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Retirement Planning; Sprint, Spartan Race or a Marathon?



A few weeks ago, I read a great article from Joe @ Retire at 40 talking about whether retirement planning is a sprint or a marathon. I’ve been giving it some thought lately about how we should approach retirement planning and I really liked the running analogy. There are several ways to retire just as there are several ways to train for a run.  Let’s revisit how you can retire depending on your “workout”:


Sprint – Is this an Option?



In my opinion, you can’t really sprint your way to retirement. Unless you have the ability to make a lot of money in a very short period of time, the sprinting method will not happen. In order to build a solid nest egg, no matter how good you are at saving, you will need at least ten years to build it.


Unfortunately, we see too many people waiting until they hit their late forty’s before thinking about retirement planning. This is when you wish you make a lot of money and that you have finished paying off most of your debts. If you are not in this situation, the sprint to retirement will be harder than you think.


For example, someone at 45 saving $10,000 per year at 5% will gather only $330K before he retires à 65. At the same rate of investment, the 330K can generate $26.5K per year as a pension and the payment will stop at the age of 85. This calculation doesn’t take in consideration inflation so you can guess that 26.5K in 40 years in not much to live comfortably! If we increase this amount to $20,000 per year, the retirement nest egg grows up to $661K and will generate $53K per year for 20 years. So if you are thinking that sprinting is a good option; you’ll have to save $1,666 per month if you start at the age of 45!


Spartan Race – For Those Who Eye Early Retirement


If you ever have the chance to do a Spartan Race, Prison Break or a Tough Mudder race, DO IT! I did one myself this summer and I truly enjoyed this mix of hiking, running and military training. It truly demands all your body’s abilities.


You can take the Spartan Race way to plan your retirement. It will be harder than a regular race. Instead of focusing solely on saving money, you will need to work on all your personal finance abilities. This may include saving more, creating a business, paying off your debts very quickly, etc.


My plan to retire looks like a Spartan Race: I work more hours than a normal job since I work at both my job and online business. By doing both at the same time, I make sure that I have my “normal” retirement plan on line while I try to reach early retirement.


My normal retirement plan includes investing $5,000 per year in my savings account + my pension plan. This plan ensures that I’ll be making roughly $100K per year starting at 65 and ending at 90. This should be enough to cover for both my wife and I.


Now that I’ve secured this option, I can start my Spartan Race and look for early retirement. For example, if my online business generates over $20,000/month in ten years, I might be able to stop working in my early 40’s.


As is the case with real Spartan Race, I’ve faced a few obstacles with my retirement plan. Having three kids has slowed me down since I have more expenses and less time to work on my company. I don’t regret my choices at all, and I just came to the conclusion that the Race was harder than I thought in the first place and that retiring early is quite challenging. I also failed to resist spending more in previous years. This had a big impact on my early retirement plan.


At least, my “marathon” plan is on pace and I know that in the worst case scenario, I will retire at 65 with a solid pension.



The Marathon – The Right Way to Approach Retirement Planning


I’ve never run a marathon… yet. The biggest race I’ve done was 16.5km and that was this summer. In order to reach that level, I started by running 5km 3-4 times a week this spring and ran 10km once a week. I started slow and increased as I think my body can support it. I expect to be able to do my first half-marathon next year. In fact, I could probably take the step this year but I’m not sure I’ll have enough time ;-).


Retirement planning way ahead is like training for a marathon; there is nothing exciting about it! When you make a habit of saving money on each pay check, you ensure a safe retirement. At the same time, you don’t have to starve for years or stay on your couch for your vacation. Actually, if you save $1,000 per month toward retirement for 35 years, you will be a millionaire (this makes $1,083K at a 5% investment return). Since you don’t need that much money to retire, you can drop your monthly retirement plan to $600 per month and still gather $650K in 35 years.


No matter how you run your race, the end is always a finish line. The only thing that is different is how you feel once you have crossed the line! Are you going to be proud, exhausted or feel ashamed because you haven’t trained enough for your race?

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11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "Retirement Planning; Sprint, Spartan Race or a Marathon?"

#1 Comment By Jakub On October 7, 2013 @ 8:41 am

I like the marathon plan but right now tend to do the spartan one. But I guess this will change once my online business income exceeds my living expenses with enough room for a bit of savings.

