What Have You Done Right Lately?

This guest post is from Jackie, who writes at MoneyCrush about learning to love your financial life and reaching goals. Check out her site at www.moneycrush.com or subscribe in a reader.

We’ve all made financial mistakes, and chances are we’ll make more mistakes in the future.

Maybe we aren’t socking away enough money for retirement, or overdrew our account, or bought at the peak of the housing market and are underwater. When things like that happen, it’s common to take a step back to analyze our mistakes to see where we went wrong.

While reviewing and learning from past mistakes is good — that’s how we improve and prevent repeats of the mistakes — dwelling on them and beating ourselves up over them isn’t.

But when it comes to analyzing the past, there’s a step we often
overlook: Reviewing our past successes.

Take a moment to think about it. What have you done right lately?

See what you have done well in the past, and what you could repeat in the future. What caused you to make a decision that turned out well?
What traits did your successes take advantage of?

For example, maybe you’ve set up a bill paying system that where you pay your bills at the same time each month. Since then, bill-paying has been a breeze. That takes organization, so organization is probably one of your strengths. How else could you use organization to improve your financial life?

“Make a list of financial goals” is the first thing that pops into my mind when I ask myself that question. Once my list is made, I can set about organizing it further so that I can achieve the items on it.

Or maybe you’ve automated your bills so that they’re withdrawn from your checking account each month like clockwork. And since you’ve done that, you haven’t once overdrawn your account, which was a problem for you in the past. If automation is working for you, look for other areas that you could automate. (Such as retirement, investing, savings, etc.)

Play to your financial strengths and use them to your advantage.


  1. Married the person whom I could stick with thick and thin. Passing on that tradition to my children. We have been married 28 years. It ain’t easy to stick when it is thin- but worth it in the long run.
    Whose house do they go to for Christmas when grandbabies come? That would be OURS:>)
    Divorce is a huge bank breaker!

  2. I think this blog entry makes a fantastic point. We all respond better to positive motivation than to negative motivation. But too often we focus on what we got wrong rather than on what we got right.

    Say that you just lost a job and that you are feeling financially vulnerable. You shouldn’t ignore that feeling. It’s real and you need to come to terms with it. But how about looking at the positive side of the story? If yo were responsible in some way for the job loss, you need to learn from it. But it becomes far easier to do so if you acknowledge what you did right re that job. Let in the good and it becomes bearable to let in (and learn from) the bad.

    You got that job that you lost. So you got that part right. You no doubt learned things in the job before you lost it. So you got that part right. Even if you contributed to the job loss ((perhaps you got bored with the work and began putting in less effort), there’s a good chance that the bad things you did (getting bored) were rooted in something good (you had grown to a point where you were ready for bigger challenges — that’s why you became bored). So you got some stuff right even there.

    The goal should be honesty. We can gain from acknowledging what we have gotten wrong. But part of the honesty project is acknowledging what we have gotten right. Strangely enough, a good number of us have as hard a time letting in the good stuff as we have letting in the bad stuff.


  3. Financial mistakes of mine: no life insurance, student loan debt, but I have no credit card debt and have a mortgage that hopefully will someday be worth something. Still employed and wife stays home raising the children.

    With these financial mistakes its more of a choice and a hope. Hope one of us doesnt die young and the choice to get a good education.

    You have to be honest about your financial life and every other aspect of your life.

  4. I love the focus on what you do right-it’s so easy to get sucked into faults and boo boos. To answer the titular question, I feel that I’ve done right by automating savings for retirement and emergency funds, gotten all our insurance, wills and powers of attorney in order this year, and budgeted pretty well for Christmas!

  5. Reduced fixed expenses to a low and manageable number by selling the house in New York and moving into a condo in Florida, leaving high upkeep and high taxes behind.

    John DeFlumeri Jr.

  6. One of the things I’m most proud of, frankly, is starting this blog. Most of my life I’ve been a great starter, not so great as a finisher.

    This is the first entrepreneurial endeavor I’ve kept up, with success, for any length of time. As I near my two-year anniversary (that’s 10 in “blog years”) I’m happy that we made a decision to take control over at least a portion of our household income.

    I am less anxious about the state of the economy, unemployment, etc, because I have a second income stream besides my 9-5 employment.

  7. This seems like such a small thing but for my wife and I it was a big step. We had a cruise booked to take the kids on in February.

    However after looking at all of the associated costs Cruise, Spending Money, Airfare, Misc. We opted to cancel the cruise and take a more economical vacation.

    For us this was a big step in the past we would have just put the whole vacation on Credit Cards and let the bills pile up.

  8. Congrats on 2 yrs blogging FD!! I’ve so enjoyed your wisdoms and I look forward to your future posts.

    Gary – that must have been a hard decision, but it sounds like you made the right one./ I hope your vacation is fantastic!

