"Finish the Drill"

Jeff Bernier |

 By Jeff Bernier

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

Zen Proverb

When Mark Richt was head coach of the University of Georgia football team (Go Dawgs!), he coined the phrase “Finish the Drill” which became the unofficial battle cry of the team during his tenure. They made t-shirts and talked about it incessantly until it eventually became ingrained as part of the team culture. The motto applies in all areas of life, not just sports. You practice and do “drills” so that when the game starts you are prepared. “Finish the drill” essentially means you don’t quit when things get tough—you persevere through adversity and finish strong. Kirby Smart, the current Bulldogs head coach, has introduced his own team motto: “keep chopping wood.” Smart explains it as you “play the next play. Play every play in the game like it has a history and life of its own…don’t dwell on the past and don’t look ahead.”1

Okay, enough with the Bulldog references! (Did I mention I am a dawg?)

I introduce these phrases for what they might teach us as we enter the final month of a difficult year. After a year like this, it can be hard not to dwell on what we hoped the year would bring that did not occur. However, many are using the life lessons learned and resetting priorities to attempt to finish the year strong.

In my role as Wealth Advisor, I find doing deep client work gives me great satisfaction and purpose in feeling that I am being useful and adding value for our clients. The last two months of the year are a time when TandemGrowth utilizes deep work to review every client’s financial plan. We ensure clients are taking advantage of year end opportunities and that they are well prepared financially heading into the new year.  (To learn more about the benefits of deep work, listen to our Money & Meaning Show podcast episode Take the opportunity to carve out time for Deep Work.)

Some examples of what we cover in our year-end review process:

1. We review year-end tax planning.

Are there opportunities for year-end tax aware trading?
Are there opportunities for Roth IRA conversions at favorable tax rates?
Should we introduce year end charitable giving strategies to “bunch deductions”? (Listen to our Money & Meaning podcast episode on tax-advantaged gifting strategies.)
Should we accelerate income to fill up favorable tax brackets?
Are there securities we should sell ahead of year end taxable distributions, etc.?
 

2. We ensure that required distributions are satisfied if applicable.

Due to the CARES Act, this is not as big an issue for 2020 but new opportunities were created. (Listen to our Money & Meaning podcast episode on the impact of the SECURE Act on your retirement savings.)
 
3. We review and determine if a strategy is in place to provide for adequate liquidity in the new year for anticipated distributions. 
 

4. We review all notes again from prior client meetings and reach out if there are outstanding tasks that need addressing in areas such as risk management, estate planning, etc.

This is how we at TandemGrowth believe we “finish the drill” – we finish each year strong, adding value through deep work for our clients.

In your own planning, whether you engage a professional wealth management advisor or not, we encourage you to go through a similar year-end checklist. You can find some useful tips for developing one by listening to our Money & Meaning Show podcast episode End-of-Year Planning: What's on your checklist? If we can be of assistance as you go through your checklist, please do not hesitate to reach out.

We “chop wood” now in our work so that our clients can feel confident going into the new year and we can take time away to enjoy the holiday season with family. As grandson number two arrived in late November, my personal days will NOT include reviewing year-end checklists! I hope to finish the year strong at home with family.

The TandemGrowth team wishes you a wonderful holiday season and a new year filled with rich blessings.

 

 

1 https://www.onlineathens.com/sports/dogbytes/2017-11-07/what-those-who-know-about-chopping-wood-think-georgia-s-keep-chopping 
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