“Why Didn’t I Do This Years Ago?”

Julie - River My name is Julie and I’m the type to tackle just about anything fearlessly. I’m in the military as a Logistics Readiness Officer, I used to be a firefighter, and I’m an avid rock climber.

But I’ve never been able to conquer my fear of investing.

Things got worse after a car accident a few years ago made it impossible for me to continue my job as a firefighter—herniated discs in my neck and back, on top of multiple surgeries for job-related injuries derailed my career. I was kind of a mess for a while, and I let just about everything go.

Fast forward 10 years. I’m 37, happily married, and squared away in just about every other area of my life, including most aspects of money (I keep a meticulous budget!). But although I’ve subscribed to every money magazine available in hopes that I’d learn enough to invest, investing always seemed too difficult and time consuming to wrap my head around.

This may sound strange, given that my husband and I have a couple of investment properties and we just started a small car dealership. Truth is, I used my busy-ness, injuries and my unknown future over the years as excuses to never get around to it.

Then my Money Fix expert Manisha Thakor contacted me and showed me that investing doesn’t have to be so complicated or scary (and p.s. I didn’t need to know everything about it to get started).

Learning that was such an amazing relief that I’m kicking myself for waiting so long! This is what my action plan from Manisha included:

Step 1: Research my military Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), which is like the government’s version of a 401k; choose the investments I want; set up automatic contributions.

It took me about three minutes to go to the TSP website and allocate how much I wanted to deposit automatically into that plan. My husband and I had decided to invest 50% of my weekend military pay and 15% of my full time pay to play a little catch up for time lost.

By the way, it turns out the government matches up to 5%, so I’ve been missing out on free money this whole time! Grrrrr.

It also only took me about 15 minutes to review my investment options. I picked a target-date fund that was based on the year I want to retire; the fund essentially does the work for me, allocating more aggressively now and backing off as I get closer to retirement. Talk about easy. Have I mentioned I am kicking myself for waiting so long to do this?

I did a little research and found out there are plenty of investment firms that offer target-date funds, so you don’t need to be in the military to take advantage of them.

Step 2: For my next post I will research my USAA IRA. This was an IRA that I just opened on April 17 of this year (yep, that was the tax deadline) and dumped some money into to save on our tax bill. Now I need to choose the investments within the IRA.

What I’ve learned from Manisha’s steps is that investing can be easy, and anyone can do it no matter how busy you are or how much or how little you know about investing I can’t believe I wasted so many years, making excuses and letting my fear of investing control my future. Now I can sigh with relief, knowing that maybe I’m a little behind, but I won’t be left with nothing in retirement!

Look ahead. What retirement chore have you been putting off?  

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