How Kobe Can Inspire your Financial Plan
By Wendy Wan Turk
I’m an LA girl - I grew up here, attended UCLA, and call it my forever home. And growing up in LA in the 80s, I was and always will be a die-hard Lakers fan (thanks, Dad!), so when I heard the news about Kobe last Sunday, I couldn’t believe it - I still can’t believe it. It was Sunday morning, and I was getting ready to go to a kid’s birthday party when my husband said, “There was a helicopter crash in Calabasas. They say Kobe was on it.”
My heart sank, and it put everything into perspective. Kobe and I were the same age and watching his life progress at the same time that I was growing up, has impacted my life. I’ve never met Kobe, but his persistence, determination, hard work, and icy veins are qualities I think everyone can infuse into their lives and their financial plans.
I think most people think my job as a financial planner is to get everyone to stop spending money so they can save, save, save for retirement. I’m taking away those lattes, the vacations, the Amazon orders, everything that’s fun. Certainly, part of my job is to help people save, but really, my job is being the teammate and coach who can help set a goal and stick to that path: rarely are milestones achieved overnight or alone.
Why practice matters
Nobody just hits the game-winning shot without having put in hours of preparation beforehand. We just never see the hours of sweat that went into the last tenth of a second.
Just the same, nobody becomes rich overnight: the small habits of saving into a 401(k) or budgeting the grocery bills, all add up to the day where you get to celebrate something grand. It could be a big purchase like furniture, or a fancy expensive dinner out, or the day you get to be financially independent.
There are also the boring aspects of every plan: the emergency fund and insurance, including health, life, disability, and long-term care. They are the free throws of life…the part of the game that seems automatic but could be lifesavers in tight situations. You never know when you’ll need that extra $1000 to buy new tires, or pay for the health deductible, but you’ll be glad it’s there when you need it most.
Life happens. Bad things happen, and good things happen. The reason I’ve always been a sports fan is for the sheer drama of every game. You might be winning the game one minute, leading by 10 points, when suddenly, you’re down by 2 and end up losing the game. Or, you have the Black Mamba on your team, and you always hold your breath for that last-second 3-pointer.
Don’t get discouraged because not all goes to plan. The important idea is to stay the course, stick to it. Even when a worst-case scenario hits, like a trip to the emergency room, or an unexpected job loss, you need to get back to the plan, and get back to the hard work that can help you reach your goals: start saving again, paying off debt, whatever it is that you were striving for, and it will get easier the more practice you have.
Having Ice in Your Veins
Kobe was a master of this - unflinching and unflappable. The game could be on the line, a championship, even, and Kobe would never seem flustered or breakdown, always keeping his cool.
An essential part of every financial plan is investing or getting your money to work for you. But, as any investor knows, investing can be a rocky road, especially if you were invested during the Great Recession. These are the times you need ice in your veins- when there are stock market fluctuations, as there are bound to be, the important idea is to stay the course, even when it may be uncomfortable and counterintuitive.
The lesson I took to heart from Kobe’s life is that every day is as important as the next, but that everything should be kept in perspective. Each game is important on its own, but it is even more important if you look at the overarching plan, the legacy.
Does it matter if I buy a coffee a day? Maybe. If you take a step back and look at the overall goal, does it make you happier to have your coffee break every day, or does it make you happier to retire a year earlier? No one’s plan is the same, so one person’s coffee may be the highlight of the day, whereas for others it’s a waste. What actions today will keep you in the game, but also, what are the things I truly enjoy that is worth if for today?
I recently had a prospective client ask me a question, to which he prefaced it by saying, “This is personal, so don’t feel you need to answer it, but I’d really love to know the answer.” He asked me, what are MY goals? And paused because no one had actually asked that question before, with regards to my work. Ultimately, the question was really one of legacy, and what legacy do I hope to leave, and what legacy each client hopes to create.
As a life-long Lakers fan, it’s been interesting to extrapolate so many life lessons from the Showtime Era, through the Lake Show years, and every iteration in between. When Phil Jackson became the coach of the Lakers, he brought not only a particular style to coaching basketball but also a certain lifestyle to his team and its players-a certain Zen, if you will. And Kobe seemed to embody this balance.
For every client, my goal is to find the balance. The balance of now, versus later, or even the balance of things we already experienced in the past versus the future you. Sometimes the balance can be as simple as setting aside $100/mo. towards a vacation, or sometimes it’s sacrificing the giant house with two extra bedrooms, so retirement is 5 years sooner.
Somewhere, there is always a tradeoff, a fine balancing act, which helps us get to each of our goals. The trick is making each goal automatic (like free throws): saving for a Vacation Fund, saving for retirement, so that everything can be attainable. A budget may seem like restraint, but if you reframe the idea, it’s making sure that each goal is given the proper attention and priority.
Though physically lost, Kobe’s inspiration will live on, even in maybe the most unusual place of financial planning. In the Lakers’ tribute to Kobe, he narrates his life highlight reel, saying, “…it’s your canvas to paint.”
Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA (http://www.finra.org/)/SIPC (https://www.sipc.org/). Investment advice offered through Gerber Kawasaki Inc, a registered investment advisor. Gerber Kawasaki and Gerber Kawasaki Financial Advisors are separate entities from LPL Financial. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which course of action may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.
Gerber Kawasaki, 2716 Ocean Park Blvd. #2022 Santa Monica, CA 90405. Contact us at (310) 441-9393