    Jan – congrats on 28 yrs of marriage. That’s no easy feat! That takes dedication. All the best to you and yours.

    This year I’m pleased to say I did a lot of god things. I accepted a new position at work, I helped ( along with 5 others) to raise $13500 for The Arthritis Society here in Canada, and I completed a 1/2 marathon. I’m looking forward to great things for 2010!
    Merry Christmas everyone!

  9. I was laid off from my old job last year during the recession. So when I got a new job after several months, I did not sign up for the 401k, partly because I watched my old 401k dwindle down, and partly becuase I needed the extra cash in my paycheck. So I finally set up my 401k at my current job and now feel like it’s one good think I can cross off my list!

    Another thing is setting up email alerts with my credit card company before payments are due. I almost always pay the balance in full, but it just slipped through the cracks sometimes and I forgot to make that payment on time! Hopefully the alerts will prevent any late payments in the future.

  10. Jan, congratulations on 28 years of marriage (and many more to come)

    Rob, that’s a good point about so many of us having just as hard a time letting in the good stuff as the bad stuff. Maybe we’re just in denial all the way around.

    PennyStocks, like both you and Rob said, honesty and taking a look at ourselves is key.

    psychsarah, based on that list you’ve definitely done a lot of things right this year!

    John, I bet that had a huge positive impact on your finances, and many people don’t even think of doing those kinds of things.

    Frugal Dad, congrats on almost two years of blogging so far! Doesn’t it feel good? (And thanks for the opportunity to post here.)

    Gary, I don’t think that seems like a small thing at all. It was a tough choice that will benefit you in so many ways.

    Melaniesd, you definitely did a lot of good things. And $13,500 for the Arthritis Society is great!

  11. I hope I can keep up my current blog for two years… That would be great. 🙂 (Plus the whole income stream thing, I’m hoping for that too!)

    Let’s see, something I’ve done right….

    *Saved $1,100 so far this (tax) year for retirement; opening that 401(k) REALLY made a difference! It’s literally painless savings. Some of this is in my Roth IRA though, and I’m still saving.

    *I also managed to pay off a fairly large credit card balance this past month without carrying over a balance and triggering interest. It was tough and I didn’t think we’d manage it, but things kinda fell into place and it happened. 🙂 What that means, then, is that without paying ANY interest, we paid for a $3k engine swap…. Crazy.

    It’s definitely nice to look back at the good things instead of just saying, “Oh, I could’ve done so much better here…” and feeling bad about what you didn’t do.

  12. It really is refreshing to read all the good things people have done for themselves and others.
    I don’t generally share my thoughts with too many people other than my wife ( I’m sure sometimes she wishes I didn’t ), but after pondering Frugal Dad’s question I realized that maybe there was some things that I’d done right. Maybe there was something worth mentioning.
    I must say upfront that I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up in a relatively free and wealthy country plus having a loving family and friends.
    Sure I made a ton of mistakes, some that nearly cost me my life and some that caused me an almost complete financial failure.
    So what did I do right?
    I got an education. I became determined to figure out why, at the age of fifty, I was broke, bent and busted. Okay, so, I read as much as I can take about wealth, markets and investing. I invested in precious metals, started a savings plan, but there was something I wasn’t quite getting. I had an inkling of some other force that I would have to overcome before I could be truly successful. I finally got the drift the other night when some lowlife tried to hold me up at knife-point, I got it again when I found out my ex had inherited eight-hundred thousand and was still getting alimony from a guy who’s lucky to make thirty grand a year.
    There are those among us who’s greed and lust for power knows no bounds. They include some of the most richest and powerful right down to the poorest.
    I realize now that all the money in the world won’t make me right. My right will be not only to invest wisely, but to recognize and battle against the tyranny and greed that would put me to my knees.

  13. Thanks for the comments. I know it isn’t a small thing. For us it was a great first step. We have spent so many years in debt that it was nice to make a smart decision for once.

  14. thriftygal, email alerts sound like a great idea. It’s good to find a system that works for you.

    Foxie, glad you enjoyed looking back at the good things 🙂

    Richard, it sounds like you’ve been through a lot and come out more insightful and determined for it.

    Gary, and I bet there will be many more smart decisions in your future too.

  15. On March 25 I paid off my car loan. On April 16, I paid off the last of my credit card debt.
    In about two years I will also be able to celebrate paying off my mortgage and then no more debt ever is the plan.

  16. Online bill pay has definitely made my life easier. Every pay day I immediately go online and pay the bills due during that pay period. This allows me to not only make sure I pay on time, but to see the left over money I have to spend/save until the next pay day.