Often times I hear many associate running a marathon as two races: the first half with your head and the second half with your heart. However, in my practice, races are made up of many parts regardless of the distance. While no race is the same, some you may find a rhythm immediately. Others, like marathons, may have dark times that seem to be everlasting. Nevertheless, time after time we toe the line acknowledging the accepted risk and give it a go. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t.

The great constant is, we all have spent some time in various race stages while competing for that personal best. Along the same lines, when it comes to your personal finances having a grasp on the four stages of your financial lifecycle can be easily interpreted through the stages you may face while running a race. This guide can help prioritize as well as project what to expect in your future finances and running endeavors.

In the initial stage of your financial lifecycle your focus will be geared towards the accumulation of wealth throughout your early career. You may be a recent college graduate with fairly low income striding off the starting line pacing towards accumulating assets for the very first time. Like the first three miles of a marathon, the unsettling starting nerves is more common than not as you look towards the long path to accruing wealth. The start of a race is certainly the point of jockeying for place while finding that rhythm. Financially, this stage is important to paying off debt, finding the best fit easy to build credit, as well as putting those savings into high drive for bigger goals down the road.

Pacing on, you’ve made it to stage two! The point financially where the growth and management of wealth comes into play, and those mid race heck yeah miles start to fulfill some excitement. As things begin to stabilize, you’ve effectively saved up a sound emergency fund along with having debt paid down. Mid stride you’re feeling good, but the key takeaway is that there is still a long way to go. As my coach in college always said, half the race may be over, but more than half of the work still remains. Your priorities here should be growing your wealth and investing for retirement. Maybe even saving for your children’s education and expenses. This phase is essential for ensuring a proper exit strategy into retirement down the finish line.

As you run through to stage three, your financial focus is now on the preservation of wealth. The race is now three quarters of the way done. Sometimes those miles feel like a bit of a wasteland for me. Other times it is the dark era as I refuse to hit the wall pushing every ounce of energy and focus to stay on pace and chase down a couple of people ahead. It is notable to stay on pace financially as well while making sure your retirement plan is locked down. This could mean making some shifts in a portfolio, looking into healthcare and insurance opportunities, or even considering legacies to leave wealth behind to.

Finally, the finish is near! Stage four of your financial life cycle is known as the golden years where retirement and the distribution of wealth come into show. Priority wise, you will want to make sure your financial plan fits your appropriate lifestyle to ensure wealth through the remainder of your life. Depending on your exit strategy to retirement, you may see a clear finish line in the near distance. For me, our collegiate regional championships always had a 500 meter straight shot to the finish where anything could happen. Upsets or breakthroughs, cry at will or celebrate with your team, you’ve made it to the retirement finish line accomplishing an amazing thing!