Financial life planning starts with an idea, a potential strategy that will improve your personal and financial wellbeing. What are the odds that your idea will be successful?

Pierre Simon Laplace, renowned 19th century French mathematical physicist and astronomer, instructed, “Probability theory is nothing but common sense reduced to calculation. 

How might that impact your thinking about life choices?

Reading a well-worn magazine in a doctor’s office, an article, “Unsuccess Rate,” in “Men’s Journal,” November 2018, sparked a thought. As we make big decisions in life, marriage and career choices, for example, what are the odds of success? 

Take marriage, a huge life investment emotionally and financially. According to the article, 17 percent of couples are divorced by their 5th anniversary, and by year 10, another 23 percent part company. 

Is there good news? Per the California law firm Wilkenson & Finkbeiner, “Recent studies have shown that millenials are waiting longer to get married and are staying married longer.” This trend is driving a slight decline in marriage and divorce rates in America.

Nevertheless, W & F note that about 41 percent of first marriages, 60 percent of second marriages, and 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce or separation. Aside from the emotional toll, there’s a potential negative impact on children, along with financial setbacks and struggles. Marital planning outside of emotion and passion may seem unromantic and a potential deal killer, but given the odds of failure, is there a place for a pre-nuptial agreement?

Prenups often are associated with serial marriages among Hollywood luminaries. Prenups generally cover the division and distribution of physical and financial assets, spousal support after divorce, attribution of income earned during marriage, etc. They may address student debt (a growing concern), incapacity, estate planning and children from a prior marriage. For older couples with significant assets who remarry, how do you deal with inheritances to each person’s family and heirs? When unmarried couples buy a house together, what happens when they split?  

According to, among the professions with the highest divorce rates are gaming managers, gaming service workers, bartenders, flight attendants. What happens in Vegas doesn’t always take root in Vegas, apparently. For occupations with relatively low divorce rates go for actuaries, physical scientists, clergy, chemical engineers and optometrists. 

If the probability of financial success is a factor, notes the jobs more likely to make you a millionaire are doctor, investment banker, real estate agent, engineer, day trader, air traffic controller, athlete, insurance agent, entrepreneur, actor/actress. Shoot for multi-millionaire status given the realities of taxation and inflation. To reach lofty brackets advises JobMonkey, “You’re going to need a combination of a job with high earning potential, a solid work ethic and smart financial decisions. Do you have what it takes?”

Beware of generalities. Being an entrepreneur and your own boss appeals, but plan carefully and have resources. Per “Men’s Journal,” 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first four years. Even the pros have challenges. Of venture capital backed startups, 95 percent fail to return on investment. In the VC world, it takes periodic huge winners to cover all of the losers, the same reality facing dice throwers in casinos. Mark Twain opined, “There are two times in a man’s life when he should not speculate; when he can’t afford it, and when he can.” (Or a woman, for that matter).

When it comes to big success in athletics, know the odds. Fewer than 2 percent of NCAA college student-athletes go on to be professional athletes. NCAA senior players drafted by an NFL team, one in 50, or 2 percent. High school senior players drafted by an NFL team, about nine in 10,000, or 0.09 percent. (

Does this mean you shouldn’t chase a dream? You hear about “an overnight success,” only to find out he or she has been working at it for 20 or 30 years or more. Wunderkinds exist, and early success can be destructive as well as base building. Success generally comes with good planning, realistic expectations, hard work, time, coaching and advice, patience, and the willingness to learn from inevitable mistakes. Character counts in partners, in marriage and business. Fifty percent of marriages don’t end in divorce. That’s a start!


Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-3553;  Securities & advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of  SFA, otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He’s a Gallup Certified Clifton Strengths Coach and Certified Exit Planning Advisor.

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