Know Thyself and Drink Lemonade

Guest post by Lora Kloth

“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade…”

As a small business owner you probably can relate to my recent career experience. Although I don’t have a business of my own, I had a circumstance that forced me to evaluate my career goals, personal finances, and self-discovery.

Three years ago, my career as full-time association research librarian abruptly changed—my hours were reduced to part-time.  I felt deluged with lemons.

I allowed myself a brief hiatus for frustration, but realized that wasted time.  I realized the new schedule created an opportunity for me to try new things. And then I discovered aspects of myself I didn’t know existed as I adapted to an uncertain future:

  • I enjoyed brief “stay-at-home mom” status.
  • I considered a career change to court reporting and went back to school—and failed miserably!  But in this “failure” I realized my true calling is librarianship.
  • I accepted the opportunity to teach information literacy despite never having taught anything before. But I did it, successfully, and made wonderful connections.

Here are guidelines to help become “future ready” when your career takes an unexpected turn:

Identify career goals, take stock of your personal life, and find a balance.

  • Discover your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Realize that “failure” offers experience and potential for future success.
  • Don’t underestimate what you can achieve.
  • Be flexible.
  • Try new things!
  • Know what makes you happy.
  • Interact with diverse groups of people.
  • Commit to lifelong learning.

Upon reflection, those same guidelines also apply to managing personal finances and building a secure financial future:

Become Informed.  Learn about different investments vehicles and be actively involved in financial decisions.

  • You can do it!  Don’t be intimidated by the world of money.  Have confidence in your abilities.  Ask questions and get answers!  Your credit union is a great source for advice, products and services.
  • Don’t be overwhelmed.  Commit to slow and steady progress by setting goals.
  • Make a budget. Then stick to it.
  • Reduce debt.  Establish a savings plan and whittle away at those credit card bills.
  • Consider the importance of tax planning. Seek the services of a professional.
  • Don’t forget about retirement!  Set up an IRA or other investment vehicle to prepare for your future.
  • Know your risk tolerance.  Can you sleep at night with the types of investments you have? Are you in it for the long-term?

Getting tossed a “lemon” turned into an opportunity for me. It gave me a greater sense of confidence, self-reliance, independence, and satisfaction knowing I really was in charge. In the process, I developed a contingency plan for unexpected life events.

Start your financial future now. Look back at your experiences—are you willing to learn and move ahead if you’re tossed a lemon? Are you in control of your personal finances? Know thyself! Lemonade is actually a refreshing beverage.

Lora Kloth is research librarian at Credit Union National Association in Madison, Wisconsin. She earned her M.A. in Library and Information Studies at Northern Illinois University, and her B.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.  She enjoys making lemonade with her two daughters, ages 13 and 7.