I’ve been involved in studying and playing music since I was a kid. After begging my parents for guitar lessons for years, my mom finally broke down and let me take guitar lessons at the age of 10. That was the happiest day of my (then) young life: “Wow, maybe someday I could play like the Beatles.” I studied for about four years until high school began at which point studies and sports limited my practice time, so I had to quit taking lessons (dumb move). I played on and off for years after college but did not resume formal studies. As I got older and my musical tastes changed, I developed a strong desire to study the classical guitar and about five years ago started taking classical guitar lessons.
Classical guitar is a very different form or approach to the instrument than rock or jazz. It is a lot more than learning a few chords and strumming. It is my personal opinion that playing the classical guitar really well probably requires more discipline, practice and skill than any other form of guitar (I realize I will catch a lot of flak on that statement). After five years of study, I still feel like a novice (which, for this instrument, I am), but I am enjoying it a lot, learning lots of beautiful music, and feeling like I am achieving something — a life goal.
I believe a critical component to achieving proficiency at a musical instrument, or just about any endeavor at which one wants to do well, requires discipline. What kind of discipline? Discipline to focus. Discipline to practice. Discipline to stick with it and push oneself when learning new techniques that are hard or above one’s current skill level.
The same things apply to many other areas of life including, I believe, financial planning. Why? Financial planning, at least for most people, involves achieving a goal or multiple goals. These could be goals such as a secure retirement, putting children through college, charitable aspirations, or maybe starting one’s own business. One achieves financial goals by developing a plan and having the discipline to stick with the plan.
It involves discipline around expenses and savings.
It involves developing an investment plan and having the discipline to stick with that plan throughout the financial market’s vicissitudes — hat means not trying to time the market or bailing when things look or feel scary.
It involves discipline around a set of financial and/or economic assumptions.
It involves the discipline of reviewing the plan periodically to make sure assumptions in the plan are still valid and one is still on track to achieve one’s goals. Staying disciplined to a good financial plan can bring about many of the same personal rewards and feelings of accomplishment as one would find in a “non-financial” endeavor such as music.
In fact, discipline is important to just about anything in life that makes one’s life better or more productive.
Bob Toomey is vice president and director of research at S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island, with CFP and CFA designations and a background of more than 30 years in the financial industry.