I’ve had some really great mentors along the way, both professional and personal, who bravely shared their “warts and all” wisdom and experience with me. Hearing others open up has helped me develop new ways of thinking, offered me some much needed perspective, pushed me where and when I needed to be pushed (sometimes over an edge!) and gave me a framework to help others. Lately, I’ve noticed a lot less “warts and all” sharing and more filters making everything glow and seem beautiful. In honor of my great mentors past and those future, below are 9 ½ of the most important lessons I’ve learned – authentic and unfiltered. May they spark something good inside of you.
- You are not alone. Everybody has a red hot mess going on in their life. Having two children and a professional job is hard work, really hard work. Some people just hide it better than others. Women who say it is smooth sailing have live-in sitters, a trust fund or just take better medication.
- Be worthy. Don’t expect another person to give you what you won’t give yourself. This includes kindness, love, compassion and real jewelry. If you don’t think you are worthy, why would anyone else?
- You are enough. Just because you can buy something doesn’t mean you should. You feel powerful when you start getting a regular paycheck. The world feels like your oyster and there are plenty of marketers out there telling you that you aren’t “enough” (pretty, smart, nice, professional and feminine). Don’t believe them. It is ploy to take your hard earned money away from you, plain and simple. Complete trickery at its finest.
- Buy life insurance. I never really thought about living to 40 or beyond. I was always caught up in whatever moment, town and relationship I was in at that time. We all think we are invincible, throwing caution to the wind to change the world. Then reality sets in…marriage, a mortgage, a few kids, school bake sales and wham! you’re 40. Buy life insurance now. It is cheaper when you are young and if you don’t find yourself supporting your kids at school bake sales; you may be able to access the cash value in your policy (using policy loans and withdrawals*) for a down payment for a house, for emergencies, or for a vacation. P.S. This advice also applies to saving for retirement. Do it. Trust me, you will get old and tired of working.
- Admit you don’t know. It is incredibly liberating when you realize you are not responsible for knowing everything. You do not have to have all the answers. What you do need to have is the courage to admit what you don’t know and the willingness to go find the answer. Today, in the era of uber-information, knowing where to look for answers is a valuable skill.
- Have a healthy relationship with money. Flashback to middle school when Calvin Klein jeans were the currency to the cool girl club. (Yes, Calvin Klein jeans. I did say I was 40 something!) If you didn’t have them you were voted off the island. My parents couldn’t afford those jeans. I was so angry at my parents then but buying designer jeans was about way more than designer jeans. It was about feelings of inadequacy, social power and status. Calvin Klein jeans would not have fixed any of those feelings. I remind myself that money is money—not feelings, and I seek advice from financial experts who don’t live in my “feeling money” mess. Admitting you need help is the first step, right? P.S. —See #3.
- Know your “ financial fickle.” There are certain things that I am totally fickle about like dishes and shoes. I refuse to spend a lot of money on those things because in six months, I will want something different. On the flip side, buy timeless quality for the non-fickle items. Trust me, spending money on a quality sofa, refrigerator or whatever will save you money and time in the future. Purchasing items to last and withstand a “life lived” saves you from having to repurchase multiples of low quality items. This timeless quality advice also works well for spouses.
- Have a healthy relationship with food. I wish I had something witty and smart to say but I don’t. My relationship with food is along the lines of a co-dependent passive aggressive lover. We are working hard through these issues. Start early and pay close attention to this relationship; it will impact how you feel, think and show up every single day.
- Be happy. Happiness is a choice. People will still take you seriously and think you are smart if you are happy. In fact, they will like you more. You are not responsible for carrying the weight of the world. Set it down, rub your shoulders and smile.
9 ½. Keep learning. At 44, statistically I have half of my life left. I am absolutely giddy about getting older, caring less about convention and learning to love life more fully.
Ten lessons seemed so final but 9 ½ leaves open a world of possibility and learning. It’s possible with help from a financial coach I will get better at managing my money, have a healthy relationship with food, and choose happiness more often. What lessons have you learned?
*This assumes that you fund your life insurance well enough to cover both the cost of insurance, and the need for other accumulation goals. The ability of a life insurance contract to accumulate sufficient cash value to meet accumulation goals will be dependent upon the excess premium paid, and the performance of the contract, and is not guaranteed. Policy loans and withdrawals reduce the policy’s cash value and death benefit and may result in a taxable event. If remaining policy values and scheduled premiums are insufficient, additional out-of-pocket payments may be needed to keep the policy inforce. Surrender charges may reduce the policy’s cash value in early years.