Today, Jennifer shares lessons learned from money mishaps. Her tips can help you avoid similar mistakes and help you steward your resources well.

Learn from My Money Mishaps

by Jennifer Wake


Once upon a time, there was this young, brand new teacher. She moved far from home to teach high school science and math. After a couple of years, she moved from her first job to a new job in another state. Everything was falling into place, she found a new job and met some friends to rent a house with. One day she received a check in the mail. It was from her first job. She was ecstatic, she needed money for furniture, so off she went.


The next spring she received a tax form from her first job. The money she had spent on furniture was from her teaching retirement fund. Instead of rolling it over into an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) she had spent it. So she took that form to her dad who always helped her with her taxes. He was shocked and sad. It turned out she owed taxes on that money and a 10% penalty. She owed money that year on her taxes because she had not looked at the paperwork before she switched jobs.

Money Matters to God

I know by now you have probably guessed that this poor, innocent girl plagued by money mishaps was ME. I learned the hard way that utilizing  retirement funds, before retirement, comes with tons of taxes and penalties. Because of the many mistakes I have made, God provides me lots of opportunities to learn and then to teach people not to make those same mistakes. 


“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”

Proverbs 28:26


Older military personnel have a guaranteed pension if they serve at least 20 years. This promised pension has recently changed from a Defined Benefit Plan (also known as pensions) to Defined Contribution Plan (401(k) or 403(b) accounts). On January 1, 2018 the military changed to a Defined Contribution Plan called the BRS (blended retirement system). Any new military member, after 60 days, will have 1% of their base pay added into their TSP. If you contribute up to 5% of your pay, the DOD will contribute 1% plus match up to 4%. This adds up to 5% which means a doubling of your investment. After three years of service all this money will belong to the military member. 

Military Money Matters

Now comes the fun part, you control your own money. You can build a nice nest egg or lose it all. You can be wise or foolish like my younger self.

When you leave the military, or any job for that matter, you will be given the choice to leave your TSP or 401(k) with your employer or take it with you. Your money in the TSP can stay but you can’t contribute to it once you leave the military. If you decide to take it with you, learn from my mistake. Don’t take a check. Instead “roll it over” meaning set up an account called a Rollover IRA. Then do the paperwork to have the money sent directly to your account without you ever “touching” it. That avoids taxes and penalties. This Rollover account can be used to hold money from any 401(k). My Rollover IRA has money from three different teaching jobs.

During this year our theme at Planting Roots is “Rise Up.” 

“And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.”

Nehemiah 2:18 


We will spend the first Friday of each month talking about finances. We want you to Rise Up in the financial areas of your life. What questions do you have? We would love to answer questions and start conversations. No matter if you have made lots of money mistakes like me or have done a great job, we want to hear from you. Join us on social media.



Lord, thank you. Thank you for forgiving me for my foolish actions. Thank you for providing me with wise people to teach me. Lord please let us come together to help each other with finances and life. Amen.