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Trust the Process: What You Can Learn About Retirement Planning From the Buffalo Bills Thumbnail

Trust the Process: What You Can Learn About Retirement Planning From the Buffalo Bills

It’s a fun time to be a Buffalo Bills fan.

They have a deep and talented roster, a young franchise quarterback, impressive front office and coaching, and an overall extremely likable group of people to root for.

For the first time in a long time, the basis for optimism feels legitimate instead of the blind faith of years past. From the management down to the players, there’s a distinctive alignment in working towards a common goal.

Since Bills football and helping people confidently retire are two of my favorite things to think about, I couldn’t help but make some connections between the two. Here are some lessons from the Bills you can incorporate in your own planning to increase your likelihood of success.

Clearly Defined Vision

The Bills brass came in with clarity and intention with what they wanted to build and how they wanted to build it. They recognized that success wouldn’t come overnight, but had a clear plan of how to both change the culture and win on the field. They invested in the staff, facility, and training in order to bring out the best in the players on the roster.

Retirement requires the same intentionality. While you may have done all of the right things financially to make retirement a reality, you still need to know what you want that life to look like when the day comes. Consider these questions as it pertains to your own planning:

  • How much money will you need in retirement?
  •  What do you want to do when you have more time freedom?
  •  How will you create income from your investments to support your lifestyle?
  •  Where will Social Security and Medicare benefits fit into your plans?

For many families, it’s about getting to the point where you can afford to leave your career and pursue something that provides more energy and sense of purpose. When you know exactly where you stand and combine that with a vision of where you want to go, the path to achieving it becomes much more clear.

Honest Evaluation

When Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane arrived on the scene in 2017, there was a lot of work to be done. After multiple failed coaches and some questionable roster moves, it was time to take inventory and evaluate the team’s best path to success. It came down to a choice: Triage to try to win immediately or make the long-term changes necessary to seriously compete over time?

Planning a successful retirement requires an honest evaluation of where you stand as well. While it can be easy to put off, having an accurate assessment of your current financial situation is critical to your success. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Are your current investments still positioned to best help you reach your goals?
  • Should you still be paying into that whole life insurance policy you purchased?
  • What about that old 401(k) from when you switched jobs?
  • Should you be contributing to your pre-tax or after-tax retirement accounts based on your current and future tax standing?

By taking inventory of your savings, opportunities for improvement, and potential risks to mitigate, you’ll be that much closer to making retirement a reality.

Each Piece of the Puzzle Matters

The Bills show an impressive level of attention to detail. Each player, coach, and employee seemingly knows their role and what’s expected of them. On the field, it’s clear that they understand that all three phases of the game are equally critical to sustained success.

Retirement comes with multiple “phases of the game” as well. Having an investment strategy that properly aligns your goals to the amount of risk you should take is just the start.

Developing a tax-efficient distribution strategy, navigating health care coverage, and making the right retirement income decisions are all equally important pieces of the puzzle.

Just like the Bills designating Jake Fromm as an emergency quarterback to protect against COVID uncertainty, a thoughtful retirement plan can protect you from the unforeseen risks that could derail your plans.

They Believe in Process Over Product

In the early years, fans heard “Trust the Process” so often from Sean McDermott that it became a running joke around town. The belief is that by taking the right reps and doing the right things consistently, the results would come over time.

Your approach to your investments in retirement should be the same.

In a world with daily access and a never-ending stream of financial information, it can be easy to feel like you’re missing out or should be doing something more with your investments.

Successful investing is not about timing the markets or picking the best performing funds each year. It involves developing a process based around what you can control; maintaining a diversified portfolio, managing tax implications, and not taking more risk than you need to.

Think of your portfolio as a Sean McDermott interview. His soundbites are typically respectful, humble, and sometimes outright boring. While they may lack the bravado of a Rex Ryan interview, it’s the simple and systematic approach that outperforms in the end.

While it remains to be seen how the current season will play out, it’s hard not to be encouraged about the direction of the team. Their record this year is the product of intentional planning and a methodical approach to building a legitimate contender.

By developing a thoughtful plan to align your use of capital with what’s important to you, you can achieve that same success with your retirement. Who would have thought watching football could be so insightful?

Wondering if your own retirement process is positioned for success? Schedule a chat with Brett today.


Brett Koeppel is a fee-only Buffalo financial advisor, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM , and the Founder/President of Eudaimonia Wealth.  Eudaimonia Wealth is a fee-only, fiduciary, Buffalo financial planner and wealth management firm dedicated to helping families prepare for and transition into retirement by providing independent, objective financial planning and investment management advice.