I recently helped a friend give a presentation focused on Retirement Planning for Women. As we went through the exercises, which helped each women calculate the dollar amount she would need to have saved to retire, I could feel the energy of the room shift. Everyone started to tense up. Why? Because everyone started to look at those seemingly unattainable numbers and felt huge waves of guilt. The reality is almost everyone has made some financial mistakes. Women especially beat ourselves up continually for those mistakes. It is time to give ourselves permission to drop the guilt about past financial mistakes and move forward.
First let’s deal with the financial mistakes. Some of us get into credit card debt, some of us pick the wrong time to buy or sell a house, some of us get sick, and some of us lose our jobs. Obviously we have more control over some of those mistakes than others. However they can all leave us feeling that we should have done something differently or known better.
The problem occurs when we get stuck in the cycle of beating ourselves up for past mistakes. Every time we see someone who has not lost their job or run up extra debt we feel ashamed of what we have done. We need to follow Maya Angelou’s advice:
I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.
The true danger of the guilt cycle is not just that we waste a lot of our precious time and energy making ourselves feel like crap. The true danger is that we don’t move forward. We let guilt paralyze us.
In the presentation I mentioned there was a women who looked at her retirement number and realized how far behind she was. She mentioned she had made some financial mistakes in the past and was just digging herself out of a hole. When she saw that number she wasn’t motivated to start saving. She was overwhelmed with guilt about the impact of her past choices. She asked if it was even worth the trouble to start saving now when it wouldn’t ever get her to the number on the piece of paper. We talked to her about starting to save now, in whatever capacity she could. Maybe she won’t reach that magic number. Her retirement may look different that she hoped, but it is crucial that she move forward and start saving now.
Don’t let guilt over past financial mistakes trap you. Understand your mistake, learn how to do better next time and move forward. It’s the advice we give our children and the advice we need to follow.
Interested in understanding your complete financial picture, without judgement, from someone who has made her own financial mistakes? Reach out to schedule a call.
Know anyone mired by guilt over their financial mistakes? Send them this article so they know they are not alone.