25 Things I Don't Want to Regret Once I Retire...

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I met with an elderly couple today in their home to execute some planning documents. While neither of them ever had jobs as professionals and neither inherited any money from family members, they have amassed quite a respectable sum of money as they continue to progress through the Golden Years. The lesson that they passed on to me today in our short meeting was that you have to proceed through life without regret, and live each moment so that you will not later look back with regret.

After meeting with the couple, I returned to my office and put together a list of 25 ideas, goals, etc. that I want to look back on when I reach retirement age, and say that I fully accomplished or successfully practiced each of these 25 goals. So without further ado, here is part one of my list, with part two coming tomorrow night when I return home from class (feel free to add to my list or share your thoughts in the comments):

1. Start Saving Money Now, and Continue to Save Money Forever. One of my major problems before I discovered the world of personal finance is that I would pay everyone, but I would never pay myself. I had no problem sending the cable, car insurance and energy bills each month, but I always forgot to pay myself, i.e. save. Now I've opened a high-interest savings account, and plan on saving even more as my income continues to grow.

2. Stop and Think About Prospective Purchases for at Least 30 Seconds. I'm an impulse buyer, I always have been. This might be the "typical male shopper" shining through, but when I see something I want, I typically convince myself that I can afford to purchase it. This is especially easy when buying gifts for those I love. I've taken to thinking about purchases before I make them in the stores, or if online, I like to leave the website I am about to buy from and do some research to confirm the utility of the product or search for a better deal.

3. Make and Stick to a Budget. This is difficult enough for myself and the fiancee now, with no children and relatively little worries beyond our lovable dog. However, I anticipate budgeting will become even more complicated and necessary as our family grows, which is why I've taken such a strong liking to the You Need A Budget system.

4. Max-Out Your Retirement Plans Annually. This is the first year I've committed to maxing out the plans my employer offers, but I haven't even graduated law school yet, so I think there's time here. What I do know is that I would horribly regret not electing to max out these plans 40 years from now.

5. You Own Banks, Not The Other Way Around. I'm essentially lending banks my money every time I make a deposit. There's no reason the banks shouldn't be paying me interest in the same manner they expect to earn interest. I've committed to only doing business with banks that offer competitive rates (although I'm not trolling for the best rates) and offer great customer service.

6. Carpool More. I feel this could be a great way to not only save on expenses and help the environment, but also become closer with those I work/go to school/spend time with. Therefore, carpooling becomes a win-win-win situation.

7. Dryclean Less. If I told you the amount I spend at the drycleaner each week, you would probably be sick. There's not a lot of chatter around the PF blogs regarding the high cost of drycleaning, but it is one of my biggest monthly expenses. I'm currently in the market for a professional-grade steamer for my suits/pants/shirts and hope this will trim large amounts from my monthly bill.

8. Purchase Quality Blankets. Living in Upstate New York, I pay gobs of money to heat my home through the long winter. As I have not yet decided on the electric fireplace as a supplement to our energy-efficient, but still overpriced furnace, we are using blankets more so we can keep the heat lower (although it is buzzing furiously right now). Plus, the blankets allow for more snuggling!

9. Volunteer More Often. This is a personal-maintenance issue for me. I grew up volunteering in my church, and now I'm using some of my skills to give back through VITA by helping prepare tax returns for low-income individuals and families.

10. Never Pay Retail Price. I like to haggle with people, but that's just in my nature (thank you Law School!) Plus, there's nothing better then feeling like you beat the system, and got a great bargain. I've been getting better at not accepting "we can't go any lower" for an answer, and also being willing to push the envelope as far as necessary to get the best deal. When push comes to shove, it's all about not being "sold" on a product or service when you are negotiating for it, and being able to walk away if the price is not agreeable.

11. Prepare for Roadblocks. The first step to prepare for emergencies is to save for emergencies. This is why I've been frequently trying to stash money in our Emergency Savings account. Only once I've created/maintained/replenished this buffer will we truly be on the road to financial freedom.

12. Live on Less Than You Earn. This is difficult because the fiancee and I are both in grad school, and the earnings are not that great. However, through modifying our expectations and expenses, we've managed to live pretty comfortably and still be able to afford to plan for parts of our upcoming wedding without plunging ourselves into mountains of debt (with the exception of our growing student loans). Living on less than we earn will become increasingly important as we will both work in professional settings and likely face the peer-pressures that accompany higher-paying jobs, including wardrobe updates, fancy cars, big houses, etc. As long as we can continue to live on less than we make, I believe the long-term payoff will be enormous.

That's all for Part One! I look forward to reading all of your comments and hope you will tune in tomorrow for Part Two...


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Guest's picture

I came across your blog today and I'm just thrilled to see how much useful information is here.

For me in particular, as a life coach, I love finding new ideas from new perspectives/frameworks which could help my clients.

Thank you for sharing and I'm looking forward to part two.

Cheers, Noel

Myscha Theriault's picture

Great list, and totally in line with my personal philosophies. Looking forward to part two.

