Financial Fitness

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Several years ago I took a test at Lifetime where they put me in a mask on a treadmill and tried to kill me. The trainer measured through my mask how much oxygen I was able to absorb while taking me to the maximum effort my heart and lungs could endure. My Peak VO2 was calculated to be 32.3 ml/kg/min and fell dismally into the lower 15th percentile of males my age.

I was not pleased with the results but had to accept them as a fair assessment of my fitness level.

In my line of work, we talk a lot about financial goals and the incremental steps required to achieve them. To me, it all starts not with a plan, but with where we are right now. The assessment tells us almost everything we need to know. Understandably, most advisors and their clients want to skip the assessment. It’s more fun and less stressful to talk about our dreams and potential future success than it is to stare square in the face of our current situation.

It takes courage to submit to a fair assessment, but that’s where the magic begins.

We all have values. When we assess our current situation and discover our lives are not in line with our values, something has to give. Either we have to give up our values, or we have to change what we are doing to bring our lives more in line with what we believe.

Just like the control system of a missile, once we know where we are in relation to our target, our brains will make incremental changes to our behavior. These incremental changes bring us more in line with our values and put us on a path towards a greater future.

For example, when I do a cash flow analysis with a client and they realize how much of their money is spent eating out, in many cases the assessment is all we need to bring about changed behavior. The next time we meet, the spending in restaurants will be magically lower because it is more in line with their values.

In my youth, my fitness level was extremely high. In high school I rarely came off the field in football games and competed well in the 400 meter during track season. During my military career, I regularly scored a perfect 300 on my fitness assessment.  My fitness level had obviously dropped over the years. Shortly after receiving my VO2 results at Lifetime, I started making some changes. Three years and six triathlons later, my Peak VO2 was measured at 52.7 ml/kg/min. That’s above the 90th percentile for my age and literally off the chart.

How can we plan out a path towards success if we don’t know where we are? I encourage you to be courageous, and submit to knowing where you are, right now. It’s the best thing you can do for your future.


Robert R. Schulz, CFP®