Ghosts of Financial Decisions Past

I know that technically the ghosts of past, present, and future are Christmas characters, but Halloween seems like a good time to talk about the ghosts of financial decisions past. Here are three good and bad financial choices I made and the ways in which they’re still affecting me.

Three Good Financial Decisions
Although I’ve made many bad financial choices over the years, I’ve also made some good ones. Here are the best choices I made:

Working Through College
I worked about 30 hours a week during my freshman and sophomore years at a community college. I was also living at home, so I didn’t have many expenses. That meant I was able to save a lot of money for my second two years. I moved away my junior and senior years. I don’t think I worked my first semester away, but then I started working on-campus just a few hours a week and continued that through my senior year. Between my savings, working, and help from my parents, I graduated without any debt.

Buying My Toyota
My first car was a very poorly made Pontiac. When the entire electrical system started to fail, my parents used their connection at a local Toyota dealership to help me get a brand new car. Not only did the auto loan help me build credit faster, but I still have that car. It turns 12 at the end of the year. Although it has some scratches and dings, I’ve only had to perform the usual wear-and-tear maintenance so far.

Going to Grad School
Even though it cost about $40,000, getting my Masters allowed me to switch careers. I wasn’t happy in the entertainment field, but I couldn’t get out of it. I completed my Masters in two years and landed a job in a totally new and fast-growing field within six months. Now I earn more than I would have in my old field and I’m happier.

Three Bad Financial Decisions
Unfortunately, I’ve made far more bad financial choices than good ones. It’s just par for the course I guess.

Choosing a Low-Earning Major
I did initially love working in the entertainment industry. It was fun and exciting, but it also required hours and hours of work for very low pay. Sure, I had the potential to earn a fortune, but I didn’t have the luck or connections to make that happen. Instead I was creating debt. I only got out of debt via an inheritance, and then found a slightly higher-paying entertainment job that made me miserable.

Buying Stock with My Inheritance
Okay, normally this wouldn’t have been a bad idea. Unfortunately, I invested in 1998 and then watched the market crash in 2000. My Roth spent another 6 years not earning anything before I finally sold it to pay for grad school. I wish I’d gone with my first instinct to buy a small condo with the inheritance. Los Angeles was at the bottom of a slide. If I’d bought, I would have had to sell when I got married because it would have been too small for us. Now I’d be sitting on a pile of down-payment money instead of scrounging for it.

Marrying a Guy with a Lot of Debt
I don’t regret marrying my husband, but realistically, his student debt is bad for my finances. It limits our ability to buy property and save for retirement. However, his professional degree will eventually move us into the realm of the very-high earners, so even though it’s not the best situation right now, eventually his degree will be a very good financial decision. Besides, I love the guy.

Everyone regrets at least one or two financial choices, but we often don’t realize it until later in life. What are your best and worst financial decisions?

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