Financial Lessons from the Johnson Bixby Team – what financial advice would you give to your younger self?

March 11, 2024

Posted in Life Moments

In the last month we’ve had opportunities to engage with different groups who are at the beginning of their financial journeys – whether that be through the financial empowerment workshops we led with Financial Beginnings Washington or during our 2024 College Day where we had 21 college students visit us and learn about professions in financial services.

These events had many of us thinking back to our more youthful days. And while we know it’s not accurate to universally assert that financial wisdom inevitably comes with age, there are certain trends and reasons why many tend to become wiser about finances as they grow older. With that thought in mind, we asked a few of our Johnson Bixby team members to share a financial lesson they recall learning, or financial advice they wish they would have adopted earlier in life. Here’s what they had to say!

I would tell my younger self to be patient, and never to expect (or count on) quick investment gains. Choose the right type of investment for the goal you’re trying to reach. Let time do the compounding work, but make sure you actually have a sufficient time frame for that to happen. I learned these lessons when I tried to grow my car savings by moving it out of the bank and into the stock market, which was going up, up, up. Unfortunately, the market turned down right after I invested, shrinking rather than growing my vehicle dream! My takeaway: don’t use long-term investments for short-term goals.

Kimberly Baker, CFP®, Financial Planner, Director of Financial Planning

I wish my younger self was more mindful of my spending. For example, while my husband and I did a pretty good job of saving toward our goals, we could have saved even more had we been more intentional with our spending – especially when our kids were younger. I had a big ‘Aha’ moment one day when my 1-year-old was playing with an empty 2-liter soda bottle for hours on end while hundreds of dollars of new toys sat in a corner. I started to watch myself more for other spending leaks – those triggers where I was just mindlessly buying things – and started being much more intentional.

Cyndi Thompson, CFP®, Financial Planner, Chief Financial Officer

My parents have done a really good job showing me healthy financial habits throughout my life. One lesson that stuck with me was buying my first car. My dad encouraged me to set the monthly payment lower than I thought I could afford even if it meant carrying the loan for a bit longer. I didn’t really understand why. I was laid off from my job a few months later and having a lower payment made a huge difference. This situation really highlighted the importance of keeping your fixed costs as low as you can.  A lot can change in life and keeping your regular obligations manageable will provide a tremendous amount of freedom. Now, I see this every day with clients trying to retire. Having low monthly need goes a long way in making things possible.

– Patricia Spies, CFP®, Financial Planner

For my younger self – I wish I had taken a finance/investment course in high school and learned the importance of planning/saving for retirement early. It wasn’t until years later I discovered that even a small amount put away each month would add up over time – there were many years of missed saving opportunities!

Mandy Peterson, Client Services Manager

I wish I had budgeted more thoughtfully according to certain goals. Overall, I feel like I’ve done a good job of saving, but I didn’t maximize those savings according to certain goals. Instead of just knowing a certain amount of money was saved each month, I wish I would have created savings buckets for certain down-the-road projects – house improvements, travel, etc. Also, use auto transfers to do this work each month with your paycheck! That way, you don’t have to remember to do it (which is my downfall!)  

Rachel Gorretta, Marketing & Communications Director

Save more money. My younger self took a lot (most?) of their grocery store clerk paycheck and gave it immediately to Best Buy for CDs, DVDs, and video games. What if I had saved or invested 20% of that instead? The returns would have been a lot greater than the returns on my DVD collection, I’ll tell you that. I don’t regret every purchase, a lot of the music and movies I bought were important parts of my youth and helped me connect to others, but I would have liked to develop my saving money muscle at an earlier age. And that’s coming from someone who considers themselves a good saver! Now with a family and career, there are far more variables and unknowns in my life. How to best prepare for life’s curveballs and opportunities? Savings. Nothing brings peace of mind like a strong mix of emergency funds and investments. Oh, and keeping your lifestyle expectations in check, but that’s a whole other topic …

Zach Reuter, CFP®, Financial Planner

I would tell my younger self to start contributing to your 401k plan THE DAY you become eligible and maximize the company match if you can! If you don’t have access to a 401k plan, start contributing to a Roth IRA as soon as you start earning taxable income. And, I would SAVE SAVE SAVE until you move out on your own, not moving out until you can afford to support yourself. Oh, and I would have stayed away from credit cards!

Juli Potts, Sr. Director of Human Resources

From a young age, my parents would give me financial advice at different stages of life. But there’s a piece of advice that my mom gave me when I was young that stuck with me: ‘Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you should buy it.’

I took those words to heart! Growing up, I became known as the family bargain hunter. I was great at recognizing brand names, trends, and finding them in thrift stores or getting great deals on discount racks. It started with clothes and shoes, but it has grown to include furniture and home appliances. I love a good deal on a great quality item!

My mom recognized my passion for bargain hunting, and she knew I needed to hear her words. Her advice was a gentle reminder to think twice before making an impulse purchase, and it also gave me relief to not feel pressured to purchase the latest and greatest item.

Through her advice, I have learned to be a more conscious consumer, by weighing the true worth of an item beyond its price tag. Though I’m not perfect when it comes to all my purchases, and there are a few I wish I didn’t make, it’s still helpful for when I’m contemplating an item. Her advice wasn’t just about saving money, but also about building a mindset of being intentional. I’m thankful for her advice and guidance in my life!

Melanie Yeagley, Marketing & Event Support Specialist

If I had to do it all over again, I would have sat down with my husband at the start of our marriage to assess our priorities and the financial implications of each. I would have created a visual plan or timeline that included things like buying a home, having children, childcare options, car purchases, educational ambitions, travel dreams, and more. I would have mapped out our big “Life Decisions” and tied them to our financial decisions early on.

Megan Dixon, CAP®, Director of Community Investments & Relationships

Understanding where my income was going monthly. When I didn’t track my spending, I allocated more toward items and categories I did not intend. Tracking and hindsight analysis allowed me to spend intentionally; and my monthly income stretched further than when I wasn’t paying attention to where it was going.

Brigg Wolgamott, IT Support Specialist

My parents had a phrase “If you want it, save your pennies.” This served me well and taught me to work for what I want. I didn’t learn to “invest my pennies’ until much later in life. I would encourage learning to both save and invest at a younger age.

Heidi Johnson Bixby, CFP®, Financial Planner

There are a handful of items I remember and think of often when it comes to financial advice that I would have started earlier in my life:

1. I’ve found that awareness of how your money is currently flowing is the first step to getting intentional with your finances. You can’t make any significant and lasting changes if you don’t have a clear understanding of what you’re currently spending money on. A budget is a great tool to help you get a handle on your finances! At its heart, a budget isn’t about restriction, it’s about having a plan, and intentionally directing your dollars towards the things/experiences that are meaningful to you.

2. Remember to pay yourself first. Build the habit of saving a set amount of money from each paycheck before you allocate the remainder to your expenses. This way, you’ll never end up shorting your savings at the end of the month when you find you’ve spent most (or all) of it on miscellaneous items.

3. There are no quick fixes; if something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is, so remember that building wealth takes time! Lasting wealth is about disciplined investing, done consistently over a long period of time. The younger you start, the more you’ll reap the exponential rewards of compounding!

Alexander Ali, AFC®, Client Services


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