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Saving for retirement is a marathon, not a sprint

“Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit."

- George Sheehan, author and runner

Some individuals will begin a running program with the hopes of getting in shape and dropping a few pounds. Enthusiastic individuals may even set their sights on completing a 5K, a 10K, or maybe even a full 26.2-mile marathon.

Like training for a race, saving for retirement should be pursued as a long-term endeavor. Here are some tips that can apply to both runners and retirement investors like you. 

Check your progress at intervals — Following your investments continuously can be a recipe for failure. Instead, gauge your progress over extended intervals, such as years and decades.

Train like a pro — Even if you’ve never run a mile in your life, you can still follow the basic training regimen of an elite runner … with fewer miles, of course. Likewise, an individual saving for retirement can adhere to the techniques of an investment professional: Do your homework before making an investment, stay focused on your goals, understand your risk tolerance and stick with your plan. 

Find the courage to stick with it — There are challenges involved with any worthwhile endeavor, and it’s vital to find the strength to power through the difficult times. “Eventually pain passes and flow returns,” said Frank Shorter, gold medalist in the 1972 Olympics marathon. In investing, those with the stamina to stay the course during downturns are often rewarded over the long term.

You’re not racing against the pack — It’s not likely that a rookie runner will win the first race entered. Runners are essentially competing against themselves, striving not to give up and to improve upon their previous best finish. “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift,” said legendary long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine. Investors shouldn’t try to keep up with their neighbors, but rather remain focused on their own needs and objectives.    

Reach out for guidance — New runners turn to the experts for advice by consulting books, magazines, websites and blogs. Some go a step further and hire a personal trainer. If you’re looking for one-on-one guidance, talk to your financial advisor or your plan’s financial professional. Investors can access the free tools, calculators and articles on americanfundsretirement.com

Check out this calculator to find out how much money you might need in retirement, and whether your current savings level could get you to your goal.


Investors should carefully consider investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. This and other important information is contained in the fund prospectuses and summary prospectuses, which can be obtained from a financial professional and should be read carefully before investing.