Objective information about retirement, financial planning and investments


3 Financial Planning Lessons from the Cincinnati Bengals


Long-time readers of The Chicago Financial Planner know that I am a die-hard football fan and avid supporter of the Green Bay Packers. Come playoff time, I try catch all of the games as they are often memorable. The game this past Saturday between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals was memorable for the wrong reasons if you are a Bengals fan.

Rarely, if ever, in my 50 years of watching NFL games have I ever seen a team give away a game (especially a playoff game) in such a bonehead fashion as did the Bengals. Besides some just plain dumb moves, the level of dirty play and bad sportsmanship was disgusting.

What can we learn from the Bengals about financial planning? Here are 3 financial planning lessons from the Cincinnati Bengals.

Protect your downside 

The Bengals had gained the lead in the final quarter after being held scoreless for the first three quarters of the game. On what should have been a routine running play, (in the Steelers end no less) to try to run the clock out, the Bengals’ running back fumbled. In this situation ball security should have been his first priority, not gaining any yardage.

Unless you are very young, most investors are wise to diversify their portfolios in order to dampen the impact of market declines like the financial crisis or even the market volatility that we’ve seen since the start of the new year.

Keep your emotions in check 

Cincinnati linebacker Vontaz Burfict made a key interception that looked like it might seal an improbable comeback win for the Bengals. After the fumble mentioned above, he proceeded to make one of the absolute dumbest and dirtiest hits to the head of a Steelers receiver resulting in a key 15-yard penalty.

His teammate (and I’m sure fellow Mensa member) Adam Pacman Jones then garnered another 15-yard penalty for shoving a Pittsburgh assistant coach during an on-field altercation that set-up a chip-shot game winning field goal for the Steelers.

Burfict is known as a loose cannon and has been fined in the past and Jones is not a choir boy either. Both personal fouls can be attributed to a combination of bad judgment and a failure to keep their emotions in check in a key situation.

Investors need to stay calm during periods of upheaval in the economy and the financial markets. So far 2016 has started off with roughly a 5% loss in some the major market averages.

Back in 2008 and early 2009 the financial press was filled with stories of investors who panicked and sold out of their stock holdings, including mutual funds and ETFs, at or near the bottom of the market. Many of these investors stayed out missing all or most of the six plus year rally we’ve seen since the lows of March 9, 2009. Sadly, for those who were near retirement they booked substantial losses and never gave their portfolios a chance to recover.

Investors need to stay calm. One way to help in this area is to have a plan. Have an asset allocation that that reflects your situation including your time horizon for the money and your risk tolerance. Review your portfolio at regular intervals and rebalance as needed. A plan does not eliminate market volatility or the stress that it can bring, but it can help to prevent you from acting on your emotions, usually to your detriment. 

Build a team that you can depend on 

While both Burfict and Jones are talented players, both have a history of issues. Jones has been in trouble with the NFL for off-field activities and has been suspended by the league in the past. Burfict was suspended for this hit and has been fined for prior transgressions. He was undrafted, many say as a result of a reputation for being hard to deal with.

As a viewer of the game I would say these two players let their teammates and fans down at the most critical point in the most important game of the season. The Bengals have not won a playoff game since 1991 and their comeback to take the lead and put themselves into a position to win was heroic, only to be destroyed by the lack of self-control of these two.

In the course of accumulating money for goals such as retirement and college for your kids, many of you will seek advice along the way. In doing so it is important to build a team of advisors and partners that you can trust.

If a financial advisor is needed be sure to choose a fee-only advisor. This isn’t to say that one who derives some or all of their compensation from the sale of financial products isn’t competent, but someone who doesn’t have the conflict of interest inherent in the sale of financial products starts out as more objective.

Find an investment custodian who has reasonable fees and offers the types of investments and accounts that meet your needs. Free ETF platforms are nice, but who cares if the ETFs on the platform are not the ones that are right for you.

Other advisors might include a CPA or an attorney to handle estate planning matters.

In all cases don’t be afraid to ask questions. In the case of a financial advisor it is important to understand if they have worked with clients in similar situations as you and to understand what you will receive for the fees paid.

The Bottom Line 

As I’ve written here in the past, football and the world of financial planning and investing have some similarities. Learn from the Cincinnati Bengals and be sure to protect your financial downside, keep your emotions in check and build a team that you can trust. These steps will put you on track towards achieving your financial goals.

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  1. Great analogy. On a side note about the game specifically, for the first time ever, I questioned what am I watching and more so do I want my 5 year old son to grow up rooting and cheering for this type of game? I’m referring to the dirtiness and head hunting aspect of the game. Stuff that I enjoyed when I was much younger because I was naive about what these players were doing to their brains. Granted no one is forcing them to play and some are getting paid more in a year than what the average person makes in a lifetime, but for the first time I felt not bad, but conflicted on being a fan of this game. With that said I’m very much looking forward to this weekend and as a Bears fan I’ll be rooting very hard for another Arizona dismantling of the Pack.

    • Roger Wohlner says

      Mike thanks for the comment. I can understand the concerns with a five year old. The level of dirtiness was just disgusting on both sides but especially the Bengals. As for the Packers I hope that can keep up what they did against Washington. As bad as that game was the low point was losing to the Bears. Go Pack Go!

      • Roger, I was born in 81, so I was too young to remember the 85 Bears. Starting with Favre and now Rodgers I’ve ultimately experienced about 25 years of Packers dominance. My earliest Bears – Packers memories go back to Magic Makowski throwing the ball while past the line of scrimmage. Anyway, my Packer disdain essentially stems from jealousy of a team with 2 great QBs and 2 titles in my sports viewing lifetime compared to my team with a huge list of bum QBs and 0 titles.

        • Roger Wohlner says

          Actually he was behind the line, Ditka is full of it LOL. I vividly recall Super Bowl I (I was 9) when the Packers had Bart Starr and 9 other hall of famers and Lombardi was the coach, the Ice Bowl the following year and so on. The Rams were in LA, the Colts were in Baltimore and the Cardinals were in STL. Go Pack Go!

  2. Hi Roger, nice financial comparison to the meltdown of the Bengals last week. Bengals fans must still be suffering that game. Speaking of Super Bowl I, make sure that you catch “Super Bowl 1: The Lost Game” on the NFL Network tonight (Friday), at 7pm. Apparently there is no official vaulted video copy of this game so they have pieced together the game. As I heard it, Fans were revolting at the $12.50 ticket price and there were like 30,000 empty seats at the game. I have my DVR set to record.
    I’m hoping for a good game and a Packers win on Saturday night with a shot at hosting the NFC Championship game at Lambeau. Wouldn’t that be great!!
    Go Pack Go.

    • Roger Wohlner says

      Tim thanks for the comment. Thanks for the heads up, I have it set on the DVR. Looks like it is on twice tonight on NFL Network. Hopefully the Pack can give a far better account of themselves tomorrow. I think the winner of this game will win the Super Bowl. Packers-Seattle rematch at Lanbeau would be sweet indeed.

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