Money Lessons Learned Watching the Olympics

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The Olympic flame is almost ready to be lit in Sochi, Russia. That means I’ll spend the following 16 days in an Olympic stupor, soaking up every moment of curling, luge and bobsled competitions and biathlons.

But the lump in my throat when an American mounts the winner’s podium isn’t the only product of time spent watching athletes from the U.S. and the world compete for the chance to score gold. Over the years, I’ve realized there are some financial lessons to be won, too.

Practice
Olympians don’t just wake up one day decide they’re going to the Games. They dedicate most of their life – sacrificing their social and personal lives – to training and practicing.

The financial lesson: You’ve got to put in the time to reap the monetary rewards. And hours spent on boring or tedious tasks like reviewing credit card statements to track spending habits, balancing checkbooks or even clipping coupons (one of my favorite pastimes) will help you train to have a balanced budget and high credit score.

Perseverance
Despite all the years of planning and preparing, athletes have learned the hard way that sometimes they’re not in control. But to achieve their goals, elite Olympians have to persevere through it in order to achieve their goals. Take Lindsay Vonn’s arrival at the 2010 games, where the skier won Gold and Bronze medals despite skiing with multiple injuries.

Or the emotional story of Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette, whose mother died unexpectedly two days before her big event in the 2010 winter games. Joannie was able to work through this emotional time and still end up winning a bronze medal with an outstanding performance.

The financial lesson: Sometimes bad things happen that are not in your control. Whether your roof leaks, you have to replace your furnace or your family dog requires unexpected surgery, a financial emergency or unforeseen event is always a possibility. While these events are out of your control, facing them head on with the help of a financial emergency toolkit is. And by persevering through the adversity instead of burying your head in the sand will help you deal with the financial crisis without affecting your long-term goals.

Pace
During their event, it seems that an Olympic athlete pours every ounce of energy and heart into the competition. But in the days, weeks and years leading up to the event, athletes are coached to pace themselves in order to avoid burnout or injury. They’re taught that trying to do too much, too fast is an almost sure path to failure.

The financial lesson: Setting financial goals and a financial plan is exciting at first. But remember, maintaining a good credit score and staying out of debt is a marathon, not a sprint. Even though you may be eager to work hard to achieve your financial goals, keep things simple. Don’t overload yourself by trying to overhaul your finances all at once. Set up specific short-term goals like saving $10 a week or reviewing your finances once a month to achieve long-term success.

Focus
Decorated athletes like retired speed skater, Apolo Anton Ohno and Michael Phelps know the competitor that takes his eye off the prize – or finish line – is probably going to go home without the gold. And like so many others, these competitors demonstrate tremendous discipline and focus throughout the Games in pursuit of their golden goals.

The financial lesson: The same level of focus is important to sidestep a mountain of debt, boost your credit score or save the downpayment for a new house. And whether you rely on apps that help you track purchases and account balances or put a photo of your dream house on your refrigerator, don’t lose focus or else you might not reach your financial goals.

What money lessons do you think you’ll win from watching the Games?

Photo credit: Getty Images and Getty ThinkStock

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