Working Wealthy – Lessons from Backpacking

I recently had the good fortune to go backpacking in the Wasatch National Forest for the first time in my life. While I have been “car camping” and hiking for years, I have never put every necessity into a backpack and headed out into the wilderness to camp.

Being a financial planner, naturally I related every element of the experience to how I think about managing finances and the Working Wealthy. Clearly, I’m not the most exciting backpacking companion.

The backpacking mentality is very closely aligned with that of the Working Wealthy, and I want to share a couple truths I learned from my first trip.

Never Overextend Yourself – When we strapped on our packs and took to the trail, it had been raining for the previous 24 hours. In the mountains, weather systems change quickly. We knew the forecast for that evening meant lower temperatures and possibly snow.

As we headed down the trail and the day grew shorter, we were tempted to push on a couple extra miles to camp next to a beautiful lake at the base of three peaks. Instead, we opted to set-up camp while it was still light out, make a fire to stay warm and get settled for the night.

Sure enough, temps dropped quickly and it snowed around midnight. Had we pushed on, we would have pitched our camp in the dark, never made a fire and would have struggled through a chilly night.

So how does this relate to the Working Wealthy. It’s simple—hoping you’ll make it versus knowing you’ll make it are two different things. Hoping you’ve saved enough versus knowing you’ve saved enough is directly tied to this idea.

Often at BDF, we help clients determine their number or their breakpoint for knowing when enough is enough for retirement, selling a business or finishing a career. Pushing beyond that point or hoping you can do better by increasing your risk is not the same thing.

You Don’t Need It Now, But You May Need It Later – On our second day, we headed up the trail to the lake among the peaks. Leaving our heavy packs behind, we took daypacks with us so we’d have water, a snack and an extra layer.

In my daypack, I had also included a tiny first aid kit. My wife, being raised in the mountains, knew better than her flat-lander husband and asked me to tote it along.

Sure enough, on our hike up to the lake, the first aid kit came in very handy and offered relief to a few scrapes and cuts we endured during the assent. While I originally thought the kit was a needless accessory, it turned out to be just the opposite.

This principle relates to countless concerns of the Working Wealthy. To name a few, think insurance, saving goals and your personal emergency fund.

No one ever plans to have their furnace fail and need a new roof in the same month. That’s why we always have our clients set aside an emergency fund that accounts for unexpected disasters.

Saving today so you can spend tomorrow might seem unnecessary and limiting today, but when you finally turn the page on retirement and know you’ll have enough for the years to come—it’s a great comfort to have saved those many years.

And finally, no one ever plans for a car accident or a major injury that prevents one from performing their profession. So, while paying for property and casualty and covering your disability insurance may seem a nuisance, we’d argue that the Working Wealthy are doing just what they should be doing.

They’re planning for the future by managing their risk and being ready for the unexpected. Kind of like backpacking.


Nick Cosky, CFP® is a Wealth Manager and Owner at BDF and is responsible for educating and introducing prospective clients that are considering hiring BDF for their wealth management needs. In previous roles, Nick has served as the head of BDF’s Financial Planning Committee and has participated on the Business Owner Team and Women’s Service Team. Nick is passionate about the planning that BDF does for its clients and enjoys every aspect of the client-advisor relationship. Nick graduated from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and English. He is a CFP® professional and is a member of the Auxiliary Board at the Art Institute of Chicago.