Our parent company, Standard Life, has sponsored Andy Murray for the past three years. As one of the top sportsmen in the world, when the opportunity arose to have a quick chat, we leapt at the chance.
I was most interested in speaking to Andy about how he sets goals for himself and plans for success – after all that’s what we do for our clients here at 1825, so I wanted to see if there are any similarities between going for a grand slam and serving up a first-rate financial plan.
Going for goals
In a sport where success is measured in games, sets and matches, Andy Murray has a lot to say about goals:
“Setting targets helps you perform at your best – I think it helps you stay focussed and know what you’re aiming for. I definitely have a target list of tournaments I want to win. Obviously the French Open and Australian Open are up there. Grand Slam wins will always be important because that’s what you will be remembered for.”
For me, the parallel here is pretty obvious. The first step in the financial planning process is all about understanding your goals and being clear about what you want to achieve. As financial planners it’s our role to help you realise what that is. We’ll work on this together – we won’t tell you what you should be aiming for, but at the same time we’re not yes-men. We’ll challenge your perceptions, make sure we’re all clear on your priorities, and then come up with the best plan to help you get there.
Putting the pieces together
When this is done properly, it can provide an extraordinary and empowering context to your life and your money. It’s a joint effort to make it work – you bring the future you want and we’ll ensure the financial viability of that future is thoroughly tested. Then together we’ll make decisions in the present that will increase the likelihood of this ideal future becoming a reality. Finally, your financial planner will take the responsibility of ensuring that your money is invested in the right tax wrapper and in the right investment portfolio.
This joint approach is similar to Andy’s view: “It’s important everybody has a say because it’s all part of the jigsaw in making sure I can perform best in my training and best on court. We work together on my training plans. The coaches and strength and conditioning team will work on a plan with input from me and my physios.
“When you’re out on court you’re on your own and have to make your own decisions, but apart from that, it’s a team effort and I listen to everything my team has to say.”
Set-backs and sticking to the plan
Once we started talking about goals and training plans I was in my element. But it got me thinking – sport is so exciting because of the unpredictability of it. For example, think about Nadal’s shock first-round exit from Wimbledon in 2013, or outside of tennis, Leicester City’s Premier League victory in 2016 – one of the greatest under-dog stories in recent memory. So, in a world where anything can happen, how do you deal with it when things don’t go to plan?
According to Andy, it’s “all part of being a professional sportsman. You have to be able to pick yourself up and get back on court the next day to try again. If you weren’t able to do that, you wouldn’t be able to achieve the successes either.”
And the possibility of failure doesn’t mean you should set your sights any lower: “I have incredibly high standards, and have always expected a lot of myself. I think it’s good to have high expectations – it enables you to focus on what’s important and forget the noise around you.”
Andy’s attitude exemplifies what we often try to explain to people when there’s a lot of turbulence in the market. Just like sports, investing is unpredictable in nature, and anyone who claims to know exactly how things are going to play out is either lying or has the world’s first working crystal ball. Of course, like Andy’s dedicated team, we can (and do) prepare as much as possible for market activity, and benefit from experts researching and monitoring data to increase our chances of maximising returns.
However, with politics having more of an impact on markets, the media’s increased attention can amplify the uncertainty that volatility generates among investors. When this happens, I’d urge you to follow Andy Murray’s example: focus on what’s important and forget the noise. If you pay too much attention to everything going on around you, it can lead to panic, which often leads to poor decision-making. Instead, concentrate on your long-term goals and speak to your financial planner about what you need to do (if anything) to stay on track.
The track can change
Keeping you on track is one of the main parts of financial planning. We know that things change though, and you might want the track to lead somewhere different to where you did when you started your journey. Financial planning is inherently iterative – life changes significantly over time and so it’s important to reconsider your goals regularly and take these twists and turns into account, as Andy well knows:
“I review my goals regularly. I think they change all the time. A couple of years ago it was really important to me to win the Davis Cup, then last year, keeping hold of my Olympic medal was really important. It just depends what’s on the horizon really at that time.”
After all this talk of goals, I knew we had to finish on what it’s like to finally achieve them:
“It’s a pretty special feeling. I find it very emotional, as I think most people know!
“Winning the US Open, my first Grand Slam, was such a huge moment for me, especially as I’d been in so many finals but hadn’t been able to win those matches. Then I would also put the Davis Cup win and my Olympic gold medal wins as some of my proudest moments. There is something very special about playing for your country.”
Although Andy’s sporting goals are probably a bit different to likes of you and I, the feeling you get when you achieve them is perhaps more similar than you would first think.
As financial planners, sometimes we can actually see the relief and the happiness on people’s faces when they realise that they can afford to retire, or that they can help their children onto the property ladder, or they won’t have to worry about the cost of care.
And when we see that, I think it’s pretty special too.
This blog and any responses to comments should not be regarded as financial advice. Please remember that the value of your investment can go up or down, and may be worth less than you paid in.