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Best Advice Ever

Kristine Hayes

I’M EMBARRASSED to admit that the best piece of financial advice I’ve ever received is also the only piece of financial advice I’ve ever received. To make matters worse, the advice came from someone who stood to profit from the guidance he was providing.

As a child, I don’t remember a single family discussion about money. There were no dinner table talks about the stock market. There were no lectures about saving, spending or investing for college.

In high school, the only financial guidance I received was a lesson on how to figure out change from a cash purchase. That skill, along with showing I could correctly fill out a personal check, was supposed to ensure I was financially competent to enter adulthood.

In college, my personal finance horizons broadened. I discovered that financial aid offices were happy to hand out thousands of dollars to anyone willing to sign on the dotted line. But what about advice on the best strategies for using those funds? Such questions were met with silence.

When I entered the workforce and got married, I still didn’t have a financial mentor. My then-husband had no desire to be involved in decisions about money. It was up to me to pay the bills, manage the budget and file the taxes.

For four decades, I taught myself—through trial and error—everything I needed to know about money. I didn’t ask for advice because I didn’t know who to ask. My personality—I’m generally suspicious of people offering me their opinions—meant that, in any case, I probably wouldn’t have acted on the advice I received.

Late last year, it became apparent that my dream of retiring at age 55 was going to materialize. I was confident that my husband and I had the financial wherewithal to live comfortably without my salary.

As part of our retirement plan, we decided we’d sell our house in Oregon and move to our home in Arizona. Since I wasn’t eligible to retire until May 2022, I assumed we’d relocate in early June. The plan was to sell our Oregon home after we’d settled in Arizona.

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In January, my husband encouraged me to contact our real estate agent. I was reluctant. I felt it was too early in the process to bother the agent. I’d purchased four homes in my life and felt I had a good handle on the timeline we’d want to follow.

With my husband’s gentle prodding, I finally conceded. The agent was happy to give us his take on the real estate market. I was skeptical that anything he could say would change my mind about the plans I’d already formulated.

The agent’s advice was simple: Get your house on the market as quickly as possible. With no homes in our neighborhood currently for sale—and mortgage rates still hovering around 3%—he felt confident we’d have multiple buyers interested in our house.

He warned us that waiting until June would mean having to compete with a surge of other homes for sale. He believed that once mortgage rates rose above 4%, the number of buyers would decrease rapidly. He told us the current real estate market was unlike anything he’d seen before.

It would have been easy to dismiss our agent’s advice. He was, after all, going to make a generous commission from the sale of our home. But for once, I set aside my skepticism and decided to trust someone else’s opinion.

Taking his advice would mean our lives would be disrupted in unimaginable ways in the weeks before I retired. But I also realized that not taking his advice could mean losing out on the highest possible price for our home.

In the end, the advice we received was sound. Our home sold less than two days after going on the market. It closed for $125,000 above the asking price. We weren’t required to pay for any necessary repairs. We were able to stay in the home rent-free for several weeks.

Now, in hindsight, I appreciate the advice even more. The first and only piece of financial advice I’ve ever received—and ever taken—could hardly have been better. By June 2022, housing prices were cooling off at the fastest pace on record. As I’ve watched the sales trends in our old neighborhood from afar, it seems likely that we sold at the market peak.

Kristine Hayes Nibler recently retired, and she and her husband now live in Arizona. She enjoys spending her time reading, writing and training their four dogsCheck out Kristine’s earlier articles.

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GuGu G
GuGu G
2 months ago

Nice for you and Congrats for both, excellent advice for the agent…! I am curious about how you feel the move from Oregon to Arizona?, thanks Guille

Margaret Fallon
Margaret Fallon
3 months ago

You killed it Kristine with the sales price, so happy for you that you have all that extra money in your bank account to help with your transition to early retirement & to help with any unexpected expenses that may come your way. As an early retiree just one year older than you, I would certainly appreciate that kind of unexpected “windfall” whilst not having a regular paycheck anymore. I’ve always enjoyed your articles & look forward to reading more in the future.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
3 months ago

Thank you so much for your kind words Margaret! It was a very nice ‘bonus’ that we received from the sale of our home. I’m going to use some of the money to start my own small business. It’s been a dream of mine, for at least twenty years, to have my own dog training facility and it looks like it’s going to become a reality. It’s scary and exciting, all at the same time.

