Five useful financial planning lessons you can learn from the Apollo 11 moon landings

On 20 July 1969, famed astronaut Neil Armstrong made history as the first person to set foot on the moon. The world watched with bated breath as he climbed from the lunar module and uttered those famous words: “One step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

As the anniversary of this momentous achievement approaches on 20 July, you might reflect on how much the world has changed as a result. Indeed, the research necessary for our efforts at space exploration gave birth to all kinds of modern technology including:

  • Camera phones
  • CAT scans
  • LED lights
  • Memory foam mattresses
  • Laptops.

Consequently, looking back at the moon landings and everything that went into the mission can give us a great insight into the world we know today. But have you ever considered how it might inform your financial plan too?

1. Ambitious goals can drive you to success

The space race was a contest between nations, driven by political and ideological tensions between the east and west, pushing the boundaries of what we believed was possible. In his famous speech at Rice University, John F. Kennedy remarked:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills”.

He knew that putting a man on the moon was incredibly ambitious, but that was the goal he chose. Fortunately, having this distant finish line to focus on motivated the researchers and engineers who would eventually build Apollo 11, making the USA the first country to put somebody on the moon.

Ambitious goal-setting could help you stay focused when creating a financial plan. For example, setting yourself the aim of saving a certain amount in your ISA in the next year might not inspire you that much.

Yet, if you consider the places you want to travel to, the kind of home you’d like to live in, or a new business you want to start, you may be far more motivated at sticking to your financial plan.

So, shoot for the moon and map out your biggest dreams in life. These should be at the heart of your financial plan.

2. Persistence is crucial

On 12 April 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to fly into space. He orbited the Earth once before returning to land, laying down the gauntlet and launching the space race in the process.

Yet, it would take another eight years before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and in that time, there were countless failures. Indeed, NASA ran seven unmanned missions that failed to launch before they even managed to get a spacecraft to fly past the moon.

It took many more disastrous attempts before the success of Apollo 11 but the team behind the moon landings kept going, even when their goals felt impossible to achieve.

This kind of persistence is crucial in financial planning. When you start contributing to a pension or savings account, it might not feel as though your wealth is growing very quickly. But if you keep going, you’ll eventually start to notice the benefits of compounding.

Equally, you might face hurdles such as market volatility on your journey. But just as NASA did when they saw yet another rocket explode on launch, it’s important to focus on your goals and keep moving forward with your plan.

If you’re persistent, your hard work will pay off and you’ll be able to achieve your long-term financial aims.

3. Sometimes you need to take a calculated risk

On 28 January 1986, the Challenger space shuttle exploded 73 seconds after taking off, killing seven crew members in the process. People around the globe witnessed the tragedy live and it remains one of the biggest space travel disasters in history.

The Challenger disaster highlights how dangerous shuttle launches can be and you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s too risky to send people into space. However, without adopting such an attitude to risk, NASA never would’ve made it to the moon.

Instead of shying away from space travel, researchers and engineers work diligently to find ways to mitigate the potential dangers. As a result, even though something could always go wrong, the BBC reports that the failure rate of shuttle launches is now around 4%.

Taking calculated risks is the key to NASA’s success, and you might benefit from the same approach to your wealth. Investing always carries some level of risk but provided you seek professional guidance and balance your portfolio, you may see positive returns in the long term.

However, if you shy away from investing altogether because you’re concerned about potential losses, you may find it much harder to get off the launch pad and grow your wealth.

4. The landing can be more dangerous than the take-off

Getting a space shuttle into orbit is a massive undertaking, but it’s only one half of the story as bringing astronauts back to Earth can be even more dangerous than taking off. The shuttle needs to be positioned correctly for re-entry, and the craft is exposed to extreme temperatures as it comes back into the atmosphere.

If something goes wrong, the results can be disastrous as we saw in 2003 when Columbia disintegrated on re-entry to the atmosphere. In fact, 11 people have died during landing, compared with seven deaths during shuttle launches.

The landing can be more difficult than the take-off in financial planning too as people often focus their efforts on building their retirement savings but don’t have a clear plan for decumulation. If you fall into this trap, you could face issues when you retire as you might spend your savings too quickly or pay more tax than you need to.

That’s why it’s important to consider how you will draw from your savings to fund your retirement, so you can land safely and achieve your dream lifestyle.

5. You need the right team behind you

Neil Armstrong is forever known as the first man on the moon, yet he wasn’t alone up there. Buzz Aldrin also walked on the surface, while pilot Michael Collins flew the command module in a lunar orbit.

The astronauts who piloted Apollo 11 were only one small part of a massive team working behind the scenes to make the mission a success. In fact, an estimated 400,000 people including scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and admin staff all had an important role to play.

Neil Armstrong might’ve been a successful astronaut, but he couldn’t pilot the craft by himself. Equally, he couldn’t calculate the correct launch trajectory or build the shuttle that got him into space in the first place all by himself. He needed an experienced team behind him.

The same is true of financial planning. While you might be knowledgeable and disciplined, there are certain areas where you could benefit from professional guidance. The experienced team here at Milsted Langdon can support you in achieving your long-term goals.

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Please note

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment not normally accessible until 55 (57 from April 2028). The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances. Thresholds, percentage rates, and tax legislation may change in subsequent Finance Acts. 

The value of your investments (and any income from them) can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Investments should be considered over the longer term and should fit in with your overall attitude to risk and financial circumstances.

Posted in Financial Planning, Financial Services, News.