy, tact, and deliberation, so does financial planning. If you put in the work upfront, the payoff can be rewarding. Approach your financial planning strategy the same way I prepare for a day in the backcountry, using preparation, risk evaluation, safe navigation, and using teamwork. If you take these steps you will put yourself on the right trajectory to achieve your ambitious financial goals, and the outcome is rewarding. If you have no clue where to start I provide a free one-on-one consultation to start building your map to financial freedom!

Taylor Leary, CFP®

Taylor Leary, CFP®

Taylor Leary is a Wealth Advisor and Certified Financial Planner at Presidential Wealth Management. He works with clients in the Denver area and across Colorado.

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