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BAM Intelligence

A Masters Course: How to Reduce Financial Stress

This week, Rory McIlroy, at only 25 years old, will have the chance to complete a career Grand Slam with a win at the Masters – a feat only six players have ever accomplished. Last year, Rory placed within the top 10 finishers at 12 of his 17 events and won two major championships, establishing himself as a legend in the making. Those who have had the privilege of watching Rory play in person notice what an incredible ball striker he is. Golf fans immediately fall in love with the distinct sound of his perfectly hit irons as they compress the ball into the turf at impact. Unfortunately, you’ll probably never be able to produce that sound yourself. But don’t worry about it. The good news is you don’t have to.

Considering the demanding greens at Augusta National and Rory’s recent track record of spectacular putting, many believe he is a favorite to take home this year’s Green Jacket. In fact, the most impressive statistic contributing to Rory’s success in 2014 was his ability to navigate 1,224 of professional golf’s trickiest greens with a total of only 23 three-putts. To put this in perspective, that’s only one three-putt every three rounds.

I’m not sharing any revelatory news here when I say that PGA tour players are excellent putters and you’ll need to get better at it if you want to lower your scores. But why are PGA tour players better? And what is the fastest way for you to putt more like them?

Well, tour players make a high percentage of their putts from five feet and in. However, the best players in the world have spent their entire lives practicing accuracy in their short game. Given the length of time it takes to master this skill, you probably won’t improve too quickly in this area.

Fortunately, there is an easier way to get better than developing pinpoint accuracy from all the way across the green. There is no simpler path to immediately lowering your scores than dialing in on putting distance control. Most people blame their three-putts on that final missed shot, but the real culprit is the first poorly controlled putt that left you with something longer than a tap-in after your initial attempt.

In much the same way, people who feel as though money is constantly tight often blame it on their frivolous spending, perhaps at restaurants or a daily Starbucks habit, rather than examining larger decisions made in the past that leave them with too little discretionary spending money each month. The cups of Starbucks coffee aren’t the problem. It’s the fact that you have a huge monthly car payment or bought too expensive of a house.

Another reason to avoid the three-foot putt is that it’s the most stressful shot in golf. In my competitive golfing days, I would be utterly exhausted after a round where I had to grind over three-footers on every green. Let’s say you two-putt 13 greens in a certain round. If that second putt is outside of “gimme” range each time, you not only consistently increased your chances of missing the putt, but you unnecessarily added stress and depleted your mental energy 13 additional times. By having control over the pace of his putts, Rory not only reduces his three-putts, he also conserves more mental energy each round than his competitors. At the top level, every bit counts.

With proper pace, your second putt will always be closer to the hole. The closer your ball is to the hole, the more likely you will be to make the next one. Simple. Fortunately, we have an incredible ability to react to changing distances and not much practice is required to get better.

There are many roads to improvement in both golf and your financial life, but some of those roads are shorter than others. Just like the path to immediate improvement in golf is to develop putting distance control, the fastest way to improve your mental and financial well-being is expense control.

I believe that no area of your financial life has a bigger impact on your general happiness than cash flow. When money is tight, it feels suffocating.

Tight cash flow can cause bickering among spouses and a cringe-worthy feeling every time you have to whip out your wallet to pay for something discretionary. If you find yourself worrying about money and nitpicking at your spouse for their frivolous spending, it’s time for a quick expense check-up.

First, list out all of your monthly recurring bills and add up the total. The larger the gap between your fixed monthly bills and your net monthly income, the more freedom you will feel.

Once you’ve made this list, you may have to ask yourself the question, “Am I willing to feel stressed out in order to keep the premium cable, gym membership or the luxury car?” You likely will notice a few monthly expenses that can either be trimmed or eliminated. Who knows, you may even want to move to a smaller house!

Your financial life is one of trade-offs. By listing out your fixed expenses, you’ll be encouraged to ask yourself whether certain bills are worth feeling frazzled over. Decreasing your fixed expenses will have the most immediate impact in your overall financial well-being. And by doing so, you’ll feel as if you just played a round of golf with no three-foot comeback putts.

So stop worrying about the extra cups of Starbucks coffee and take inventory of the “must-have” fixed expenses causing you to worry about the small stuff in the first place. While you’re at it, stop blaming your three-putts on the missed three-footers and take some time to improve the poor pace control leaving you outside tap-in range.

You may not want to part with some of your stuff as you seek to decrease your expenses, but remember, in the end a tap-in is much less stressful than a three-footer.

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The opinions expressed by featured authors are their own and may not accurately reflect those of the BAM ALLIANCE. This article is for general information only and is not intended to serve as specific financial, accounting or tax advice.

© 2014, The BAM ALLIANCE

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Kyle Moore is an Associate Financial Planner at Pitzl Financial. It is his goal to help clients wade through and make sense of the overwhelming amount of financial information available today. He is passionate about communicating Pitzl’s investment philosophy and searching for planning opportunities in the unique situation of each client.

Kyle has a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. While attending Northwestern, he was a member of the Varsity Golf team where he earned honors as an Academic All-American and Academic All-Big Ten selection.

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