Second and goal on the one yard line. Just over a minute to play. Three chances to score with the best running back in the game eagerly awaiting the ball.

On the other side of the line, the Patriots are assessing the situation quite differently. One minute to go, somehow hold the line and the game is theirs. Both teams have prepared for and rehearsed these exact scenarios ad nauseam.

It’s show-time ladies and gentlemen – whether you’re playing for the Super Bowl or the neighbourhood championship on a back-yard rink, this is the moment all athletes dream about.

The call comes in from the sideline.

Down, set…hut! Russell Wilson, the consummate Seattle quarterback, moves crisply into position, looks left, then right and picks his receiver. Everything seems to move in slow motion as he releases the ball. The play, although high-risk, looks promising until Malcolm Butler of the Patriots jumps over toward the slanting Seattle receiver. A successful challenge and interception by Butler puts the ball in New England hands and the rest, as they say, is history.

Most pundits question the wisdom of the call, which no doubt will haunt Pete Carroll for the rest of his life. Was it the wrong call, poor execution or was Seattle just scooped by a rookie defensive back who happened to make the play of his life? Whatever your opinion, the result is the same-the New England Patriots are Super Bowl Champions!

Back to the game. Who could forget the circus-like catch made by Seattle’s Jermaine Kearse a couple of plays earlier to set up the last-minute drama. We wouldn’t even be talking about potential plays late in the game had ‘the catch’ not occurred.

Pondering the last few minutes of the game got me thinking about the similarities between sports and life. Both tend to ebb and flow and in this particular game nothing really happened until the fourth quarter, when both teams started putting points on the board. After that, they scored back and forth until one team eventually ran out of time.

These last minute heroics remind me of how some people approach retirement planning. Although we all want our golden years to be comfortable and secure, many of us don’t get serious about planning for it until we’re late in the ‘fourth quarter’ of our working careers.

This leaves us in a position where we have to make circus-like ‘financial catches’ late in the game to make it all happen.

It doesn’t need to be this way. The best way to approach retirement planning is to start as early as you can. Know what your goals are and set up annual targets and check-points along the way to make sure you’re on track. In the end, it’s all about execution so for best results focus on the action part of the process.

Looking to fast-track your retirement? Here are 3 ‘no-brainers’ you can use right now:

maximize your annual TFSA contribution (set up a monthly investment program)
maximize your annual RRSP contribution (do it monthly)
uncover tax saving opportunities for next year when filing your 2014 return

Start today and you’ll be slipping into flip flops and shorts before you know it… don’t forget your sunscreen!

DRH

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