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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?

If you’re a blogger, please join the conversation with a post and link back to Funny. If you don’t have a site, please leave your story in the comments section.

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!

14 thoughts on “The Worst Financial Mistake You Didn’t Make”

  1. Worst financial mistake I didn’t make? Keeping my house. I’ve mentioned this at times before, but I had a rental house. I had refi-ed at 5% for 5 years, with a variable rate thereafter.

    But around that time, I had pretty much physically crumbled, couldn’t work, had no financial/physical reserves left, and student loans to pay at over $400 a month.

    I decided that the house had run its course. So I sold it (probably asked too little in retrospect, but I wanted a quick, easy sale). I was able to pay off my student loans and had a little leftover after paying my mom back for some loans.

    If I had kept it, the rate would have started to vary last year. And there’s no way I could have gotten another refi in last year’s economy! So I’d have been hip-deep and sinking, since my rental income wasn’t quite enough to pay the mortgage when the rate was low.

    I’m grateful that I saved myself the stress and financial worry of the house. And that meant I didn’t have to default on my student loans for disability. That would have weighed on me, even if there are days that I wish I had that money back.

  2. Wow, Abigail! You were smart and lucky to have unloaded the place when you did. We still have 14 years before the Investment House has to be paid off or refinanced…I’m hoping things will have improved by then, or at least that inflation will insure that a renter will have to pay enough to cover the mortgage if M’hijito has moved on by then.

    @ Trevor: Congratulations on establishing some cash flow from the blog. I’d probably have to hire a consultant to monetize FaM…and change servers (again!). But sometimes I think it would be a good idea, certainly if the day job goes away.

  3. I was just plotting a post about a related topic. Here’s a brief response to your great post.

    All my mistakes came from following the advice of the financial press/experts. All the mistakes I didn’t make came from procrastinating or being stubborn. So: I amassed a large cash emergency fund out of inertia, since I am a frugal girl married to a frugal fellow. I was told to “get the $$ working for me by investing it.” I was also told to do a cash out refi; I chose instead to pay off my house.

  4. Yay! I can’t wait to read it!

    I, too, am glad I bucked my financial guru’s advice and paid off the house. “You are overinvested in real estate” translates to “I have roof over my head that costs me all of $200 a month.” Phptthbtphfff!

  5. The worst financial mistake I DIDN’T make, was to stay at my job rather than quitting (the way I did).

    I quit, became a freelancer and am much happier and freer.

    Even people in real life/readers on my blog thought I was bonkers.

    Glad I didn’t listen to the naysayers.

    Only BF as my 100%, sole supporter to quit.

    Love the blog already 🙂

    Fabulously Broke in the City
    Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver.

  6. The worst financial mistake I DIDN’T make was to take a shady subprime mortgage and buy a house at the top of the market three years ago. The papers were all prepped, the interest rate was monstrous, there was a ballon payment, the kids were stoked to move, the house was gorgeous.

    My fundamentally conservative (in the prudent, not the political sense) nature saved me, I backed out, deeply disappointing the kids and my partner. We’re still in a rental, but at least I helped us avoid the trauma of foreclosure. Because it would have happened or at the very least we would have be very upside-down and despairing.

  7. The worst mistake I didn’t make was buying silver futures.

    I had a telemarketing broker call me and try to talk me into buying silver futures. He wanted me to cash out my IRA account and send him the money.

    When I told him “No way”, he told me I had missed out and hung up on me.

    I still have the IRA account. I’m sure the futures would have expired as worthless.

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