A great friend and mentor has always reminded me to be careful of mistakes and to be sure to learn from them. This applies not just to our own, but also to the mistakes we see others making. One of his favourite sayings has always been that we ‘learn from the mistakes of others, because you will never have enough time to make them all on your own.’
As you start to dissect this, you’ll see the wisdom and value it has in all aspects of our lives.
Think of some of the mistakes you’ve witnessed friends, family or colleagues make, and the consequences they have been left with. Can you find the point where they went wrong? Were they able to recover?
Looking back, I can think of several instances where the people close to me have made financial mistakes that have impacted their lives. Some are still dealing with the consequences, while others have been able to pull through and move on. More than a few of those mistakes were made following the counsel of individuals who didn’t have their best interest at heart.
Many of these mistakes could have been avoided.
Personally, I have also made many mistakes and foolish decisions that, looking back, I should have seen at the time. Again, the same reasons pop up for making them: I was either following the advice of someone who had their own interests in mind, or I simply rushed and made a poor decision without the proper understanding of my circumstances.
Why does this matter? Because mistakes can have a tremendous impact on your life. Some mistakes are small, and some mistakes are huge. Some of them easily get swept under the rug, while others you might never recover from.
Take the couple who pushes off saving for retirement because they have ‘lots of time’ to catch up on that later in life. All of a sudden, 20 or 30 years have gone by and they realize they have spent all their money enjoying themselves today, and have nothing left to sustain them tomorrow.
Or, look at those around us who have gotten sick or become disabled and didn’t have proper insurance in place. We try to help by setting up fundraisers and donating money, but often it is millions of dollars needed to help, not the hundreds, or sometimes thousands, that we are able to come up with. Suddenly someone who was supporting their family on an income of $80,000 per year is left to survive on 15% of that.
Then there’s one we all know a little too well here in Ottawa – the devastation, the losses and the lives taken from the crash of Nortel. Many lost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on that trade. One day you see a picture perfect retirement right around the corner; the next day you wake up with nothing.
A mistake is made and you are left scrambling to pick up the pieces and put your lives back together. You try to dig yourself out of the hole, but most never will.
That is why I come to work every day. I have seen the effect that mistakes, both large and small, can have on the people that I care about. I have learned from their mistakes and I have learned from my own mistakes. And I don’t wish them on anyone.
That doesn’t mean that I will be perfect. But if I can use the knowledge that I have accumulated through experience and continuous studying to help each family I serve avoid even just one major mistake, they will have been spared a mountain of pain and a lifetime of wondering ‘what if’.
And I will be happy. Because I know that I have been called to be a humble servant to those around me. To help whoever I can, whenever I can, to achieve better. And after all, isn’t helping others what life is all about?
Wade Bedard, CIM®
HollisWealth, a Division of Scotia Capital Inc.