What Do the Fair and Financial Planning Have in Common? An Anecdote on Discipline.

What does the fair have to do with financial planning? Finances affect every corner of our lives, and vice-versa – even those days spent on the fairgrounds.

Today’s story is an anecdote I often think of during my days as a financial planner, one that no doubt had a large impact on who I am and what I do to this very day.

Steers and Guinea Pigs

I participated in 4-H in my youth and the highlight of each year was going to the fair to show off all our hard work, whether it was showing an animal, artwork or food. And although I grew up on a farm, my parents did not have any livestock. I begged to have a steer or horse but eventually stumbled upon pragmatic guinea pigs. They were small, didn’t take up a lot of room and were easy to show. Thus began my reign as master showman of guinea pigs.

I went back and forth as Grand Champion Showman of guinea pigs with another competitor until I finally convinced my dad to let me try showing a steer – with an end goal to sell the steer at the annual fair auction. Sales for first place winners can be very lucrative for a young person heading to college someday. Little did I know, there was a steep learning curve between guinea pigs and steer.

You Get What You Give

Showing steers was surprisingly different and took more time than I expected. I quickly learned that you need to invest time training them on a halter and lead rope, and that you have to be very disciplined in feeding, monitoring their health and keeping meticulous records. In the show ring the judge asks questions to test your knowledge and watches how your animal behaves in the ring.

I had not planned well and did not spend as much time with my steer as I should have. He had a mind of his own (his name was Runaway – need I say more?) and some minor (non-contagious) health issues. Consequently, we only earned a third-place ribbon, which was a reality check for someone accustomed to being at the top of their game with guinea pigs!

The Connection

You still might be wondering what this all has to do with financial planning. Well, it was through my experience showing animals that I first learned the importance of discipline and planning. This lesson translates to finances as well. To achieve our goals, we must all be disciplined in our plan, keep good records and monitor the health of our plans.

If you don’t have a plan yet, then get help developing one. Nothing is gained without hard work and discipline. If your heart isn’t in it, you must decide what is important and focus on the things you can do. Take small steps but be consistent. And when life throws you curve balls, you must be agile and be open to change.

I encourage you all to go to the fair and talk to the 4-H kids that have spent all year getting ready for the big show. You will find them dedicated and knowledgeable, and you might even learn a life lesson or two from them.

Plan with Clarity

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