Guest's picture

Lot's of great points here, especially the living on less than you earn. Easier said than done of course but something I'm trying to work on personally. It's amazing how much you can save just by making (& sticking to) a budget!

Guest's picture

Lot's of great points here, especially the living on less than you earn. Easier said than done of course but something I'm trying to work on personally. It's amazing how much you can save just by making (& sticking to) a budget!

Guest's picture

Now I want to know how much you pay on dry cleaning!

Is it that you don't have a washing machine, or you buy too much stuff that says "dry-clean only" (and you believe the labels)?

Guest's picture

interesting point because there are some clothing labels that says 'dry cleanng only' that can actually be washed machine or hand washed. However, some of them definitely need to be dry clean though, otherwise materials will get ruined

Guest's picture

I haven't used it before, but what about that at-home dry cleaning kit you can buy? It might be worth a shot to try and save some money.

You've listed some great points here! Thanks, and I'm looking forward to part two!

Guest's picture

At home drycleaning kits (I don't even spend full price on these, there is a generic version) seem to work just fine for everything I've put in them. I have mostly cleaned sweaters including hand knit fine wool ones (angora, alpaca, etc) in there, which are pretty delicate. However, I've also cleaned larger things (wool coats) as well as standard shirts and suits and pants. Might want to start with your less than favorite things, but I've never had an issue. And they are really cheap--maybe $10 for about 9 loads (3-5 items a load).

Anthony Marrone's picture

To date in January I've spent $233.01 on drycleaning (and that includes my 15% discount for being a premium customer). I'm going to search online this afternoon to learn more about dry-cleaning bags, and hopefully combining the bags with a steamer will shave 90-95% of my drycleaning bill.

Guest's picture
Richard Posey

I'm sorry to contradict, but I think that it's FEWER blankets that make for more snuggling (unless one of the parties involved tends to ice cold feet).

Guest's picture

I'm not one of those conspiracy theorists, but in an effort to trim my own budget this year, I slowly started to experiment with washing some of my "dry clean only" items. I used Dryel for awhile, but even that was too expensive since I wear "office" clothes every day. I started with pants that I didn't really like - washed them on delicate and then hung them dry. I've progressed through my entire business wardrobed with absolutely no problems and even have some items that I dry in the regular dryer with my jeans. The only items I don't wash are ones that contain wool. Try it - you'll be amazed!

Guest's picture

Great points for living regret-free. The emergency planning item hits home since my dad recently got sick and if I didn't have a little tucked away, I wouldn't be able to travel to spend time with him - that would have definitely been a huge regret. Now, I'm working on maxing out those employer-sponsored retirement plans!

Thanks for sharing.

Guest's picture

Stating the obvious probably, but in my professional life I work on environmental projects that are trying to remediate land and groundwater contaminated by drycleaners - not an easy task. Some sites are over thirty years old and still toxic as heck.

The chemicals they use on your clothes are persistant (don't break down easily in the envrionment) and can be cancer causing. They say they are using more environmentally sensitive chemicals with better disposal methods...but that is like saying "I'm using a more effective gun to shoot something" You're still shooting it.

Also, from a garment perspective, most clothes say dry-clean only because they are too cheap to buy pre-washed fabric. Buying the large industrial bolts of fabric unwashed can save hundreds of dollars to the manufacturer, so they pocket the difference and slap on a dry-clean only label. That's why other posters have had so much success with just washing their dry-clean only clothes, the fabric didn't shrink very much.

When I married my husband I stopped his dry cleaning addiction by pointing out to him that he wasn't really paying for the dry cleaning, he was paying for the pressing of his shirts, pants and jackets. Once we figured that out, being frugal we began to do the pressing ourselves. I'm sure you could substantially lower your bill by bringing in your clothes just for pressing rather than full dry cleaning if that's what you're really after.

Good post, thanks!

Guest's picture

After seeing The Bucket List this weekend...and reading your great post, it's probably time for a lot of us to examine our priorities.

David DeFranza's picture

I am also a resident of upstate New York and I couldn't agree with you more. A good blanket really makes winter nights bearable.

Very interesting list!

Guest's picture

It is very difficult to save. We don't go to the movies very often. So when something new comes out, I invite the kids school friends, everyone brings a plate. And we watch the latest movies as a big group. If we watch more than one, then someone else brings one. We rotate this so everyone gets kid free days and the kids get to hang together, and it is cheap.

Guest's picture

If you want to clean your wool sweaters at home, hand wash them. Get a no-rinse wool wash (Soak and Eucalan are the knitting world's favorites--available online or in any yarn store), fill the sink with some cool water, and go to town. Lay flat to dry (after rolling gently between two towels to get out the excess water). The thing you really want to avoid with wool is hot water + agitation.

Guest's picture

Carpools get advertised as a win-win situation. Ask an attorney or even your insurance agent about carpooling. They both reccomend against them. If you have an accident It is your insurance company that gets sued for damages in most states, Your insurance pays for hospital bill and YOU get your insurance rates jacked up. Please check for yourself. Save money by NOT CARPOOLING

Guest's picture

This is a really good list. I hope this works out for you and that other people start planning for the future like you have.