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If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Posted by: Dorothy Douglass on Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 12:00:00 am

I hope I have become wiser as I have aged.  For I have surely aged!  I work in Human Resources & Training at the bank, and we had a great manager’s round table discussion the other day, and I had possibly the best question that has ever come up in one of our sessions.  A young, very new manager asked: “If you knew then, what you know now (about managing people), what would you do differently?”

And every manager in the room had an answer.  This was a great reflective question.  We had engaging and wise comments shared, and so, I am going to turn this question inward, twist it a little, and share: “If I knew then, what I know now, about preparing for my financial future, what would I do differently?”

Yes, I was a not-so-smart-but -thought-I-was-da-bomb-college-graduate-newlywed-burgeoning-career person, way back when, and as I am now aiming for some financial goals so I can live comfortably in a few years, here’s how I answered my own question:

If I knew then, what I know now, I would do these things differently, to plan for a more secure financial future:

  • Spending a retirement payout instead of rolling it over.  When I changed jobs, I’d have NOT spent my retirement plan money on a one-time vacation to Florida.  I’d have rolled it over to an IRA, or something….  I took a tax hit then, and have 4 years less retirement savings.  Geesh…
  • Accepting or applying for multiple credit cards.  I would not have kept taking credit cards from stores, and big banks, and using them.  It took me a long time to dig out, and using the credit cards became a very bad habit;
  • Not officially closing those open credit cards after paying them off.  I would have closed those credit cards and notified the stores/banks, not just cut them up as I paid them off.  Those all show up  (or they did) on my credit report, and could have adversely affected my credit score;
  • Immediately rolling dividends back into stock.  I got a tiny bit of a stock inheritance from a great uncle.  I spent those first dividend checks.  If I could go back, I would have rolled those over back into the stock starting the moment I got it. 
  • Taking the time to learn, really learn, about my company benefits.  What all did I leave on the table? 
    • A company match in a 401(k) – that’s FREE money I might have walked away from;
    • Understanding and utilizing Flexible Spending Accounts to reduce my taxable income – especially when I was paying for child care;
    • Staying with a company until I was fully vested in a pension or other retirement plan – I left 6 months shy – twice in my career.  Darn it!
    • Understanding my health plan and what was covered and not covered.  Did I miss some benefits?

Hindsight is 20/20.  So, hopefully I’ve learned.  If nothing else, maybe my ‘shoulda coulda wouldhave’s’ will help someone else make better decisions.

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