Welcome to the 3rd post in our financial planning series. This one is all about goal setting with the promised Rocky Balboa metaphor.
This year I introduced my family to Rocky Balboa.
When I say I introduced my family, I really mean my two boys. My wife and daughter watch a bit of each movie, but they don’t fully appreciate Rocky. They flee when the fight scenes start.
My wife’s comment was that the boxing scenes are just barbaric.
My reply, “And?”
The boys and I will sit down and crank out a Rocky movie when the girls are out of the house.
So far, we’ve seen Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, and Rocky V. Rocky Balboa, here we come!
Rocky was Sylvester Stallone’s first big movie. This was before Rambo and decades before The Expendables. Stallone created the character of Rocky and wrote the first script entirely on his own in 3 days. I just think that’s cool. Stallone then went on to star in all 8 of the Rocky movies: Rocky I-V, Rocky Balboa, and the two Creed movies.
In the first film, Rocky, who is an everyday guy struggling just to make ends meet, gets the opportunity to fight Apollo Creed. Creed is the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World and a self-proclaimed legend.
Rocky takes the fight. It will also pay him the huge sum of $30,000.
But he has no idea where to start. His goal is to fight Creed and not die. He just has no idea how to do it. This is a bit different from financial goal-setting, but goals are goals, right?
Personally, I like goals that are SMARTA (not a typo):
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
- Achievable (agreed, attainable)
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
- Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)
- Accountability (have someone who can encourage you and hold your feet to the fire)
Okay, enough with all the alliteration, assonance, and grammar conventions.
Most people who have studied goal planning have heard of SMART goals. I was first introduced to these in college. SMART goals give you a track to run on. These help you take a goal, from something that is an idea in your head, to a process that achieves it.
SMART goals get you to examine your resources. Time. Money. Education. Passion. Then, you arrange them in a way that will make the path, from start to finish, clearer and more achievable.
I add Accountability to this list (hence SMARTA—maybe I should copyright that) because you need someone who can help you reach your goals.
In my opinion—one of the best and un-deservedly, uncelebrated characters in the first five Rocky films—is Mickey “Mighty Mick” Goldmill. Mick is the grizzled old boxer that runs his own boxing facility in Rocky’s Philadelphia neighborhood.
Rocky is a regular at Mick’s gym and fights in local matches. Mick recognizes Rocky’s talent and passion, but thinks Rocky is a “bum” for being a strong arm for a local loan shark. In Mick’s mind, Rocky is wasting his talent. He doesn’t put in the effort to hone his skills. So, Mick ignores him.
Fast forward to Rocky agreeing to the fight with Creed.
Rocky starts training for that by himself. He reviews what he has and uses all of it.
Dirty sweats. Okay—dirty, nasty, ill-fitting, hole-ridden sweats.
"That’s gross, Rock."
Raw side of beef.
"Thank you, Paulie."
He used what he had available to him. These were his resources to achieve his SMART goal. But it wasn’t a SMARTA goal.
He was missing the A. Accountability.
In a short scene between Rocky and Mick, Mick is telling Rocky about how he wants to help him. How he wants to give him all the knowledge he has.
He excitedly tells him, “What you need is a manager. A MANAGER!”
Rocky, feigning interest, finally says, “Hey Mick, I needed your help about 10 years ago, right? 10 years ago. You never helped me none. You didn’t care.”
“Well, if you wanted help. I say, if you wanted help, why didn’t you ask? Why didn’t you just ask me, kid?”
“Look, I asked but you never heard nothing!”
After a great rant about how his place stinks and how he’s going to get his face kicked in, Rocky quickly comes to his senses, forgives Mick, and hires him on as his manager. It’s a great scene.
When putting together your financial SMARTA goals, remember, “YOU NEED A MANAGER!”
When talking goal-setting for financial planning, the manager is your financial advisor. Hopefully, you have vetted them on BrokerCheck. Hopefully, you have checked their credentials. Alphabet soup after their name doesn’t mean anything. Verify the credentials. Even better is if they have been referred to you by someone who has their financial planning life together. If you’re cavalier about choosing your advisor, you could get this:
Don’t get this. Get a Certified Financial Planner™. They are obligated and have pledged to act as a fiduciary. They put your interests before theirs. They are an educated, trained, and experienced professional who can give you the accountability you need to work toward your financial goals. They also provide advice to complete those goals more quickly.
Most of us have goals. They’re usually in our head.
But goals in your head are just that—in your head. A good CFP® will get those down on paper.
Retirement life on “Golden Pond.”
Buying a home with sweat equity and character.
Starting a business you’ve dreamed about for 10 years.
Taking your ’69 Mustang on a 3-week Route 66 road trip.
Goals are where we start our financial planning process. We don’t start with financial products. Never start with products. If you see an advisor and that’s what they start with, leave their office and never go back. This kind of “financial advice” drives me crazy. Products are a tool to accomplish goals. They are not the goal and you don’t lead with those.
Okay, I’m back.
The goals become the foundation of the financial plan.
The next step is to review what resources are available: income, budget, the next raise, a personally-owned side business, passion, drive. This is where you already know the answers to the questions that will be asked by your planner. If you go it alone, the hard part is knowing the right questions to ask—that’s where an experienced planner comes in. Through this process, you may uncover resources you didn’t realize you had at your disposal.
Then we craft a plan, a workout schedule if you will, that is designed for the purpose of getting you to the goals you have made.
The best part of working with our team is that we hold you accountable.
I might entertain myself while using my best Mick imitation to call you a “bum,” like Mick called Rocky when he slacked off, but I’ll reel myself in. I only truly entertain my boys with that one. It especially gets my 8-year-old all riled up. He starts punching everything in sight, including me.
Okay. Back to accountability. I don’t call my clients bums and that’s not how accountability pans out or how I use it.
I use it to help you stay on track. That is my job.
It’s also my job to help you set the milestones and keep them in view. It’s my job to be in your corner when the fight gets tough.
And it’s my job to celebrate the wins with you.
That’s why you need a manager. Together, we fight the fight.
I like being the Mighty Mick in every client’s corner. It’s the best seat in the ring.
Need a Mighty Mick? Need a manager? Let’s talk how. Click here to request an appointment. I promise not to wear a pink button-up cardigan.
Next month, we go back to the building blocks of a financial plan and talk about the steps in our financial planning process. No Rocky metaphor planned—as of yet.
One last image before I sign off. It's from a deleted scene from the first film. It's a perfect picture of the great underdog story. Rocky in his dirty sweats, Apollo in his awesome 70's turtleneck, and a smirking Mick thrown in.
* All images and references belong to their respective copyright holders.