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What I wish I’d known at 30

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

I talked to a young friend the other day -- one who was just about to celebrate his 30th birthday. He was complaining about feeling old. I laughed at him because he just doesn't know what feeling old is.

When I was 30, I thought I'd be young forever. It wasn't until just a few years ago that I began to have an inkling that youth is fleeting and failure to recognize that reality could be costly.

Now, as I navigate my 60s, there are many things I wish I had known when I was my young friend's age, but here are the four most important:

The value of compound interest. If I had steadfastly invested 10 percent of my paycheck every payday for the last 30 years, retirement planning would be a breeze, and I wouldn't have to worry about how I was going to pay the bills in retirement.

Things don't matter. I was cleaning out the attic a few months ago and found boxes jam-packed with expensive toys and athletic equipment my sons begged me to buy. Twenty years later, some of the stuff still looks brand new. I don't want it; they can't be persuaded to take it. When they asked for this stuff in the first place, why didn't I just say no?

People can't be replaced. The last Christmas my grandmother was alive, she begged me to bring the kids to visit. I was feeling strapped and told her we'd try to get there in the summer. By then, she was dead, and no amount of money could replace the memories we didn't have.

Regrets, I've had a few, mostly about what I didn't do rather than what I did. For instance, 40 years ago, I had a chance to buy a large piece of property on the Atlantic Ocean in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for a very small price. My father offered me the money to pay for it, but I didn't want to be bothered or tied down, and I refused his gift. Once in a while, I drive by the buildings that are there now and scold myself for my stupidity.

To my young friend, mazel tov.

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