38 Lessons for 38 Years


38 Lessons for 38 Years

So, today is my 38th birthday. It’s not a milestone birthday and it falls on a Tuesday so it’s hard to find many reasons to get excited about it, so I thought I would write a reflective post to celebrate this day.

The idea for this actually came to me this weekend while I was hiking a mountain with my college roommate Jill. Our birthdays are only a day apart and she wanted to share a girl’s weekend with me to celebrate. Jill is far more adventurous and outdoorsy than me so she suggested we go for a hike. I go for hikes in my neighborhood state park every few weeks or so; however, I haven’t climbed anything of substance in years so when I looked for hikes, I tried to find something that would fit Jill’s need for a challenge and my need to stay alive.

Our morning began with an intense 30-minute workout at the hotel that Jill was doing as part of a 21 day Beach Body challenge. When I first committed to this workout, I didn’t think 30 minutes was a big deal; however, 15 minutes into the workout I was wondering if I would have been better served getting some more sleep. Later in the day, I really wished I slept instead of burned my quads.

I was proud of myself for not giving up, though, and after a quick breakfast and an initial challenge of finding the trailhead; we began our 3.33-mile hike to the top of Panther Mountain with little struggles. Jill definitely moved with greater speed than I, but I think I definitely held my own for the first mile up. The second mile of our journey was mired by us getting lost twice and there’s nothing worse than backtracking early into a journey. Then about a half a mile to the top of the climb, I stepped down on my foot the wrong way and rolled my ankle. This would not have been such a big deal if I didn’t sprain this same ankle three months earlier. It didn’t feel good; however, I still felt as though I had it in me to finish.

Out on the ledge
Out on the ledge

We reached the top of the summit, enjoyed lunch on a beautiful rock overlooking the mountain range, and fear began to creep up on me as to how I would navigate my way down without further irritating my foot. Around the same location that I first injured my foot, I stepped on it wrong again and now the real panic set in, as I knew we still had over 2 miles of mountain to get down. With each step, I feared further injury and with each step, the pain grew. The last mile that was my confidence-boosting mile in the beginning became my worst nightmare in the end. Instead of a 20-minute mile uphill, it ended up lasting a very painful 60 minutes.

Our view from the top
Our view from the top

At one point towards the end of our journey, my friend Jill so aptly noted, “I may feel like I look better than I did when I’m 18, and I’m probably more healthy in a number of ways, but good Lord my body is definitely not 18 but 38 and I’m feeling it right now.”

My view at the end of the day
My view at the end of the day

While I think my 18-year old self would have faired better up and down that mountain, my almost 38-year old self appreciated the journey and the lessons I learned along the way. Some of them are below.

Life Lessons 

1) There are no mistakes in life, only lessons.

2) Goals give your life direction.

3) People will not stay in your life forever so enjoy them and appreciate them when they are there.

4) You can’t always get what you want.

5) Everything happens for a reason.

6) When you give to others, you get back far more than you can imagine.

7) It doesn’t matter what size and shape you are, all of us are worthy of love and acceptance.

8) True beauty is seen in someone’s soul rather than on his or her face.

9) Trust your gut, there’s a reason why it’s talking to you.

10) Our failures often teach us more than our successes.

11) True friends are not always seen but they make themselves heard when you need them.

12) Laughter is the answer to many of life’s problems.

13) Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can give and receive.

14) Saying you’re wrong is not a show of weakness; it’s a show of confidence.

15) Never be afraid of evolution, it’s leading you to a better version of yourself.

Kid Lessons

16) The greatest sound ever is the sound of your child’s laughter.

17) Children are the death of net worth. (Hat tip to my dad.)

18) We learn from children as much as they learn from us so pay attention to the lessons they are teaching.

19) Hugs have healing powers for parents and children.

20) As a parent you have to win every battle, but thankfully over time the battles are fewer and farther apart.

21) Unconditional love is a true and beautiful emotion.

22) Every child is unique and deserves to be appreciated and valued for their uniqueness.

23) The gift of failure is one of the best gifts you can give your kids.

24) I may not be the perfect mom, but I love my son perfectly.

25) Start teaching your kids about money as soon as possible.

Money Lessons – (This is a personal finance blog after all.)

26) Nothing looks, tastes, smells, feels, sounds as good as financial fitness feels.

27) Financial Fitness = Make More + Spend Less.

28) Anyone can save more money; it just takes time, energy and commitment.

29) The key to investing is in understanding asset allocation.

30) Spend on your values and you are spending wisely.

31) Frugal is not cheap, it’s smart money management.

32) Financial freedom is a much better goal than retirement.

33) Without financial goals, your journey will get sidetracked.

34) An accountability partner will get you better results than working on your own.

35) Cash is the best teacher of financial responsibility.

36) Invest early and invest often.

37) Taxes suck.

38) Delay today’s spending so that you can enjoy tomorrow’s gifts.

How do you like to celebrate your birthday? What’s the best birthday gift you ever received?


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Shannon is a financial planner who left a “traditional” financial services firm to start her own company, The Financial Gym, because she felt traditional financial services firms did not have the tools or resources to help people in their 20s and 30s who are starting out and trying to build assets while also managing debt. She realized that the key to long-term personal financial success is a commitment to financial fitness and making smart financial choices. Through her blog, Financially Blonde, her book, Train Your Way To Financial Fitness, her podcast, Martinis and Your Money and The Financial Gym, Shannon is committed to making financial fitness fun, easy and accessible for everyone.


  1. Happy Birthday Shannon! Hope the ankle is feeling better. Sounds like a great weekend other than the injury and listening to your recent podcast with Jill I know you share a special connection with her. So it not a milestone and it’s on a Tuesday, it’s still your day, so enjoy it!

  2. Happy Birthday Shannon! I really enjoyed reading your story of hiking the mountain with Jill and all 38 of these lessons. I know you’ve talked about many of these lessons in past blogs, but the selfish blog consumer in me wants you to do a series where you do a post on each ; )

  3. Congratulations Shannon on the birthday and isn’t 38 suppose to be 1 of our prime years in life? Don’t worry be happy, accidents happen. Good lessons and lets all celebrate these till 88.

  4. Happy birthday, Shannon!! You have had such a beautiful journey the last few years. It seems like with every year you are doing something more amazing and in line with what you love. It’s awesome to watch. Hope you have a fantastic birthday!!!

  5. Happy belated birthday! We’re one day apart…mine is today. I keep it low key nowadays and don’t really need much celebration. It’s just nice to have my loved ones around to celebrate and for friends who I haven’t talked to in a while to wish me happy birthday. Thanks for sharing all those great words of wisdom.

  6. Congrats Shannon! Really good thoughts.

    My personal favorite is “frugal is not cheap, it’s smart money management”
    You’re singing the song of my people, haha.

    Happy late birthday 🙂

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