Margaret Fallon
Margaret Fallon
2 months ago
Reply to  Kristine Hayes

I’m excited for you too, it’s great that you can make good money for years to come doing what you love. I’m sure with all your experience with dogs, you will have a lot of knowledge/training to impart to both dogs & owners for many years in the future.

Cammer Michael
Cammer Michael
3 months ago

On the one hand, the broker made the call based on experience and knowledge. On the other hand, you got really lucky.
I could tell a similar story about how I got mostly out of the stock market just before the 2008 crash. I was reading various indicators (maybe I’ll expand into a column someday) and they were sound.
But I didn’t get back in fast enough because I didn’t believe it would recover for a while.
Made me rethink my reading of the indicators.
A great lesson we can’t really time the markets.
But we can get lucky and enjoy the results when it’s good luck.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
3 months ago
Reply to  Cammer Michael

We definitely got lucky with the timing of the sale of our home!

R Quinn
R Quinn
3 months ago

The only financial advice I recall is that set by the example of my parents. Thankfully, I mostly did the opposite when it came to saving and investing.

There is a critical lack of financial education resulting in a lot of irresponsible decisions being made. I do think it is necessary to make a distinction between financial advice and education.

Seeking advice without education to evaluate that advice can be risky. I know it didn’t serve me well a few times.

What modest amount of financial education I have came from reading and picking the brains of experts in various field from actuaries, to health experts on to financial planners and just talking with average people who have no idea I am learning from them.

These days I still learn by reading comments on Twitter and Facebook – many times “what are they thinking moments.” I also on occasion still learn from my mistakes.

Last edited 3 months ago by R Quinn
jay5914
jay5914
3 months ago

I can relate very well to your lack of introduction to money matters during childhood and the need to figure it out on your own over the years. Being suspicious of other opinions, particularly around money matters, is the right approach as far as I’m concerned. (No one cares about your money as much as you do.) Taking financial advice is rarely easy (nor should it be) for those who have taken the time to understand financial matters. That’s because they generally understand that most significant financial decisions should include a look at one’s comprehensive financial picture as well as some risk/reward and trade-off analysis. Lastly, almost any financial decision will include an element of fortunate or unfortunate timing. Your real estate agent made a timing call and in this case was right. Given the craziness of the real estate market the last couple years, he could have and probably did offer the same advice 6-12 months ago and sellers would have “left some money on the table”. In this case, his advice and your decision to listen was correct. Congratulations (but hang on to that healthy skepticism)!

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
3 months ago
Reply to  jay5914

You are so correct about the timing call. My mother sold her house (same neighborhood as ours, same size house, etc.) just a few months before we sold ours. She did well on hers, but we did better. And, we used the same realtor. So yes, it was really more about timing than the agent, but I’m still glad he pushed us to sell when we did. I’m amazed at how quickly the red-hot real estate market cooled off!

OldITGuy
OldITGuy
3 months ago

Nice story with a good lesson; thanks for sharing. You probably already did so, but if you haven’t I’d suggest giving the realtor a call and thank him for the good advice. I’m sure he’d appreciate the feedback.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
3 months ago
Reply to  OldITGuy

Thanks for the kind words. I have thanked my realtor many times. I also wrote several positive reviews of his services for various websites.

Ben Rodriguez
Ben Rodriguez
3 months ago

As a lawyer I can tell you most people, even people who pay for it, don’t take advice. Good for you.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
3 months ago
Reply to  Ben Rodriguez

I’ve always been one to trust my own instincts–at least for the most part. So far, it’s served me well.

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