• Darryl Rosen

“It’s not where you’ve been, it’s where you’re going.”

“It’s not where you’ve been, it’s where you’re going.”

My Dad spoke those words to me nearly 35 years ago, and the lesson has stuck with me ever since.

Here’s the story and why it matters for you.

It was 1984, and I had just spent my Freshman year bouncing around the Midwest like a ping-pong ball. Because I was an underachiever in high school, my college choices were limited.

Three schools accepted me; none were of interest to me.

I choose the University of Iowa, but I never wanted to go there. Never even visited the campus. My world was hundreds of miles away.

See, my twin sister and 3 best friends in high school all left the same day for Indiana University. On top of that, Jill, my girlfriend (now wife – 27 years last year) was still a Senior in high school.

At Iowa, I was stuck in temporary housing in the legendary dormitory known as The Burge. Some of the guys probably loved it. It was a big party scene. 10 newly, free-from-their-parents Freshmen living in bunk beds in a lounge at the end of the hall. Girls, beer, fun; what else could you ask for.

I hadn’t asked for that.

(I know I seem like the life of the party now (kidding), but back then I was more reserved.)

I hated Iowa.

Calls to my sister at IU weren’t helpful. (Good thing there was no Facebook back then!)

So, one day after a few weeks, I called my Dad. (My Mom was sick. She would pass away the next year.)

“Dad, I don’t like it here.”

He asked me to give it more time. He told me it would get better. We actually spoke for more than 5 minutes. Very rare; he’s a man of few words.

I hung up and began packing.

Waited about an hour; called my Dad again.

“Dad, I don’t like it here.”

This time he implored me to resist doing anything rash.

I got in the car and drove home. The moral of the story is never, never let a Freshman have a car at school. (Incidentally, I left a 3-speed black bicycle on campus. Couldn’t get it in the car if you happen to visit Iowa City.)

Anwyay, the whole thing was absolutely devastating. I didn’t know what to do. Go back? Do something else? You should have seen Jill’s parents. Their combined look spoke a thousand words.

What’s this loser doing back in town…

The next day I enrolled at DePaul University. Second semester was spent at Eastern Illinois University where I knew some guys running track. I just wanted to get away.

With nearly all A’s that year, I was accepted at Indiana University for my Sophomore year and the rest is history. I studied accounting, graduated on time, earned my CPA and ended up getting an MBA at Northwestern University.

That’s 4 schools in one calendar year if you’re scoring at home! (5 – if you include taking History over the summer at Oakton…)

And when I was going through this, I was riddled with doubt. When I looked backwards, my Dad would urge me to look ahead.

“So, you bounced around a bit. Who cares? It’s what you do now!”

“It’s not where you’ve been, it’s where you’re going.”

Now, I find this phrase helpful with my clients and students.

Exactly EVERY person I meet has his or her own unique (financial) backstory. Some ups, some downs. EVERY single person has a decision he or she would like to undo. We’d all like a mulligan or two.

The trouble surfaces when people are unable (or unwilling) to make positive change towards SECURiMENT because they’re stuck in the past. When the gravitational pull of the status quo keeps you where you are, despite the fact that making a few changes would be in your best interest.

For a while at Indiana, I felt that I didn’t belong because of my initial struggles but my Dad wasn’t having any of that. “Let what you do now – define you.”

It’s the same for you as a future retiree. Hopefully, the steps you’ve taken to accumulate your assets have worked in your favor. But as you near retirement, what you’ve done in the past has much less importance. It’s the choices you make, NOW, that will define your retirement.

That’s just the way it works!

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