Smart About Money: Coaching Yourself To Financial Success

Will it ever be settled whether it was Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick who made Tom Brady great or the other way around? Who knows!

Having the chance to play school sports for many outstanding coaches and having done some coaching myself, I’m sure Tom Brady realizes he’s lucky to have a head coach like Bill Belichick taking care of The Big Picture and making decisions that let him focus on being the best quarterback he can be.

When you’re managing your finances, thinking like a head coach can give your “home team” the best chance to win. It’s all about keeping that Big Picture in mind and making strategic decisions about your assets and opportunities.

In some ways, your job will be more difficult than any NFL coach’s. They take it game by game, hoping to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. It’s a clear path and a very short time frame.

Your financial game plan has to span years. Many of your hoped-for big wins – buying a house, putting kids through college, being debt-free or planning for a comfortable retirement – will not occur for decades. So the focus is different.

The good news is that it’s much easier for you to win with your finances. Unlike the NFL, where only 12 of 32 teams even make it to the playoffs and only one can win, you can set out a logical sequence of reasonable financial goals that move you toward where you want to be.

Plus you have a lot more control. With a bit of prudence, you can easily avoid getting tackled by “opponents” – bad ideas and bad habits. If you have even the average number of good breaks along the way, you can look forward to achieving every one of your financial goals. And then some.

Coaching wisdom that you can apply to your financial plan: The most important concept is that you have to be willing to make a good self-assessment of where you are now and where you want to be in the medium-term and long-term. That way you know the job that’s in front of you, which will help you make logical short-term decisions.

One example: If you want to buy a house that you can live in for years and then sell for a bundle, you’ll need: 1) To be able to make some educated guesses about communities where real estate values are likely to keep going up and 2) A plan to buy a home in one of those communities and then maintain and steadily improve it to maximize your investment.

But if your plan is to rent all your life and be free of home ownership, every one of your decisions will obviously be very different.

Your goals may be lofty. They may be modest. Sometimes people choose to float along not deciding … and that’s okay too. As long as you clearly understand what you’re doing and it works for you, that’s all that matters.

One last thing that every coach knows: Stuff happens. So many things can – and do! – go wrong.

As much as possible, prepare yourself for the fact that something probably will “go wrong” along the way with your finances. Something you didn’t plan for, something you don’t want.

That’s when you have to be open to a different outcome. What helps? Looking for ways to get the essence of what you had hoped for and being open to feedback.

And that is where you will be luckier than any head coach. No one “bad break” can end your season. You can always take what you learned and get back in the game with a fresh chance to succeed.

Nick Maffeo is the President & CEO of Canton Co-operative Bank in Canton. “Smart About Money” is a regular column he writes for the Canton Citizen. Have a financial question you’d like to ask? Email to


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