Snow on the highway: silver in the lining

This past Sunday I drove from Kelowna to Powell River. For those of you who’ve never had to, particularly in winter, it means rising in the wee hours; managing a treacherous journey on the Coquihalla; avoiding white knuckled Vancouver drivers on snow covered highways and timing two different ferry schedules.

I calculated that if I left at 5:45 AM, we would have five hours to traverse the mountain passes, negotiate the erratic traffic between Hope and the Port Mann bridge, and then stick handle the uninitiated Vancouver winter drivers between Coquitlam and Horseshoe Bay, all leaving us with a 30 minute cushion at the Ferry terminal to get across and catch one of two connections on the other side. Simple, right?

The conditions this winter on the Coquihalla have been unpredictable, volatile and extreme. At some points I was easily cruising along at 90-100 km an hour with complete confidence, other times I was down to 30 km an hour and praying the B train next to me in the right hand lane didn't slip or narrow the gap as I tried to pass. As we got back into cell range, I had an idea: I asked my daughter to bring up Google maps, set the directions for Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal and start the GPS. It wasn't that I needed directions, what it gave me was a way to measure if we were on track or not.

I would know if my efforts were going to get us there on time, or if I should back off and work on plan B. Surprisingly, as we pulled into Hope for a quick stop, it had us within three minutes of our goal. As we drove and our pace kept fluctuating wildly, I would ask my daughter the ETA; it changed in both directions a little but never varied far from the goal.

The point I realized was that the short term fluctuations mattered very little; what mattered most was that I kept moving, that my average speed over time remained close to what it needed to be and that I relaxed. Whether traffic slowed to a crawl, a possessed driver suddenly just had to change lanes right in front of me, or I had to pull over for a minute mattered very little. We arrived at Horseshoe Bay with a few minutes to spare beyond our buffer and hadn't taken any big risks to do it - 90% of the drama was in my own head.

So why am I telling you this? Because managing your wealth is very similar. Firstly, you need to make sure your goals are realistic and achievable; I know you hear this all the time but it really is important. Second, you need to find a reliable way to check your progress as you go, a method that will warn you in advance if you're off track and give you comfort in knowing when you are on course. This goes a long way in getting rid of the worry and anxiety that many people experience with their financial affairs. Thirdly, many things can happen along the road, and if we judge our progress solely by the individual events that happen along the way, we’ll never be at peace until we arrive at our destination.

Finally, the understanding that as important as getting to the place I wanted to get to was, the journey was equally as important. Too often we lose sight of the good things that our journeys give us unexpectedly: an opportunity to spend several days with my 17 year old daughter on a road trip; the magic of technology that gave us the ability to video connect live with my wife along the way and assure her of our progress; the comfort of knowing that regardless where we were on the road, there were other people out there just like us having the same challenges and uncertainties. And yes, even ferry food has its good side.

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About the Author

Jeff Stathopulos, CIM, CFP, Portfolio Manager

Jeff is an advisor and partner with The Navigation Team at Scotia Wealth Management.

He lives in Kelowna with his wife Tanya, their two university bound daughters and their canine kids.

You can contact Jeff by email at [email protected]

Website:  www.yourlifeyourplan.ca

The Navigation Team

Scotia Wealth Management

This column is for information purposes only. It is recommended that individuals consult with their financial advisor before acting on any information contained in this article. The opinions stated are those of the author and not necessarily those of Scotia Capital Inc. or The Bank of Nova Scotia. ScotiaMcLeod is a division of Scotia Capital Inc., Member Canadian Investor Protection Fund.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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