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Escape Rooms Are Like Financial Planning

Planning

Over the last year, the Wilsons have added a new family hobby – escape rooms.

If you are not aware of this phenomenon, escape rooms are appearing all over the place.  I cannot find an official count of escape rooms (like there is no official count of ice cream shops), but it appears that there are around 2,000 escape room companies in the United States alone.  One website shows over 220 companies just in California.  Since most companies run more than one room, I’m guessing there could are over 500 different challenges available in California.

What is an escape room?  In a nutshell, these are real-life team-based games where you are locked in a room and your team has to solve puzzles to get out within a specified time period (usually 60 minutes).  My family has tried about a dozen themed rooms and we saved the world from biohazards, freed movie starlets from kidnappers, helped a scientist use his time machine to get back to the present, and saved ourselves before the Titanic sank.  These rooms are one of my favorite things that we do as a family. 

I’m writing about escape rooms because I realized there are a bunch of parallels between them and what I do as a financial advisor.  This is probably the reason I’m so hooked.

So how are escape rooms and financial planning alike?

  • Both need solid teammates.  With each room we complete, I’m amazed how each member of our family displays a unique skill or insight that helped solve a puzzle.  I’m certain we would have failed several rooms if one of us was not in the room to help.  When planning, it’s vitally important to have the right financial advisor, insurance team, estate attorney, tax advisor, etc. working together in harmony on your behalf.
  • Both have unique setups and situations to work through.  Every escape room has its own story, puzzles and solutions.  Every planning client has their own starting point, goals, concerns and path towards success.
  • Both require you minimize distractions.  Each escape room has a variety of props, and many of them are not used to solve any puzzles.  Separating what’s important from what is a distraction is so important for success.  In the planning and investing world, there are all kinds of “shiny objects” (a hot stock tip, an aggressive tax strategy, a CNBC guru predicting the future) that often distract us from solid recommendations.  Taking a long-term, high-level view leads to the best chances of success.
  • Both have unexpected twists that may require a change in plans.  It’s pretty universal that escape room designers work to surprise players, and this requires adjustments on the fly.  Over the years, I’ve realized that even the best of financial plans are quickly made obsolete as “life happens.”  This is why I don’t just build plans, I do planning.
  • Both reward experience.  Although each escape room is different, having solved tens of previous puzzles helps us with each new challenge.  In planning, there is no replacement for the experience of having worked with a variety of clients in a variety of situations.

Our goal is to complete 12 to 15 more escape rooms this year.  Wish us luck!