What I've Learned About Money: Lessons From Boomers Who’ve Been There, Done That
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"Putting my money in diversified, low-cost index funds early on, and sticking with them in good times and bad, is the best financial move I ever made."

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From money moves to fashion choices, we’re pretty much guaranteed to make mistakes in our youth. (Cue awkward yearbook photo.) Missteps go hand in hand with growing up, but as they say—with age comes wisdom.

These four stories are chock-full of financial hindsight from people who've been in the trenches for decades and learned valuable lessons along the way.

The Lesson: Not emotionally reacting to the market really pays off.

Bob Johnson, 59, CEO of a financial education institution in Bryn Mawr, Pa.

"Thanks to decades of simple investing, I’ve reached my retirement goal early. As they say, it’s about time in the market—not timing the market. This isn't novel advice, but sticking with it during market downturns is easier said than done. When things look grim, fear can cloud our judgment. But ignoring the noise and staying the course is actually the best way to grow your wealth over time.

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to put this to the test, like like during the Great Recession. I never questioned my resolve, even when colleagues changed their investment strategies. Thankfully, I kept my feet planted—and ultimately benefited from the recovery and double-digit growth after. 

Having a PhD in investments probably helps; I understand that market volatility is the norm and not the exception. Putting my money in diversified, low-cost index funds early on, and sticking with them in good times and bad, is the best financial move I ever made. Why not let compound interest do the heavy lifting for you?"

The Lesson: When you can’t stretch your income any more, get creative with side hustles.

Judy Toone, 59, a financial coach in Sandy, UT

"Finding out-of-the-box ways to boost our income saved my family from financial disaster. In 1987, my husband Dennis worked in the finance department of a local garage door company, and his salary was enough for me to stay home with our four kids. We weren’t rich, but life was comfortable—until, without warning, Dennis was laid off.

He worked odd jobs and collected unemployment, but this was a huge blow. We immediately slashed our budget and cut corners wherever we could. But there are only so many expenses you can trim. We had to earn more.

On the weekends, I started working at a grocery store, and within a year, began running an at-home daycare, which brought in $500 per month. Later, I’d do administrative work at our kids’ school. My side gigs shifted over the years and ranged from cleaning houses to doing temp work. 

Dennis eventually landed a steady job, and our financial life evened out as we caught up on our savings. But the years in between taught us to hustle. I find it encouraging to see so many people these days embracing side gigs as I did. Done right, they can make all the difference.”

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April 26, 2018

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