I love everything about tennis – playing it, working on my swing, improving my strategy on the court, and the exercise that comes with it.  It is an ongoing challenge of mine to improve in all ways possible.  I love watching tennis as much as I enjoy playing it, especially now during the Wimbledon championship.

Aspiring tennis players practice and prepare for years to get to the professional tournaments and compete at that level.  They hit thousands of balls, run countless numbers of physical workouts and training sessions to prepare for their matches.  However, there are elements of the game that are completely out of their control.  They cannot control the weather, be it hot and humid, or windy and cold.  They cannot control who they play and how “on” that opponent will be.  And they cannot control the court conditions like at Wimbledon where the grass deteriorates as the 2-week tournament continues.

When it comes to planning for retirement, there are some elements that investors, like tennis players, have complete control over, some control over, or no control over.

Source: The Importance of Being Earnest, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, 2013. 


Complete control:  Saving and spending are self-explanatory.  Asset allocation and location refer to how your investments are chosen to match with your risk tolerance and time frame.  Asset location is controllable and is important to have the different types of investments in the right kinds of accounts for the right reasons, i.e. income generating investments in IRA accounts if you are trying to minimize your taxable income.

Some control:  In this instance, longevity refers to one’s individual life span and the corresponding life span of one’s portfolio.  We have some control over our personal longevity in how we take care of ourselves, both mind and body.  The control we have over employment earnings allows us to either retire early if we are financially prepared or continue to work if we need a few more years of earnings and savings.

No control:   Stock market returns and tax policy are completely out of our control, however we can implement strategies, such as using Roth IRAs, to give us some flexibility when it comes to taxable withdrawals.

Like preparing for a tennis match, much of how we position ourselves for our financial future is necessary and important.  To save when those around us are spending takes a lot of discipline.  Many people think that they can control market returns through either timing or stock selection.  This has always proved to be an almost impossible task.  Better to accept what can’t be controlled and implement a consistent strategy that will weather all kinds of market conditions.

Who knows, with some hard work, and accepting which levers you control and don’t control, you could end up as the champion of your own retirement.

Securities and Advisory Services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA) – Member FINRA, SIPC
This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal or investment planning advice as individual situations will vary.  The SFA does not provide tax or legal advice. We cannot guarantee future financial results.