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I Should Have Listened To The Wise Man

It was an ordinary day of work.  The same warehouse.  The same boxes.  The same terrible manager.  And that same nagging thought that this was not why I went to college.  There’s nothing wrong with working at a warehouse, but my life goals didn’t seem to notice someone would have to pay to make them happen.

Anyway UPS was running on time and I had boxes to pack. Halfway through the morning there was an announcement that a man would be coming in to discuss investment options and set up retirement accounts for those who wanted them.  I was interested but also very broke.  I do believe in planning ahead.  Though naturally only if it doesn’t interfere with what I want.

Meeting The Old Wise Man

When I walked in the room I found a bent old wise man.  Well I assumed he was wise.  He had a shrewd way of looking at a person.  It was as if he was totaling them up and readying his red inked pen for the inevitable corrections.  Once I had been evaluated by his slightly yellowed eyes he pointed to a chair and I obediently sat down.  He began spouting numbers and statistics.

How much it would take to live on by the time I was eighty.  How much money I would need to deposit each week.  It was looking bleak considering whenever I had a spare buck it was almost instantly turned into coffee.

    He caught on pretty quickly that I hadn’t been making bright decisions.

Words from the Old Man

In the middle of some paper with a million boxes to fill in and sub-articles to read and abbreviations that were longer than the words they were shortening – he paused.  He slowly set down the paper and looked me in the eyes.  “You know,” he said with a raised eyebrow, “There are other ways to use your money.  If you switched to paying for everything in cash I promise you will have money left over at the end of the month.

What is it about ignoring excellent advice when it’s given?  I listened politely to his lecture.  Pretty sure I may have even jotted down a few key points.  Then I signed up for their retirement plan and left.  I didn’t think back to that conversation for another two years.  I was very close to having to declare bankruptcy when I remembered what he had said.

Moving on to Just Using Cash

With a strict budget and a payment plan on every bill I moved to using only cash.  It was kind of surprising how right he was.  I found myself spending much less.  If you can’t just dig out a credit card then you need to really consider your purchases.  Having to decide if getting something was worth skipping something else really opened my eyes to the waste I had created in the past.

There’s nothing wrong with mistakes as long as you learn from them.  More important is helping others avoid or get out of the same mistake you made.  If I had listened to that man when I was twenty I wouldn’t have huge credit card bills I’m still paying off.  I also wouldn’t have had the lessons in life which I carry with me now.

How We Just Ignore Good Advice

It was easy to ignore good advice because it sounded inconvenient.  But convenience is expensive.  In fact it’s a downright luxury.  The biggest lesson I learned is to always keep your head up and keep learning about yourself. Accidents happen and there’s no use regretting them.  However there’s also no reason for repeating errors.

Cleaning up mistakes is hard and it takes time. But when you’re done you have a brand new clean slate. And with common sense, and a knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, you’ll never be in the same bind twice.

About M. Clark

4 comments

  1. I go back and forth on the notion of using cash. I think it’s a complicated issue, with data arguing that cash may reduce spending, so other evidence that shows no impact on spending from using a credit card.

    Do you prefer using cash only now?

  2. I think using cash will work for some people in some situations, but for others it would be more beneficial to just stick to a debit card or even a credit card so you can take advantage of cash back rewards.

  3. Using cash has changed our lives, as has budgeting and spend-tracking. If you’re not real big on managing money well, using cash helps you to understand that you are spending your hard-earned dollars instead of imaginary ones. Love your thoughts on taking advice too, Thomas. Years ago, at the beginning of our marriage, we were told to start being frugal, and we blew off the advice. How I wish we would’ve listened!

  4. Paying in cash…hmm… I was once again reminded of Warren Buffett’s words: “If you can’t buy it in cash, you can’t afford it”. I wonder if the man does not use credit card at all.