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Investing is more like running a marathon than a sprint

Kira Loera is an 18-year Air Force officer transitioning to retirement. She equates investing with running a marathon. Both are challenging. But they’re both well worth the payoff at the end.

When Loera was growing up, her father would make major financial decisions without consulting her mother. The significant impact his choices had on the family’s finances led to her parents’ divorce. And her mother had to work two jobs to support her and her brother.

This is why Loera decided that she will never, “rely on anyone else to put food on the table or a roof over [her] head.”

The divorce forced Loera to grow up fast. She had to help raise her younger brother because her mother often logged more than 60 hours a week at work. As a teenager, she rarely saw her. And this was one of the main reasons for Loera’s determination to seek financial independence.

“I never wanted my family to not see me because I was at work.”

These experiences were also the catalyst that set her on the exact opposite financial trajectory of her father.

Now, Loera acknowledges that specific military retirement programs are in place mostly as a formality. “They are more to check a box than actually help service members prepare for transition,” she says.

Her advice is that “it’s up to you to prepare yourself for life after the military.” And she believes that finances should be talked about openly and often. In fact, “as much as possible,” she says.

The major tools that Loera has taken advantage of to establish financial security at transition are the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). And to boost her savings rate and decrease the gap between her income and expenses, she has saved and invested consistently.

To Loera saving and investing mean more than money. For her they mean having the ability to devote her time to the things that she values, cares for, and is passionate about. That’s her real motivator.

She says that in her perfect retirement she would travel around the world and care for animals. And that is why she has been laser focused on saving. It is also why she supports the Aloha Animal Sanctuary on O'ahu. The nonprofit cares for neglected and abused farm animals, a mission that aligns perfectly with Loera’s values.

She describes her approach to life in the words of great philosophers regarding the interconnection between habits, values, and destiny. The early habit of saving and investing for retirement set her up for financial freedom. And that created the opportunity for her to be with the people and animals she loves.

Loera advises that the best time to start investing is yesterday. The second best is today. That’s because time in the market far outweighs timing the market. It’s a very long game, similar to a marathon. You’re not going to get rich overnight. But diligent saving and investment over many, many years will absolutely set you up for success.

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