#2 Comment By Lance at Money Life and More On October 7, 2013 @ 10:59 am

I am so glad I started saving for retirement in my 20s with a significant portion of my income. It will open up many options for me down the road and I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything because I never got used to the income!

#3 Comment By SavvyFinancialLatina On October 7, 2013 @ 11:09 am

We’re on the spartan race. We want to reach for early retirement, so we can do whatever want and not have to worry about money. We figure even if we decide to choose paths at 40 where we’re still making money, our savings will be a great cushion.

#4 Comment By The Financial Blogger On October 7, 2013 @ 7:28 pm


I believe the best plan is to start with a marathon plan and then focus on the Spartan Race like you do. Great job working on an online business 🙂

Wow! congrats! I wasn’t able to save money in my 20’s (mind you I had 3 kids in my 20’s! hahaha!)

great attitude! what are you working on to “be a Spartan”?

#5 Comment By Financial Samurai On October 8, 2013 @ 11:38 am

I guess you and I have a different definition of SPRINT!

My definition is to run as fast as you can, save as much as you can, and call it quits, not work past 65.

BTW, why not just work more than 10 hours online? This is something you mentioned you were proud of doing for a while now. How about just step it up to 20 hours online and watch your income grow maybe not 100%, but at least 20%?

I worked 20+ hours online while working 50+ hours offline for three years before quitting. I think it was worth it. Trust me actually, freedom is freaking awesome.

#6 Comment By The Financial Blogger On October 8, 2013 @ 4:16 pm

Hey Sam,

this is the problem with a sprint; most people can’t hold it for very long! You can’t sprint for 5 miles so you can’t sprint your way to retirement forever.

The reason is quite simple; I have several other interests in life than making money. I love making money but not at the expense of not spending time with my kids and wife. Working 70hrs + per week doesn’t fit with a family.

It’s not an excuse, I fully assume my choice. I just know that I’m better off with a mortgage and kids that know who their daddy is!

You’ll definitely understand once you have kids, they worth a lot more than millions!

#7 Comment By Sam On October 9, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

Mike, I think you’re right. I don’t care so much bout money anymore which is why I left my job.

So I encourage you to not bother with early retirement and be happy working until the traditional retirement age to spend more time with the family. All those recent articles about financial independence and this one about retirement is counterproductive

Just be happy with the traditional path and some side income!


#8 Comment By The Financial Blogger On October 9, 2013 @ 7:19 pm


I’m sure you ever cared about money, this is why you worked 70 hrs + per week and you’ve focused on saving as much money as possible for 10 years.

If this is the life you wanted, I’m glad for you. I assume my choice of having a family first and then trying to retire earlier instead of waiting to be a millionaire to have a family. That’s a choice. I don’t think there is a right answer.

Do you know that there is a middle point between working until the age of 65 and stop working mid 30’s?

I don’t get the point of being counterproductive; I already have a fully fund pension plan where I can retire at 65 and making 100K/year. I don’t even have to plan for this. I’m now working on a plan where I can retire early than 65, that’s all.

#9 Comment By Financial Samurai On October 10, 2013 @ 10:35 am

Sounds good. I’m just saying if you can’t retire earlier than 65, then no big deal. I’m giving you candid feedback from a long time reader. I’ve sensed you continuously agonize about taking the leap of faith in previous posts, but never doing so. Perhaps part of it is b/c so many others have over the past several years.

I’d just focus on ways to make more money like your other posts, and if it happens that you can leave, great. If not, no big deal as you mentioned you want to spend time with family.

#10 Comment By Dan Mac On October 11, 2013 @ 9:38 am

I’m pretty much following the marathon plan with sprints thrown in every once in awhile. I have my steady monthly savings into my company 401k which along with my pension plan should leave me with a fairly nice retirement income once I hit 65. For a little cushion, I periodically throw some money into other investments (a taxable brokerage account and a an Individual Retirement Account (IRA)) which will give me a cushion with the possibility of retiring earlier if I want or need to.

#11 Comment By The Financial Blogger On October 11, 2013 @ 9:40 am

This sounds like another type of retirement plan. Between the marathon and the Spartan Race…. maybe a trail run? hahaha!

great plan Dan!