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The Worst Financial Mistake You Didn’t Make

Recently I was asked to describe the three worst financial mistakes I ever made. Well, that was easy… But later, it occurred to me that a more interesting question might have been “what was the worst financial mistake you didn’t make.”

Have you ever been tempted to do some damnfool thing and then later realized that you were smarter or luckier than you thought? What’s the worst mistake you could have made, almost made, but then didn’t make? And why didn’t you make it?

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To get the ball rolling, here’s this:

The worst financial mistake I didn’t make was to quit my job about a year ago. By the end of 2007, I was utterly fed up with the difficult personnel problem embodied inMy Bartleby. I had decided that if I could not get the Great Desert University to RIF her position by the time of the next performance evaluations (which occurred in spring 2008), I would take the earliest of all possible early retirements. It was her or me: either she left, or I did.

Luckily for me, after she went to visit her out-of-town son over Christmas break, she came back resolved to quit.

What serendipity!

The factotums in the Dean’s Office had already decided that we would RIF her job, and so at least I had the support of my betters in my little project. But really: she could have protested, she could have claimed I was unfair to her (I’d been hounding the poor woman for months, building a case to show not only that we no longer needed the services she’d been hired to perform, but that her editing skills were not up to snuff), she could have engaged all sorts of bureaucratic machinery to delay dismissal. We were required to give her several weeks of notice, and although our HR rep said in these cases the worker is normally told to go home and collect her money, Bartleby—you can be sure!—would have preferred not.

If she’d put up a fight and made my life even more miserable than it was, or if she’d managed to evade dismissal, I very certainly would have quit. I was determined to bring an end to the whole unhappy business.

{LOL!} Having a son of my own, I can hear the male voice, embued with common sense. He would have said one of two things:

MOM! If you’re that unhappy, why don’t you just retire?

or, knowing Bartleby’s nature as he must have,

MOM! Don’t give that bitch the satisfaction! Quit before she can fire you.

Whatever he said, it was the right thing. Bless him.

If I’d retired last spring, I would have been just getting by on the proceeds of my savings and a minuscule Social Security benefit. When the economy crashed and $200,000 of retirement savings disappeared, I would have been flat out of luck.

Don’t know how God felt about Bartleby, but She was on my side that time!