When I was a kid, I thought being an adult was synonymous with being perfect and all-knowing. At age 18, I’d be a perfect being. It was a difficult bubble to have burst. That said, as we get older, we should be getting wiser. Each day is another opportunity to learn from the mistakes we make. So by the time we’re like 50, we should have run out of mistakes to learn from, right? And by then we’re perfect beings. Right??
Learning from our mistakes seems like it’d be pretty automatic. But here’s the thing. A few nights ago in my rush to eat something piping hot, I burned my mouth. Me no likey. Yet it’s happened dozens of times, and I’m sure it’ll happen again. In fact, it happened to Johnny last night. It takes sharper tools in the shed to know to wait for pizza to cool before affixing its molten lava cheese to the roof of your mouth.
And here’s another example: As a freshman in college, I overdrafted my checking account, which was embarrassing to the point of causing tears to come out of my face. But I have a secret. It happened a second time right before I married Johnny. Although I hated the feeling of overdrafting, for some reason I let it happen again. But unlike the case of eating piping hot food, I’ve learned from that mistake, and I track my saving and spending now.
Even as a married couple, we’ve made some financial mistakes. You heard that right… we still aren’t perfect. I’ll give you a second to pick your jaw up from the ground. You live and you learn (so said Ms. Alanis Morissette), and here are three mistakes we’ve definitely learned from:
Applying for Pell Grants
This was our very, very first mistake made as a couple. Technically, it was just my mistake, but it became our mistake since it affected our combined finances. It was a few days before our wedding, and I was so stoked to be eligible for a Pell Grant once I got married since I hadn’t been eligible before that point. Thus, I decided to get the ball rolling and apply for a Pell Grant three days before Johnny and I said “I do.” But soon after Johnny and I were married, I found out that I had been denied a Pell Grant. Why? Well, apparently eligibility is based on your marital status on the date you apply!! So because I applied three days before I was actually married, I was only eligible for loans—no grants! No amount of arguing and pleading with the FAFSA folks over the phone would get them to change the application date. We’re still bitter about that little bit of bureaucratic letter of the law bull. This mistake cost Johnny and me a few extra thousand in debt. It was terrible.
Car Buying in Winter
Johnny and I bought our first car together the January after we graduated. We lived in Utah — Utah in January is frigid. We found a 2006 Ford Focus with low mileage for an incredible deal. Everything about the car was pristine. So we bought it. And then in May we drove to California. And in order to get to CA, we had to drive through Nevada, which is a very warm place in May. So we tried to turn on the car’s air conditioning and… drumroll… nada. nothing. zilch. zip. But we were like, “No big deal! We just need to pick up some AC fluid (I’m super technical with car terms if you can’t tell).” But as we tried to find out more info about getting our AC to work we found out the truth. Our car was not equipped with AC at all. We could buy AC fluid all day long, but there’d be nowhere to put it! Luckily it was still an amazingly reliable car, and when the time came, Johnny sold it on a 95-degree June day for a few hundred more than we paid.
When I started my current job a few years ago, I heard something about “retirement options” in my new employee orientation. At the time, I yawned and wondered when we were going to break for lunch. Because of my lackadaisical attitude, I missed out on two years of a 403b match from my employer! Dos años, folks! However, despite my negligence in contributing, my company automatically contributed 3% to a retirement account for me. Johnny and I got big packets about the plan every few months, and Johnny always asked me what it was for and I’d say,”No idea… I think it’s my life insurance or something. Or maybe it’s about retirement communities or something. Don’t know, don’t care.” But I’ve repented, and I now contribute 3% which is fully matched, in addition to the 3% they kick in for freebies. If I hadn’t missed out for those two years, I’d be a few thousand dollars better prepared. Grrr. Silly me.
Those are three of our mistakes that involved finances. And two of them were 100% my fault, peeps! What can I say? I like to keep Johnny on his toes! From each one we’ve learned some valuable adult lessons and moved on a wee bit more wise and mature.
So let’s recap. Pizza is hot. And it’s okay to make mistakes. Just try to learn the lesson and avoid doing it again. Have you learned from any financial mistakes? Any you’re willing to share, that is? My dirty laundry’s hanging out, and it’s feeling very lonely.