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My biggest money regret is that I failed to plan for my short-term future.
I completed a financial course while I was getting prepped for the fleet after boot camp. Eventually, I adopted their advice like opening a retirement account and getting a credit card to build my credit score.
But I struggled with controlling my daily expenses. I enjoyed eating out and shopping while I waited impatiently for the next paycheck.
I knew that after the Navy, I wanted to go to college and retire someday. As I grinded away, letting my automatic contributions add to my retirement account. I didn’t think about, let alone plan for, what would happen in four years.
The days were long and the years were short. Soon, I was staring at my discharge date and wondering how I was going to handle living expenses.
Paying for food, housing, medical and dental expenses was something didn’t have to think about. My family and the Navy took care of those nuances.
It felt like I was moving closer to a stormy sea but doing nothing to prepare for it.
Instead of saving money, tracking my purchases, and cutting expenses – I started buying EE bonds.
Similar to other failed attempts and lack of research, it wasn’t until I tried to cash them out that I was told by a kind bank attendant that I would be unable to use them for another THIRTY YEARS if I wanted to collect their full value.
All these spasmodic attempts at last-minute money-saving left me with the final and most unappealing option – reducing my daily food spending.
Some of this hesitation was because I was a lousy cook. Mac and cheese with condensed milk was a testament to just how badly I prepared food. I was reluctant to walk the few blocks to the galley where there was, even though it was prepared by people who knew what they were doing. Plus, I was paying small amounts every month for this luxury.
Sitting at a lonely table with my lunch tray, I felt an upwelling of embarrassed and plenty of awkward. It reminded me of being the new girl, that no one wanted to hang out with, let alone eat with.
By the end of my contract, I had saved up some money, but it wouldn’t be enough for a semester in a dorm room, let alone any other living expense.
As a last resort, I looked at my final asset – my retirement account. By that point, I felt like I had little choice but to cash it out. Little did I know, that this would become my biggest money regret.
With this $8,000 and the other measly money I saved, I felt financially ready to start my next adventure.
I also made a promise that I would never again allow myself to cash out my long term future for my lack of short term planning.