• 5 Things the NCAA Tournament and Financial Planning Have in Common

    by Jason Gunkel CFP® CFA CAP® Chief Investment Officer | March 14, 2021

    The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament rolls around each year, the culmination of an entire season of intensity, drama, and the passion to win. If you’re a sports lover like me, you look forward to this time of year and the exhilaration of tournament play.

    The global pandemic cheated us out of the 2020 NCAA tourney. The cancellation of the tournament, however, was just scratching the surface of what turned out to be a year of disappointments, suffering, and life-altering circumstances.

    Over the course of the year, sports fans were starved to have everything back to normal. Even though this college basketball season hasn’t been quite the same, it is encouraging that the regular season existed and that beginning on March 18, 67 tournament games will be played resulting in crowning a national champion.

    So…what do the NCAA Men’s basketball tourney and financial planning have in common? Consider these five ways.


    We can all agree the NCAA tourney can be completely unpredictable with last-second buzzer beaters from half court, season-ending injuries, and bracket-busting upsets. How about in 2016 when #15 seed Middle Tennessee State University upset #2 seed Michigan State (picked to win it all). 21% of the Capital One March Madness Bracket Challenge entrants were eliminated from the tournament in the opening round and MTSU became the first-ever team in the opening round to upset a team ranked No. 1 during the regular season!

    Or 2014, when in the first full day of the tournament, four overtimes were played when just the year before, one overtime was played in the entire tournament. Even player hairstyles are unpredictable!

    As with basketball, unpredictability and volatility are the norm for financial planning. The last year has proven that market volatility can happen at the most inopportune time. Market corrections happen. International economies falter. Political shifts take place. And pandemics like the coronavirus appear. In other words, market unpredictability is expected. Be assured that your financial planning team at Syverson Strege carefully monitors all aspects of a changing market, watching carefully over your portfolio.


    The greatest stories of the tournament sometimes are not even about basketball, the best dunk, a well-executed play, or the biggest upset. They are about players, family members, coaches, and fans…heartfelt stories that move our hearts and inspire us to think beyond the game. I’m thinking of Sister Jean from Loyola University Chicago who, at age 98, came to every tournament game, cheered, prayed, hugged, and spurred on the players to a sweet sixteen spot in 2018. And I always think about the vast majority of seniors who, if their team does not move on to the next round, are playing the very last game of their competitive career. The drama, the emotion, the tears, and the joy are all part of March Madness.

    So, too, with our financial futures…it can get emotional. Syverson Strege does our best to bridge the gap between the technical and the emotional aspects of your financial plan and wealth management. Deep down, financial planning is all about your needs, your family, your goals, and your priorities. It is impractical for any financial planner to leave out the emotional aspects of a financial plan.


    Undoubtedly the best teams in the NCAA tourney are those who have a detailed strategy based upon their players’ strengths. Ongoing strategies can include a well-honed zone defense, strategic use of bench players, layup drills, the use of a pull-up jump shot, and endless hours of free throw practice. And when adjustments need to be made during the game, other strategies like a full-court press, intentional substitutions, and detailed last-minute plays are keys to winning the game. The culmination of season strategies can lead to “one shining moment” and victory in the end.

    Financial planning is no different. Intentional well-thought-out strategies like cash flow and tax planning, retirement planning, risk management, investment planning, estate planning, and philanthropic planning can lead to a secure retirement, charitable gifts that last beyond a lifetime, and provision for future generations. All of the financial planners at Syverson Strege are CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioners (CFP®) who have the knowledge to implement these strategies.

    Hard Work/Dedication

    Every team’s players who make the NCAA tournament have put in countless hours of practice, excruciating preparation, and plenty of blood, sweat, and tears. They know their hard work and dedication pays off in the long run. And they know that every extra hour they practice will help them defeat their next opponent. Any new freshman who thinks that their top high school ranking trumps hard work soon realizes their status easily erodes. It’s the players who work hard and pay their dues who enjoy the triumph later on.

    With financial planning, hard work and dedication is crucial to the implementation of a solid financial plan. Staying abreast of the latest trends, the market behavior, tax regulations, and laws help produce successful plans. And hard work and dedication on the part of the client is equally important to the ultimate success of a financial plan. At Syverson Strege, one of our core values is diligence, which means we work hard, but with reliability and responsibility.

    Stay the Course

    The teams who do well, who finish strong, and who advance in the tournament, are those teams who have stayed the course. They have persevered through player injuries/sicknesses, personal struggles, academic challenges, coaching changes, and all else that basketball throws at them. They stick with their game plan, making minor adjustments along the way, but not veering from the ultimate goal to attain a national championship victory.

    We, too, at Syverson Strege stay the course with our clients and their financial plans. We assist our clients both in their financial and personal lives. We persevere through the highs and lows and never give up when it comes to helping our clients reach their goals. We’re experienced planners who help our clients achieve peace of mind, clarity, and understanding.


    Only one team in the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament can claim the ultimate victory of being the national champion. Although all 68 teams can claim individual and team mini-victories no matter how they performed, the drama and excitement conclude with one showdown on that final Monday in April. Only the best two teams of the tournament face off to claim the final victory! Enjoy the tournament!

    Jason Gunkel CFP® CFA CAP® Chief Investment Officer
    Jason Gunkel, CFP®, CFA, CAP® has been with Syverson Strege since 2004 when he started as a college intern and worked his way into his current roles as Chief Investment Officer and Financial Planner. He spent a short time at Principal Global Investors before realizing that his passion is working directly with individuals and families to help them achieve their goals. He leads the Investment Committee where he helps design and monitor the firm’s investment strategies. Jason received a bachelor's degree in finance and accounting from Drake University and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner and has earned the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) designation. Jason has a special interest in charitable giving strategies and has completed the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP®) program.

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