4 Financial Mistakes I Made & What I Learned from Them
Who doesn’t love reading about other people’s mistakes? Somehow, it makes us feel normal and decreases the severity of the judgment we place upon ourselves. So, I will indulge you by sharing some of my biggest financial mistakes that I recall (I know there are many more).
1. Accepting a low salary at the beginning of my career.
I struggle with stating this as a mistake. Why? Because my career journey brought me to where I am now and who I am now. I have gratitude. However, if I remove the emotive “story” and focus on numbers, I did myself a disservice by accepting a low salary in a position that had no upward trajectory when I did have the soft skills that could have commanded higher wages.
And you know what? Those early years of extra savings matter. Here is an example why:
If I had been able to save just $5,000 more a year for those first 3 years of my career, do you know how much more I could have by the time I retire at 62? $210,000!
BIG disclosure here: I enjoyed what I did, immensely appreciated my coworkers who put faith in me, and loved my clients. I just wasn’t compensated in the same way many of my peers were.
Are you looking for a job or considering a job change in the search of higher wages? Here are some resources:
- Your Place in the Great Resignation
- Employee Benefits to Look for at Your First Job
- How to Navigate a Job Change: Insurance, 401(k)s, and More
2. Not meeting my 401(k) match right away.
The first few years of my career, I didn’t use the 401(k) plan. The rational was that we were directing that money towards other goals like paying off school loans. Honestly, it wasn’t the worst decision. However, just like the point above. I want you to understand the tradeoff. What did I miss out on by my retirement at 62 by not contributing those first few years? About $82,000. That match was a 100% return and that beats out any interest rate on other debts.
3. Not driving my old car for just a little bit longer.
When I first got married, I had a paid-off little Ford Focus. It didn’t have electric windows, it still had a cassette player, and it didn’t even have cruise control. We replaced it with a flashy Honda Civic (yes that’s a joke – but hey, it has a remote starter!) We could easily afford the purchase. However, that little Focus kept being driven for miles and miles by someone else.
I can’t help but wonder if waiting to purchase another car might have led to more flexibility of choice – for instance, time to save up and not get a car loan.
4. Not ensuring that I had water back-up coverage.
This one hurts the most. In 2020, we had our basement beautifully finished. It was a crazy year… COVID, new baby… you get it. While I did ensure that our home insurance policy covered our elevated home value – you know what I didn’t do? Ensure that our policy had water back up coverage.
I will be the first to admit that insurance is not my greatest area of expertise, and it certainly is not my greatest area of interest. I allowed that lack of interest to lead to lack of follow through. You know what happened a year later?
For the first time since our house was built in 2006, our basement flooded. Goodbye to our beautiful new carpet and trim and hello to a large bill that was not covered by our insurance.
You are free to glean any insight from my mistakes. Perhaps it is pushing yourself to ask for what you deserve, being thoughtful with your savings and cash flow, or being slow to elevate your lifestyle. If anything, I hope you do feel that mistakes are ok. They are usually not irrecoverable. I do not dwell on these things nor are these things holding me back from financial success. They are building blocks and lessons learned.
I’d love to hear from readers on what some of your biggest financial mistakes are!