marc2German is notorious (or famous) for its compound words. In English you would say goalkeeper glove cleaner. But Germans stick words together to make longer ones and call it torwarthandschuhreiniger. Much to the despair of Mark Twain:

I can understand German as well as the maniac that invented it, but I talk it best through an interpreter – A Tramp Abroad

Such compound words are long alphabetical processions, far from pronunciation friendly for foreigners. But before we engage in online mockery of the German language, note that it has also given us marvelous words like Fingerspitzengefühl (tactfulness; an intuitive flair or instinct) and Schadenfreude (joy in other people’s misfortune), to name a few.

I know a bit of German. And I can pronounce the words I know in a fairly authentic way (that’s what I think at least). But when I stumbled across torwarthandschuhreiniger and tried to pronounce it, I struggled. Like track athletes fill their lungs with fresh air and have a last look at the finish line before assuming the crouching position, so did I make sure I took a deep breath and had a last stealthy look at the destination – the last syllable – before pushing out of the starting blocks.  I tried to keep the pace, focus on the goal and use the right intonations. But I stumbled. Again and again. That last syllable seemed so close yet it was so far.

It took me a bit of time, but with a plan (get help from Google) and some good old perseverance to reach my goal I was able to master it. And now, when I feel inclined to say the word torwarthandschuhreiniger (which is often these days, just to demonstrate my superior German language skills), I feel confident I have all the necessary skills to make it to the end – that last syllable.

What can we learn from this little anecdote? Other than German being a challenging language? And Mark Twain apparently disliking it?

It’s to know your goal and have a plan. To be focused, resist temptations to quit or change your course. To keep going until you reach the finish line (okay I am stretching it a bit, but I hope you get my point).

Investment goals

What is it you are investing for? What are your goals? Where is your finish line? What is your investment horizon?

It is so easy to lose sight of your goals and stumble somewhere in the middle. The stocks you hold may suddenly drop, causing you to lose your cool and sell. Or maybe someone gives you free advice: Stocks you can’t afford not to have in your portfolio. So you buy.

You may lack the skills to know how to reach your goal. You know where you want to go, but getting there is like crossing an ocean in a tiny sailing boat that you don’t really know how to sail. There will be storms. How will you reach the other side safely?


Many people seeking financial independence are in the same (little) boat. We all know where we want to go. The promised land on the other side. But how do we steer clear of all the bad weather out there?

Goal, objective, strategy and tactics

It really helps to have a clear idea of your plan, broken down into its main components: Goal, objective, strategy and tactics.

A goal is the broader outcome. It’s the what you want to achieve and not how you want to achieve it. The objective is measurable and specific. You quantify your target so you can build strategy and tactics around it. Your strategy is your approach to reaching the objective. Again, this is the how and not the what. Finally, your tactics are the precise actions you implement to achieve the objectives (and ultimately your goal).

For example, my high-level plan looks like this:

  • Goal – Retire when I reach 60
  • Objective – Save $1 million
  • Strategy –  Invest in stocks, property, alternative assets (1)
  • Tactic – Save 30%+ of my salary each month and invest
    • 70% in company shares (I joined an ESPP program allowing me to obtain company shares against a discounted price)
    • 30% in ETFs, alternative assets and property

It’s a high-level plan. Much more can be said about strategy and especially tactics. Just like the The FIRE Shrink did (2) and Weenie from QuietlySaving (3). And YoungFIGuy (4).

You may think I am stating the obvious, but I really don’t. Many people have (financial) goals, but no clue how they are going to achieve it. They have the wings (grand ideas), but lack the feet (concrete plans).

Mapping out your financial future by taking your time to think about what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it is important. It will help you to stay the course, stay focused, be structured and methodical in your approach.

If I wake you up in the middle of the night (scary, I know) and ask you what your plan is, you should be able to tell me your goals, objective, strategy and tactics. Instantly.

How to sail

Now, the above doesn’t mean defining your strategy and tactics is easy. If you don’t know how to sail a boat you still need to learn it. Or you can jump on a boat that has a good captain(!)

Investing is pretty new to me. I can sail across a little pond maybe, but not across an ocean. But I am eager to learn, which is why I read a lot and turn to some of the many  financial independence bloggers out there. They all offer their own perspectives. Like {in.deed.a.bly} with his post on asset allocation (5), Weenie from QuietlySaving with her hugely interesting and though provoking Monkey Stocks League Challenge posts (6), YoungFIGuy on Brexit and Finance (7), feminist FI blogger MsZiYou who reserves a lot of space to introduce other UK Personal Finance bloggers (8), FIREThe9To5 with her thoughtful perspectives (9) , TheSavingNinja with his thought experiments (10) and Doc G. from DiverseFI with his philosophical viewpoints (11) . There are many more out there to discover, but bit by bit they help me to understand how to go about things.

What about you?

Do you have a clear plan? Strategy and tactics that you stick to?




3 thoughts on “Torwarthandschuhreiniger – Or How To Sail A Boat

  1. You make an astute observation about the need to use each of goals, strategy and tactics to achieve a successful outcome.

    In the absence of strategy, goals are just dreams.

    In the absence of goals, strategy and tactics are just directionless busy work.

    In the absence of tactics, strategy is a high level plan with no tangible means of execution.

    My favourite German word is backpfeifengesicht, which means ‘a face in need of a fist‘ or ‘a face that is begging for a slap’!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! You’re absolutely right. If one of them is missing you’re either dreaming or directionless.

      That’s a good one! I also love Umweltverschmutzung (the dirtying up of the world – or pollution).


  2. I love the way you started this article using your ambition to pronounce that German word as an introduction to the main theme of your post.

    A couple of years back I discovered FIRE and it changed my life! I set my goal as retiring by 50 which has remained unchanged. However my objective changes slightly each year as I reassess what I think my minimum expenses are, and my strategy and tactics have changed a lot. I began with just stock market investing as my strategy, but now this has evolved to a combination of investing and creating side hustle income (mostly passive).

    I like the way you broke this down into goal, objective, strategy and tactics. I’ve not seen it put quite like that before and I think I’ll try this approach out in future.


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