Reflections From a Canoe Trip on the Little Danube

Canoe pic
 

How a Sunday canoe outing with family members reinforced the importance of financial planning and discipline.

I grew up in a small town on the Csepel Island, just 15 miles south of Budapest, Hungary. This island is one of many along the Danube River. Growing up in Hungary, we spent our summers by the beaches of the smaller portion of the Danube that was excellent for swimming and boating. During my trip home this summer, my sister decided we should revisit this beautiful area. So she, my 14-year old nephew, and I went on a canoe trip.

I was convinced it would be a day of leisure on this small portion of the river that is surrounded by reeds on both sides and a gentle current, if any. Well, I was wrong... :) We were overly confident and didn’t realize that this voyage would require us to put in some serious effort.  

As soon as we started out, the winds were stronger than we expected and we couldn’t keep the canoe on course. Neither of us paid full attention to our individual roles in the canoe and we were constantly yelling instructions at each other. This led to some extra paddling and confusion and as a result, our enthusiasm waned during the early stages of our outing.  

Eventually, we got our act together and the day ended up being a blast. We managed to have a great time and laugh about the initial one hour of struggle. As I was sitting in that boat with my sister and nephew, I kept advising them about the importance of disciplined financial planning. You can trust me it didn’t go down that well while we were trying not to get stuck in the reeds!

At the end of the day, I got permission from my sister to share this story and the following important points to consider when working on your financial goals:

  1. Don’t worry about things you can’t control. Outside forces, whether they are strong winds or periodic recessions, will come and go. Focus on your long-term goals and stick to a strategy that will deliver results.
  2. Set your long-term goals and then live in the present. Enjoy life, but be sure to hold yourself accountable as to whether you are taking the right steps toward achieving your long-term goals. Are you saving and investing? Are you managing risk and asset allocation properly? Focusing on your goals becomes easier when you have a roadmap.
  3. Trust your strategy and stick with it. Once you have taken the time to develop a long-term financial plan, stay the course. Understand that there will be constant obstacles and challenges, but that’s part of the journey.
  4. Find an advisor you can trust. It might take time, but finding an advisor who can guide you is worth the effort. Together, you and your advisor will be accountable to each other for following the plan you develop to stay on track with your goals, savings, and investments.