Football has long been looked at as more than a sport, but a teacher of life lessons. The Panthers are set to take on the Denver Broncos this Sunday (Feb. 7th), so now is a great time to take a look at how football can impact your finances.

Let’s dive right in- first quote is from Tom Landry (former player and longtime Dallas Cowboys coach) “Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.”

Think of this as your first down. When it comes to your finances, it does all come down to a plan. The backbone of that plan will always be a budget. Still, a lot of people are fumbling this one; two-thirds of Americans do not have a budget (according to a nationwide Gallup poll.) You should have a working budget and make regular adjustments to keep it updated. Once you know where your money is going, you can better determine how to use it to reach your financial goals.

John Madden (former player, Oakland Raiders coach and football analyst) said, “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.” What does that teach us about our money?

We all hope to retire on Easy Street, right?! That is going to take fiscal discipline. Many people find themselves in a situation where they are carrying more credit card debt than they can manage. This is where your discipline kicks in. Make sure you make minimum payments on each account, then focus on the lowest balance and make the biggest payments you can afford. As soon as you have it paid off, turn to the next lowest balance and repeat. The more debt you can get rid of before you get to retirement, the easier your street will be!

Our next football and finance lesson is courtesy of Paul “Bear” Bryant (former player and University of Alabama coach) who said, “Don’t give up at half time. Concentrate on winning the second half.”

Just like football, your financial game will not be won in one quarter- or decade- of your life. There will be ups and downs. And more importantly, you will need to make adjustments and tap your reserves. A football team has 53 players on the roster because they know how important it is to be prepared. This starts with an emergency fund. One in four Americans have no money saved (according to a recent survey.) I tell my clients to have at least 3 months’ worth of living expenses on hand. Use a change jar to start your emergency fund, or have $20 automatically transferred from each paycheck.

Don Shula (former player and Miami Dolphins coach) said, “The one thing that I know is that you win with good people.” What money lesson can we learn from Don?

This is your financial future, so you need to be your own quarterback! But one player alone does not win a game. Look to your teammates. If you are married, make sure you and your spouse are on the same page with your money. Both of you should play an active role in formulating your saving and investing plans. And make sure you have a good coach. Find a financial professional you trust to help you make a game plan to achieve your goals.

Football players spend hours practicing and reviewing footage before their games. What can we learn from that approach?

The happiest retirees are those who spend at least 5 hours a year planning for their golden years (according to a 2012 online study.) Use that time to evaluate how your plan is working and adjust your route accordingly. As Vince Lombardi said, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”