“I like your blog,” said A, “even though I never comment on it. If I were to make a list,” she added, it would be ‘10 Dumb Things I Have Done since My Husband Died,’” and then, generously, “you can have that idea.”
I love this idea as a follow-up to 10 Scary Things I Have Done since My Husband died (see various posts, starting with January 14, 2011). Perhaps this list could be more interactive, since it’s not one I’ve been keeping, and A didn’t give me any specific items.
To start I’ll say that so far, I’ve been fortunate: my Dumb Things have been relatively minor, or at least not life-altering. This is because I have received extremely good advice. Twice this advice has come from Dan, shouting down from heaven, mostly about real estate, as in:
Are you crazy?! You can’t afford to take three loans!
This while I was on the phone with a mortgage broker who was pitching three loans so that I could buy a new home before selling the one I lived in. Dan doubtless saved me from some foreclosure debacle.
And again, a few months later while I was looking at houses, I could hear Dan: DON’T buy a house if the one next door is a wreck and the one across the street is falling down! I could have paid cash for the house with those views, but I didn’t, instead taking a small mortgage for a house surrounded by sturdy homes and wonderful neighbors. Today, the wreck house looks much better and the falling-down one is closer to the ground.
I’ll start the list. Really, we don’t have to keep it to ten, if we find a hundred dumb things, so it goes.
Stopped reading the mail from TIAA-CREF because it makes me too nervous. Because I didn’t open the TIAA-CREF mail for months, I missed a payment check of several hundred dollars. By the time I remembered it, more than 90 days had passed, so I had to call TIAA-CREF and ask that it be reissued. I know they have my age on their computers, and the stripling who took my call probably thought, boy, she’s slipping fast.
Real estate and money—probably the best opportunities for dumb moves. I’m fortunate to have been well advised about money, too. It started when an officemate said, Are you trying to do that all by yourself? as I sought to untangle some financial matter with unproductive phone calls. You need a financial adviser, she said.
So I e-mailed the wealthiest person I knew who would answer my e-mail and asked her for a recommendation. She replied promptly with two names. One of them was even wealthier than she, a self-made man whose wife went to my church.
I can tell you everything I know in an hour, he said, which seemed reasonable. In fact, he needed only 45 minutes to reorganize entirely my minuscule estate, for which service he charged me a pittance (friend, wife, church). I went off to start saving, really saving, money, real money, toward my retirement.
Now I would never make an important money move without consulting him first. When I wanted to retire early and he said you can’t, you don’t have enough, I sucked up my tears and found ways to save more. When I went back to him two years later we both had survived the crash and he said OK, OK, you have enough (he loves his work, doesn’t understand why anyone wants to retire), and only then did I go ahead.
But, enough about me. Got any dumb moves you want to share? Ideally, put them in the Comments. below, and we’ll take it from there, but if you’d rather send me an e-mail, then do that.